Lily of Lily Larson Photography reached out to us to share the celebration of her grandparents 70th wedding anniversary which was on October 14th, 2020! Lily wanted to capture this huge occasion and accomplishment of her papa who just turned 97, and her grandma will be turning 90 in just a few weeks. Read on to hear this love story (I'm already choking up) and be sure to scroll all the way down to see their wedding photo from 1950. You can see all the photos in the gallery.
The Love Story
Growing up, I always recall my grandfather telling the story of how he encountered love at first sight. One day while working the second floor at the J. C. Penney in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, my grandfather saw my grandmother walking hand-in-hand with her mother through his department. He knew something was different about her. Years later, he encountered her again when he was playing the drums at a popular concert venue in May of 1950.
Just before the last song was played, my grandfather introduced himself to Joan Rose Schnorr, also known as Joni, for the first time since admiring her from afar. She was with her friend that evening and they had missed their ride home. Once he was finished up with his set, he offered to take them home. He dropped off Joni’s friend first so he could spend quality time with Joni. That night, Joe and Joni spent hours chatting in the car. Just before she went inside, Joni shared with Joe her desire to become a nun. However, after speaking with each other’s hometown priests, they were given encouragement to begin a relationship.
One month later, Joe proposed to Joni on the Fourth of July during a picnic. Joe suggested marrying the next day, but Joni chose the month of October to tie the knot. The two became one on October 14th, 1950. Over the next 21 years, they had six children, two boys and four girls.
Throughout the years, Joe continued to play with his band, gaining a name for himself. Joni joined as the lead vocalist and renamed the band to Joe and Joni Live and the pair entertained often. For 17 years, they were the Saturday night feature at Riverdale Country Club in Sheboygan, playing mainly big band music. Their stage presence soon turned to TV presence as they had the opportunity to make a TV commercial for the presidential campaigns of Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon. During the two years that the couple lived in Hawaii, they had the opportunity to appear on Hawaii Five-O and The Jim Nabors Polynesian Extravaganza. They took Hawaii by storm, resulting in their band being one of the most popular on the islands in the late 1970's. Eventually, they decided to retire and move to Fort Myers, FL, in 1980 to focus their talents serving in the church worship team scene.
In the 1990s when their youngest left the house, Joe and Joni moved to North Florida to Jacksonville. They used Jacksonville as a home base to travel by RV to camp in various destinations across the US. They took every opportunity they had to help others, and even held bible studies to those camping near them. They found peace within their retirement doing this.
Now, the two have made it to 90 & 97 years old. Of their six children have come 17 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. When reflecting on their 70 years of marriage, they acknowledged first that their vows are for forever and to God. Not just words, but a sacred promise. They acknowledge that patience is still difficult to have, but necessary when in a disagreement- and the same goes for forgiveness.
They expressed the importance of never attempting to change your partner. There is a difference between communicating what you want versus turning your partner into who you want them to be for yourself. Joe and Joni don’t claim that their keys to success are simple - their marital success is accompanied by plenty of heartache, disagreements, and curveballs that have been thrown their way in 70+ years. However, they will always attribute their success in their relationship to God, as He has always been the center of their lives together.
When planning this anniversary session, I knew it was important to capture my grandparents unending love for each other. I recognize just how lucky I am to have a couple within my lineage to make it to 70 years, still with sight for the future. I chose to commemorate the two at The Cummer Art Gallery & Gardens in Jacksonville, FL, as the scenery is timeless and colorful, just like their love. This session may just be my greatest honor to share with my family to encourage others, especially those who are in the beginnings of their future together.