MORRIS – While most people were spending the weekend grilling and celebrating the United States’ independence from England, Wendell and Sharon Johnson were celebrating unity – 50 years of it.
The couple were married June 6, 1964, at Immaculate Conception Church. Wendell was driving a 1963 Chevy and the young couple celebrated their love with family and friends.
Since June 6 has come and gone each year with no fanfare, no cards and no flowers, the couple thought nothing of the fact that it passed again this year, seemingly unnoticed.
“Yeah, it’s a great day, but we don’t celebrate it,” Sharon said.
In fact, the couple doesn’t celebrate each others birthdays, or give gifts for the many holidays that fall throughout the year, except Christmas.
So what does a family do to acknowledge the golden anniversary – 50 years of wedded bliss? They throw a surprise party.
Their children, Jacquelyne, Doug and Brent Johnson, started planning a surprise party a year ago.
“They’ve never had a party, never had a day about them,” Jacquelyne said. “My brothers and I wanted to do this for them.”
On Saturday, a 1963 Chevy pulled up to their home south of the river to pick them up. The couple thought they were going to assist their daughter with a wedding reception.
“We figured she got busy and sent someone to pick us up for her,” Wendell said.
When the car pulled up at Pam’s Academy of Dance in Morris, the couple argued with their driver, Dave Harper, that he was at the wrong location.
Wendell thought the driver was lost. Sharon knew something was up and refused to get out of the car.
“I told him I’m not getting out of the car. I don’t belong here,” she said.
Once they coaxed her from the backseat of the classic Chevy, Harper shut the door and drove off abandoning the couple.
Inside, family and friends filled a room, decorated with enlarged wedding photos on canvas, and Sharon’s original wedding dress on display.
As Sharon was guided to the room where the party was, a friend told her when she walked in the room she’d see how much gold is in her life.
“I never knew I had so much love in my life,” Sharon said. “It was very emotional, I don’t like surprises, but it was very nice, and a lot of memories were made.”