BANGOR, Maine — Despite the passing of more than half a century, Herb and Verna Colson’s faces still light up when they talk about how they got together.
Both grew up in the Down East town of Lubec, they said Monday. After Herb entered the U.S. Marine Corps, his grandmother asked Verna to write to him, thinking that he might be lonely or homesick.
She wrote, he wrote, they clicked, and right after Herb returned from his stint in the military, the two began dating. He came home from the Marines on Jan. 27, 1956, and by June 15 of that year they were married. The couple, who moved to Hampden in the late 1960s, went on to have five children.
Now enjoying retirement, the two keep fit by walking several miles daily and dancing.
“We love dancing,” Verna said. Herb said he and his wife especially like dancing at Jordan’s in Ellsworth.
Their advice for marital longevity?
“Listen to the other person,” said Herb, 76.
“Be considerate,” said Verna, 74.
The Colsons, who will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary in June, were among more than 50 couples who renewed their wedding vows Monday during a group service at Bangor Baptist Church organized by Lighthouse Radio Network sister stations WHCF and Solution FM.
In addition to a ceremony presided over by assistant pastor Tom Obey, participating couples were treated to photographs taken under a white arch set up against a white background at the front of the church’s auditorium; a reception featuring a chocolate fountain, handmade candies, punch and other goodies; a CD of Christian love songs; and a certificate marking the occasion.
They also had a chance to win prizes including overnight stays at Maine hotels, a two-hour limousine ride, floral arrangements and more. All of the prizes and supplies were donated by area businesses.
What better way to get back in touch with the reasons you fell in love than to renew your wedding vows? And what better time to do it than on Valentine’s Day?
Obey said Monday he was happy to preside over the ceremony.
“I think commitment today is something that’s thrown around,” he said.
Joe Polek, promotions director and assistant music director for Lighthouse Radio, said it can be costly to renew your vows on your own. The $5 cost for the Bangor event was within easy reach of any hopeless romantic who wanted to take part.
Though many of the couples were from Greater Bangor and members of Bangor Baptist, others drove in from as far as Houlton, Cherryfield, Unity, Milo, Prospect and Dover-Foxcroft.
“We were hoping for a good turnout,” Polek said. “We had 51 couples preregister. I think we’re pretty happy with that.”
During the renewal of vows ceremony, the couples stood facing each other, some embracing, others holding hands, while Obey encouraged them to think about their relationships and how they have evolved over time. Before pronouncing everyone remarried, he led the couples with this vow:
“You are my heart, my best friend, my life. Today before God and these witnesses, I renew my commitment to you.
“I promise to love you, to cherish you, to respect you and to continue to grow with you for all of the days of our lives. This is my solemn vow.”
Participants had varying reasons for wanting to retie the knot.
“There’s been so much divorce around our families and we wanted our kids to be reassured that we are committed to each other,” said Cindy McDonald of Veazie while waiting for her husband of 16 years, Steve McDonald, to arrive along with their children, Maggie, 15, and William, 10. She said it also was a good way to remember the vows the two took on their wedding day.
When her husband popped up a few minutes later, he was carrying a bouquet of red roses for Cindy and a single rose for his daughter.
Their friends Betsy and Aaron Shaw of Bangor also took part.
“Thanks for showing me up with the flowers,” Aaron Shaw kidded his buddy.
“It’s a great way to start off the night,” he said, adding that the couples were going out to dinner afterward.
For one Bangor couple, Valentine’s Day happened to be their actual anniversary. Monday marked their 19th year of wedded bliss.
“I made a good choice,” Steven McClarie said.
“He’s the love of my life,” said Julie McClarie, adding, “He took on a ready-made family.” She said she had two children from a previous relationship and the two adopted three more children together. Their brood ranges from 37 to 9 in age, she said.
“We’ve had our trials but we’re still standing,” she said. “God’s held us up. God and our church family,” she said.