Kidzplex founders celebrate 50th wedding anniversary

For their recent 50th anniversary, Harlan Bensley gave his wife Alice a sympathy card. He signed it, “Sorry I’m a pain.”

“It was just a little joke,” Harlan laughed.

The Bensleys have “no regrets” about the life they’ve built together in the past 50 years.

Looking down onto the gym floor at Kidzplex, the Bensley’s recalled not only how they had raised their own children, but also how they have watched so many children of the Grand Valley grow through their gymnastics program into outstanding men and women in the community.

“It’s hard work,” Alice said of their marriage, “even after 50 years our commitment to each other is that we will keep making our marriage better.”

Harlan and Alice were married on Dec. 19, 1959 in Victor, Iowa. After only six months of dating, they eloped in the home of a local pastor.

“See how cute she was,” Harlan said when asked how he knew Alice was the one for him. “By June I told my family that she was the one I was going to marry.”

The newlyweds spent their honeymoon visiting family in California and Phoenix.

Harlan and Alice were teachers, but their salaries didn’t pay much. Harlan, having been a gymnast in college, began teaching gymnastics lessons on the side to supplement their income.

The first 10 years I did it (coaching) so much that I hardly ever saw her,” Harlan said.

They had two children, Miki and Brian, which Harlan coached in gymnastics as well.

In 1969, Alice and Harlan needed a change of scenery. Their church was recruiting teachers to serve in Africa. “We said ‘hey, let’s do it,’” Harlan said. The young family spent a year on the Ivory Coast.

The Bensley’s came to Grand Junction in 1984. Alice taught elementary school for District 51, while Harlan and Brian purchased a small gymnastics school called Colorado Country Gymnastics.

“It was very small with a role of 90 kids,” Harlan remembered. Within a year, 350 children were enrolled in lessons.

They opened the Grand Junction Gymnastics Academy to accommodate the high number of students at a new location which they eventually outgrew as well.

“Our son always had a vision for a place with more activities for children,” Harlan said while pointing to the huge Kidzplex facility. “We did all of this for the children,” he said, “We’ve always been into kids business.”

These days Harlan and Alice are retired from teaching and coaching, having passed the business down to their children, but they make nearly daily appearances at the gym. Harlan still likes to interact with the children, who refer to him as “the pony-tail puller.”

“If it weren’t for gymnastics I don’t know what we’d be doing. It keeps us going,” Alice said.

An open house for their anniversary took place Wednesday afternoon. Harlan proudly showed a picture of his family to the parents of students and reception guests. “This is what you get after 50 years of marriage,” he beamed.

The Bensley’s have found time to travel as well. Each year, they take an international trip together. This year they plan to visit Mexico City.

Alice said the best advice she has for married couples it to keep their faith in God. “A family that prays together, stays together, and I really believe that’s why we’re still together,” she said.


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