Seasons of LOVE • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

Couples who have been together a while celebrate anniversaries in many ways

ON HIGH SEAS | George Harris, left of the man in the New York City shirt, and his partner Jack Evans, flanking on the right, marked their golden anniversary with a week-long cruise to Mexico with more than a dozen close friends.

By Jef tingley

At the risk of sounding like a song from Rent: How does a couple measure a year? It’s the question many same-sex partners are faced with when they make it past 365 days together and seek to fix that elusive date they call their “anniversary.” Was it the first glance? First date? First, uhh, encounter? Or how about the day they loaded the cats in the U-Haul and moved in together?

The answer, it seems, is yes to all of the above. But whether grand or subtle, these couples had their own reasons and ways for making their anniversaries an affair to remember.

Jack Evans and George Harris met each other on Jan. 19, 1961 at the Taboo Room, a long-defunct gay bar located on Lomo Alto Drive off Lemmon Avenue. Earlier this year, they decided to mark their golden anniversary.

“Fifty years and still goin’ strong!” Harris crows.

To celebrate, they invited a group of 16 friends to fly to Los Angeles in early April. The couple spend a day touring the city, including a trip to the Getty Museum, before they all boarded the Princess Sapphire for a one-week Mexican Riviera cruise. The adventure included stopovers in Puerto Vallarta and San Jose del Cabo.

“It was wonderful,” says Evans. “A great, harmonious, no-drama group.”

Lakewood residents David Wood and Don Hendershot met 25 years ago at a tea dance at the infamous Parliament House in Orlando, Fla.; however, it was just this year that they took their relationship to the next level, getting legally married in Boston on March 25.

It was certainly a day they’ll never forget. Taking the marriage advice of “something blue” too literally, Hendershot fell from a ladder the day before the wedding, leaving him with a broken hand and bruised ribs going into the ceremony. Major body trauma aside, the intimate wedding came off without a hitch — “except for my unexpected explosion of tears when we exchanged vows,” says Wood.

The duo credit the wedding of a younger couple they are friends with for prompting them to make the move from longtime live-ins to actual husband status. “We had been discussing how we were going to celebrate 25 years and seeing such a young couple tie the knot actually inspired us to do the same,” Wood says.

Oak Cliff residents Kathy Jack and Susie Buck also celebrated one of their anniversaries (year seven) with a wedding. As a result, the couple, now together 15 years, claims two anniversary dates for their very own. “Our anniversary is Feb. 14, which was not planned,” says Jack of the Valentine’s Day milestone. “But our wedding anniversary is Feb. 15, which was planned.” The date change was apparently made to best accommodate the schedule of the couple and their friends as they traveled to Hawaii for a destination wedding.

It was a trip they will both remember for years to come. “Maui on your wedding night. Waves crashing. Champagne. How much better can it get?” says Buck. “[We are] hoping to get away for our 20th to Greece.”

For Oak Cliff couple Todd Johnson and Tom Caraway, who will celebrate their 12-year anniversary on Nov. 3, the special day wasn’t about rushing to the altar — it was about traveling the world together.

“For our 10-year anniversary, we wanted to go someplace special,” says Johnson. “Paris kept popping up, but it seemed like such a cliché. Surely, we could be more original than that. But neither of us had ever been and it was the best decision. Paris is a very special place, my favorite city on the planet. Just strolling the streets of St. Germain, the Marais. The beauty of the city is so inspiring. I now understand why you see people making out on practically every street corner.”

PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES | Tom Caraway, pictured, and his partner Todd Johnson decided to mark their 10th anniversary with a trip to Paris, where neither had ever been. The trip included touristy things like visiting the Louvre, pictured, but also fine dining and a stop at Pere Lachaise cemetery to visit the grave of Oscar Wilde.

He’s quick to add that Parisian dining was equally as appealing a part of the trip for the self-proclaimed foodies. “[We] decided to eat our way across the city. All the bistros and patisseries offered one delicious bite after another. For our official anniversary dinner, we went to Alain Ducasse at the Hotel Plaza Athenee, considered one of the finest restaurants in the world. It was like something out of a movie: crystal chandeliers, haute couture decor, formal service but happily not stuffy. We couldn’t get over the food: guinea fowl with truffle pie, steamed langoustines, asparagus with black truffles.”

However, it’s how the couple ended the anniversary excursion that really stands out. “We visited Pere Lachaise, the largest cemetery in Paris. It’s the one where Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried. I know. A cemetery? Romantic?” says Johnson. “But there we were in this perfectly still, quiet place amid the bustle of Paris. The sun was close to setting. The gravestones cast long shadows across the lawn. There was something about the moment that was magical. You focus on the beauty and fragility of life, and it makes you thankful for everything that you have  — especially the love that you have. We took each other’s hands and strolled along the cemetery. It’s my favorite moment of the trip.”

So perhaps the folks in Rent have it right. Maybe you do measure a year in cups of coffee and sunsets? Or, maybe it’s wedding rings and graveyard strolls? Regardless of what it takes, it seems each couple has their own way of making the phrase “happy anniversary” truly mean something.

— Additional reporting by David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens