In May of 1999, we went home to the States for a special furlough for our golden wedding anniversary. Much preparation had gone into that ahead of time in the Philippines. I bought material for making my own wedding dress in the States, and had a special Filipino dress shirt called a barong Tagalong made for Chuck. We also ordered other barong Tagalog shirts for the men in our wedding party, and bought special Filipino blouses called kimonos for the ladies. There are various traditions that Filipinos carry out in their weddings that we decided to include in our service, so the accouterments for those were part of our purchases as well as small heart baskets which were used for candies at each place at the tables.
In the States, we purchased decorations for the church and the fellowship hall, where a buffet luncheon and program would be held afterward. We spent a lot of time finding settings for the tables which befitted our golden anniversary. Gifts for special awards had to be chosen. Wedding invitations were ordered and prepared. My own wedding dress, Imelda Marcos style with butterfly sleeves, was made for me. The day before the ceremony, Corazon Hall, the Itawes owner of our house in Enrile, who lived in Northridge in San Fernando Valley, took care of the flowers. We went with her to Farmers’ Market in downtown LA to get them. We got four corsages, which the bride and her ladies carried, plus the boutonnieres for the men and flowers for the church and fellowship hall.
Instead of one day, our celebration actually extended to several days beginning on July 21st. Our oldest son, Ron LeRoy, had purchased 30 tickets for the Dodger baseball game to which we invited our children and their old friends from the youth group of Hillcrest Christian Church. Other guests also included people our own age, our siblings and their spouses and friends. This was, in fact, a reunion of several different groups in our family. How much we saw of the game was questionable, but we had a glorious time between chatting and catching up on a lot of the “good old days!” Good thing, because the Dodgers lost to the Colorado Rockies 5-4. Taylor, Ken’s son, was happy because their family was from Colorado Springs.
That evening our family spent at the Comfort Inn at Buena Park, and the next day, 17 of us went to Knott’s Berry Farm for a very full day of activity. We wore red tee shirts that said “God is Good” on the front and “All the Time” on the back. It was a wonderful way to be able to keep track of everyone in case someone got separated from the rest. That night and up to the 24th, we stayed at another hotel closer to University Christian Church where our occasion was held.
July 19, 1949 was actually the date of our original wedding, but this time we celebrated on Saturday, the 24th of July. Out of all the days of our celebration, this was the really big day for Chuck and me. The ceremony was held at University Christian Church for the renewal of our wedding vows. I decided to have as many as possible of the original people in our wedding 50 years before to stand with us at this occasion. My Matron of Honor, Dorothy Gustafson Knapp, was able to be there, as well as the rest of my bridesmaids. Paul Hunter was Chuck’s Best Man. He took the place of the original best man who had since passed away. Others of the groom’s men were not available, either. Neil Kuns, minister at University, officiated. He explained each of the Filipino customs as they took place, so everyone could know what was happening. Cleda Fleischacker sang I Love You Truly, followed by I’ll Be Loving You Always, and Ken, our son, sang The Wedding Song. We were thrilled that three hundred of our dearest friends and family came.
After the service in the main sanctuary, everyone went to the fellowship hall for the program and later, the buffet. Gordie Little led us in a rousing song service, and my sister, Violet DePrenger, played the piano. After prayer and a welcome message, the guests were recognized. We had them stand up group by group. These were our children, their families; our siblings, their families; our cousins on the Dawson side and cousins on the Fink side; neighbors and friends from childhood; my friends from high school days; church friends from former days; Enrilenos who came from Enrile; and other Filipino friends. They truly honored us by being there, as they could never have done in any other way. We presented awards to the folks who came the farthest as well as to the couple who had been married the longest.
Then began the rest of the program, with memories given by people very special to us over the years. These were interspersed with a variety of special entertainment acts.
The special numbers included: a lovely trio of young women, Yvonne Rowerdink and Linda & Nancy Jensen, who were part of our youth group at Hillcrest Christian Church; my sister, Violet, and her husband, Leo DePrenger, who did a hilarious skit; our son, Ken, who sang a song he had composed, This Road is Patrolled by Aircraft; Paul Hunter, who gave a reading in his droll and very funny fashion; Chuck and I sang two songs, My Happiness and Peace in the Valley; Carol Hansen, a very special marimba player from San Jose where Chuck preached years before, who played a medley of Christian music; Corazon Hall and Marvelito M. Unite, from Enrile, Cagayan, who danced an Itawes wedding dance called the “Mescota” (and also invited us to participate in dancing since it was we who were being married again); and finally, a concert by True Faith, a quartet of young Filipino men from Long Beach who had very close harmony. They were sons of friends we knew from Cruzada Church of Christ in Quiapo, Philippines.
Memories were given by Glen Dawson, my cousin; Ralph Carter, my friend from high school days; Esther DeBar, our very devoted fan from University Church; and Chuck Manahl, chairman of our STEP Board of Directors.
Near the end of the program was the scheduled time to eat, so we had a prayer for the food, and the folks proceeded to the small dining room where a buffet was waiting. Then all returned to their tables for eating and to enjoy the rest of the program. Chuck and I went tablehopping to greet the guests and take pictures, and later went to the very lovely wedding cake which even had a waterfall with it. We cut the cake and went through the ceremony connected with that, having the cake distributed to each guest, and then came the toast which was the last thing on the program.
At this time, Neil Kuns stood up and said that University Christian Church wanted to give us a special gift—a cruise trip to Alaska—for our anniversary. Not to be outdone, Chuck Manahl, chairman of our STEP Board, got up and said that since the mission didn’t want us to be stranded up there in Alaska, they would pay for the trip home so that we could return to the Philippines in due time. Wow! We had never thought of such a thing for us. It was almost too good to be true, but we graciously accepted their gifts, and we did make arrangements to go to Alaska for that trip.
