Couple marks modest beginning 40 years richer
On that afternoon 40 years ago, she was in buttercup yellow and he was in a tuxedo only the ‘70s could have produced. She wore a wreath of flowers on her glossy chestnut hair, he wore a goofy, euphoric grin.
They were young and they had very little beyond the ‘63 Chevy parked outside First United Methodist Church. But they had each other. He said “I do” and she did, too.
So, at 4 p.m. Saturday, at the same time and in the same place where they said the words four decades before, they said them again, renewing their vows. Chuck Mathis said he would, and his Diana said she would, too. She wore flowers on her chestnut hair, he wore a goofy, euphoric grin. This time, their two children and three grandchildren were at the front of the church with them.
Forty years is a long time. There have been peaks and valleys beneath them, storms and calm, as much joy as their arms can carry. Saturday afternoon, it seemed like not much time at all.
“We still just really like each other,” Diana mused, after considering what has helped their marriage last. Chuck nodded his agreement.
They met in 1969, when he worked at Safeway in Teller Arms Plaza and she worked as a soda jerk next door at Plaza Drugstore. He went in for banana splits (there’s a reason why, but you’ll have to ask him) and they talked and flirted. But as students at Mesa College, his life zigged while hers zagged. He went to Northern Arizona University for a while, then returned to Grand Junction.
One day, in August 1972, Chuck was riding his Schwinn Varsity down Fifth Street from his home on Orchard Mesa when he spotted Diana walking to her job at a law office near the library. Of course he stopped. Of course he asked her to dinner.
When he showed up at her door, “I was dressed to the nines,” Diana recalled.
“And I’m in Levi’s and a T-shirt,” Chuck added.
“Dinner,” it turned out, was a hot dog at the Chief Drive-In with about 20 other friends. Still, they were off and running, engaged soon after and standing in front of Pastor Hamilton at 4 p.m. Nov. 3, 1972. Diana’s mother had made her a long-sleeved yellow dress. Their friends were circled near. Their hearts were a conflagration of fireworks.
And speaking of which: That night, at their hotel in Montrose, they lit a small, heart-shaped candle Diana had brought for the occasion. Soon thereafter, the room was on fire. Literally. Chuck wrapped a sheet around his forearm to swipe out the flames, but the couple ended up in the emergency room anyway. Both were covered in black flecks of plastic from the destroyed TV, Diana was in her wedding dress and Chuck had second- and third-degree burns under his sheet-wrapped arm.
Chuck, it should be noted, is now a 33-year veteran with the Grand Junction Fire Department.
So, the marriage endured, is the point. Daughter Ericka came in 1975 and son Aaron in 1978. Chuck became a firefighter and Diana a Realtor. There were dinners and vacations, fishing and camping trips, crazy mornings and quiet evenings, bad times and good.
“I think the thing is to bend but not break,” Chuck said.
“I think people give up too easily,” Diana said. “I think if you are committed, you need to go the long haul. We support each other in everything, and I think that’s the key of it right there.”
“And we don’t try to control each other,” Chuck added. “She has her things that she enjoys and that’s fine, I have my things that I enjoy and that’s fine. We let each other breathe.”
But together Saturday, they held hands and took a deep breath in unison as they stood at the back of the First United Methodist Church chapel. Their grandchildren, Caden, Ava and Grayson, had scattered (or, in the case of the boys, flung) yellow rose petals down the aisle. Ericka and Aaron were waiting at the front.
Diana and Chuck, dressed in their ‘70s finest — peasant skirt and gypsy blouse with funky platform sandals for her, Nehru jacket and tie-dye T-shirt for him — held hands and walked down the aisle together to Carole King singing “You’ve Got a Friend.”
Forty years, then, was not much time at all.