A Salem area couple celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary by renewing their vows at a ceremony 70 years in the making.
Donald and Ruth (Walpert) Sanor of Cider Mill Road on Nov. 11 renewed their vows for their 70th anniversary in front of 150 family members and guests at a marriage ceremony at Damascus Friends Church replete with wedding gown and "Wedding March." Father Robert Edwards of St. Paul's Catholic Church in Salem officiated the ceremony.
The wedding ceremony, held prior to a party planned by the couple's seven children, served as a dream come true for Ruth, who had harbored a wish for a big wedding since the marriage's humble inception 70 years ago.
Salem area residents Donald and Ruth Sanor, set to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in January, renewed their vows in a marriage ceremony they missed out on in 1943. (Submitted photo)
The Sanors, in dressy but simple attire, were married on Jan. 20, 1943, at a small ceremony at the St. Patrick's Catholic Church rectory in Leetonia in front of only two witnesses- Ruth's brother, Raymond Walpert, and sister, Helen Chaplow. A small gathering of family members celebrated with cake and ice cream following the ceremony.
The two had met approximately one year prior at a Washingtonville roller skating rink and had very little money for an extravagant celebration.
"It was shortly after the depression and everything was tight," Ruth said. "It was all we could afford...it was nice but it never seemed like a real wedding."
The marriage produced seven children, Donnette Huston, Ron (Nancy) Sanor, Tom (Jackie) Sanor and Larry (Dawn) Sanor, all of Salem, Luanne Sanor of Damascus, Patti (Mike) Cardone of Lakewood and Rita (Chuck) Blake of Cincinnati; 23 grandchildren; and 25 great-grandchildren.
As the Sanors' anniversary approached, their children began planning a simple celebration for family and friends. When told of the plans, Ruth revealed her dream of walking down the aisle in a wedding dress.
"No one knew until that moment that she had secretly longed for the 'beautiful wedding' that every bride dreams of and, of course, (that) after 70 years of marriage she knew it would remain a 'dream' forever," said Luanne Sanor. "She's a wonderful woman, wonderful mother, we just wanted to make her dream come true."
But it had long been bothering Ruth that she couldn't have the wedding she longed for in 1943. So when her daughters suggested the party, she immediately relayed her desire to them.
"It started as a little party, but I had been thinking about a large wedding with a gown and vows in a church," she said.
Having purchased her perfect wedding gown within a week of being told of the celebration, Ruth decided to keep the "wedding" a secret so she could surprise everyone at the party.
The joyous occasion hit came to a halt a few weeks later when Huston became unexpectedly ill and was diagnosed with bacterial pneumococcal meningitis. She was life-flighted to Aultman Hospital in Canton in very critical condition and doctors gave very little hope of survival. The family started to prepare for the worst.
Within hours prayers were coming from all over the country, Luanne Sanor said, and little by little her condition started to improve. A few days later she was awake and talking, baffling the doctors who didn't think she would live. A week and a half later she was transferred to a rehabilitation center where she made tremendous progress daily.
"It was nothing short of a miracle," Luanne Sanor said.
Once Huston's condition began to improve, the family resumed preparations for the celebration not knowing if she would be able to attend the party for which she had helped plan.
On the day of the party, Don and Ruth hid away to wait for their "surprise" entrance, but were surprised themselves by the arrival of Huston, who had been given special permission by doctors to attend the party for a short time. The Sanors not only were about to have the wedding Ruth always wanted, but they were able to celebrate it with all their children in attendance.
As the "Wedding March" began, the bride and groom entered the room to the awe of family and friends, who greeted the happy couple with a standing ovation and cheerful applause.
"It was thrilling to make (her) dreams come true," Luanne Sanor said. "We all had tears in our eyes."
In the end, Ruth viewed the event as more than her children being thoughtful, loving and ambitious, though.
"So many families today break up and we're so close," she said. "That's what I'm most pleased with."
Don, 91, and Ruth, 89, have been lifelong Salem area residents. He is a retired dairy farmer and she was a housewife who raised the children and helped on the farm.
Don is a former Butler Township trustee, a 50-year member of the United Commercial Travelers and a Winona Ruritan. Ruth is a member of the Catholic Daughters of America. Both are 70-year members of the Willow Grove Grange and 50-year members of the Farm Bureau.