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Three couples share 50th celebration





If 50 years of marriage is the golden anniversary, the gathering Saturday of three couples in the former Kennedy Middle School's lunchroom was the mother lode.

Although the dinner with 250 guests honored Gary and Ellie Gabel's Oct. 12, 1963, union, four friends who married in the same month that year joined them. Rosalie and Virgil Gross married Oct. 26, and Sharron and Don Befort's nuptials were Oct. 5.

The lunchroom, filled to capacity, hummed at a dull roar as several generations came together to honor the Gabels' marriage that predates President John F. Kennedy's assassination by several weeks. Guests browsed the couple's wedding photos and scrapbooks as a piano played in the background.

The three couples sat a table and recalled their weddings' festivities. Eating, drinking and dancing had started early in the afternoon and stretched late into the evening, they said.

There was not as much revelry now, but the joy the couples shared has not faded over the half-century.

They have been lifelong friends as far back as when Virgil and Don's friendship began in first grade, Rosalie Gross said. The Gross pair met each other at 4-H, the Beforts both attended what is now Thomas More-Prep and the Gabels met at a dance.

Virgil Gross said there are two qualities that keep a marriage strong.

"Faith in your church and respect for your spouse," he said.

His wife echoed his sentiments, and said they were all dedicated to the principal of marriage.

"Back in the day, we made the vows, and we stayed true to them," Rosalie said.

Ellie Gabel said friends and family from Arizona, Oklahoma and Colorado came to the dinner.

"All but two of my wedding's guests, who are dead, are here," Gabel said. "Even the flower girl and ring bearer."

The Gabels raised and butchered chickens for the party's dinner, grew cabbage for the sauerkraut, baked the bread and made the dessert, Rosalie said. All of their families did the same thing for their weddings 50 years ago, she said.

Commitment to tradition was evident throughout the celebration. Adult guests entering the party were asked if they wanted to follow the German wedding custom of sharing a quick drink with one of the party's hosts.

"It's been very nice to reminisce. ... There's no way you can reach out and grab those 50 years," Rosalie said. "The years have flown by."