It seemed like that should have been the end of our golden wedding anniversary celebration, right? But we still had more planned. It had been a long time since our nuclear family had all been together so we decided to go up to Mrs. Bradley’s cabin at Lake Gregory in the San Bernardino National Forest. Mrs. Bradley was a member of University Christian Church, and had been a good friend and neighbor of ours when we first started as minister and family at that church at the old location near University of Southern California (USC). When the kids were younger, we used to go to Mrs. Bradley’s cabin for a week almost every summer. As a fond reminiscence, we made arrangements to go up to the cabin one last time on Sunday, the day after the anniversary party.
Chuck and I, and Nancy and her family went to church at University that morning. Afterwards, Chuck and I went home to San Fernando to get clothes and food we had ready to take to the mountains. Some of the family were already there when we arrived at 6:30 PM—Ron, Nancy, Ken and their families. We served sandwiches and salad for supper. We had gotten cots for the trip to the cabin for the kids from some other church members before that. That night, we watched two sets of slides, pictures from when the kids were little. It was quite interesting and hilarious to see how much everyone had changed.
On Monday morning, we fixed a lunch and went to the swimming area at Lake Gregory, about five miles away. I went into the water with Brandy, Ron’s wife, and the water was COLD! We didn’t stay long, getting out to dry off and then going back later when it warmed up. Then it was just fabulous. Around the other side of the lake, there was a water slide, so the kids went there. Peter stayed in the water the whole time we were there. He just loved it. They had aquacycles that we could rent and ride around on, taking turns, so we rented one. Nancy and Terry went on it for an hour, and the others of us took turns. Merilee was the only one of our children not there. Ron didn’t want to ruin his knee by going swimming, so he chose to lay down and read while the rest of us did what we wanted to do. Cathryn was there with Taylor, her son. Taylor and Calli were hitting it off well and enjoying their time together. Calli was Brandy’s daughter, and Brandy was Ron’s wife. Ken and Cathryn strolled around to the water slides and watched the kids on the slides. Everyone was happy, and we had a great day.
That night after supper, we viewed four more sets of slides of our family when they were young, and we got lots of laughs. We all had great memories, and went to bed late that night. The next day in the morning, we did miscellaneous things, as we wanted to do. There was a jigsaw puzzle some were working on, and there were squirrels and blue jays that needed peanuts fed to them. We had lunch at home, and went to Lake Arrowhead that afternoon, about ten miles away. We took the motor boat trip around the lake, our first time to ever do that. When we went around the lake, we noticed that some of the old places we used to go were no longer there—for instance, there used to be some very neat totem poles at the end of the lake where we could hike to see them not far from a place where we used to set up a tent and make it our home for several days when I was a kid. When we got back to Lake Arrowhead Village, we went to the Children’s Museum and all had a lot of fun there. It was totally different from when the kids were young, no miniature golf or penny arcade. Afterwards, we got suckers, and others of our party got other things to eat at the Village. Ken, Cathryn and Taylor had to leave that morning, so we missed them in the fun. Back at the cabin, the kids played games while some finished the jigsaw puzzle that Ron and Brandy had brought, which was really beautiful. We also saw four more sets of slides, finishing off all we had.
The next day was our last day at Mrs. Bradley’s cabin. Ron, Brandy and Calli left at 8 AM, Nan and her family left about 10 AM. We cleaned up the house and did the wash and left at 12:00 noon. What a wonderful time we had with our family those few days! In fact, it was for the occasion of Merilee’s wedding to Mike Parlier, which was our first return to the States from the Philippines. Our first actual furlough (a one year leave) we took when Micki Louise Parlier was born.
We had just barely gotten the first book (Luke), printed and out to be sold in the Itawes region when we took off for the States. Merilee was “expecting” her daughter, and we got there just in time for the event on May 16, 1978. I got to be in Merilee and Mike’s home immediately after Micki Louise was born. I wanted to help Merilee in any way I could, but I knew very little about how to do such things as a grandmother. Merilee was very good at taking charge and I was able to help in quite a few ways, and feel useful. I was so thankful that they allowed me to be with them at that time of their lives.
Five years later, at the time our next furlough, Merilee was again with child. This time she delivered a boy, Timothy Patrick, not long after we arrived. Both of Merilee’s births were by Caesarean Section. This time I was able to help her take care of Micki, who was now five years old, as well as having time with Timothy and handling meals while Merilee recovered.
Then, when Nancy and Terry and their family went to the mission field, they were gone when we were home, or vice versa. I told you about going to Portugal when Brandon was born so that we could help Nancy and Terry at that time in their lives. We were also at home when Peter was born in California, so got to be with Nancy and Terry again at that time, which was wonderful.
We got to be home when Ken and Cathryn were married, with their wedding being held at Griffith Park, and Melissa, Cathryn’s daughter, was ten years old. That was a neat time, right around the time of the Olympics held at Exposition Park. What an exciting time was that! Later we came home when Ron was married at Morro Bay. It was Easter time, so we had all of our family plus almost all of my siblings and some of their families come to stay with us at a motel by the ocean. We hid Easter eggs and baskets for the children in the high grass growing nearby. I think that was the very day of the wedding, in fact. The weather was just perfect, and everything went well. We took advantage of getting together whenever we could, and it had been ages—years and years—since we last hunted for Easter eggs like that with my siblings! We did all of that the very day of the wedding.