Alta. couple renew vows on 70th anniversary

John and Winnie Anderson had to abandon plans for a big family gathering, but they were still able to mark the occasion

Sometimes, ways can be found to make the best of a tough situation.

May 6 marked the 70-year wedding anniversary for John and Winnie Anderson, and their children hoped to have a big family gathering to celebrate.

But the COVID-19 pandemic spoiled their plans. So family and friends held a surprise parade past the Anderson’s Westlock, Alta., home on May 2. At the same time, the couple renewed their vows.

Shortly after 2 p.m., a parade of cars with family and friends shouting greetings and carrying congratulatory signs drove past the Anderson home. The town peace officer led the parade, and one of the town fire trucks brought up the rear, sirens blaring.

The Andersons were overwhelmed by the surprise, which left Winnie with tears of joy.

Initially, the wedding vow renewal was planned for the lawn in front of the Anderson home but it was moved to the front of the Westlock Baptist Church where there was more room.

The couple were prepared for the vow portion of the event, and both read their pledges to continue to care for one another to the end of their days.

Thanks to a good speaker system, everyone was able to hear the speeches and take part in the happy time from the safe social distance.

John Anderson and Winnie Fowler were both born and raised in London, Ont. Both families had been in the area for several generations. They first met at the local swimming pool when they were 14 years old. Rumour has it Winnie was wearing a brand new two piece bathing suit, which caught John’s eye, and he did a fancy dive to impress her. They began dating when they were 16, and married when they were 18, on May 6, 1950.

They raised 11 children; seven sons and four daughters. Unfortunately, the three eldest sons have since passed away.

“Things happen. I don’t think life would be life without ups and downs,” Winnie said.

In 1978, they moved to Fort McMurray, Alta., where John worked at Syncrude. They were there for 25 years. Then they bought a home and moved to Athabasca, Alta., where they spent the next nine years before moving to Westlock about seven years ago.

All of their children, except for the eldest daughter, who lives in Ontario, live in Calgary. They have 17 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren and most were in Westlock May 2 to join John and Winnie for the special occasion.

Winnie admitted she shed tears at the surprise parade and during their marriage vow renewal.

“It was a marvelous day. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

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