The First Forty Years

Posted by on Apr 28, 2016

When you have been married to someone for 40 years, practical wisdom on how to really keep a marriage strong comes easy.

“Late at night when you’re watching television loud, make sure the room you’re watching it in is plenty far away from your wife so you don’t disturb her,” said Keith with an all-knowing grin. Sue Ellen, his wife of 40 years flashed her pearly whites in agreement. It seems he wasn’t kidding. Hearts and rainbows be damned, these love birds really got it going and understand the brass tacks of happy matrimony.

Keith and Sue Ellen had come to the Pfister this past week for brunch to celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary. It was a “to-the-day” celebration, coming to the Pfister on an overcast, slightly rainy day just like they had some 40 years ago. It was a trip down memory lane with friends, complete with a couple of special surprises.

The Pfister’s Chef Concierge Peter Mortenson proved once again that he has mad powers of astonishing force by researching the exact room that Keith and Sue Ellen had spent their wedding night in 40 years ago. Along with the couple’s married friends Greg and Sue, and Mary and Dan, I had the distinct pleasure to accompany them for their journey back in time.

Peter had kept the whole thing under wraps, and as the couple arrived prior to their brunch reservation, we greeted their wedding anniversary party so he could inform them that he had organized a little hotel tour prior to brunch. We all snuggled into an elevator stopping briefly on the seventh floor to visit the beautiful glittering ballrooms before our final destination, their bridal suite of years gone by. As we tucked into the elevator after our pit stop, Peter had a brief interchange with a fabulously mustachioed man sharing the ride up.

“Is everything set for the picture later today, Mr. Fingers?” said Peter, politely addressing legendary former Brewer pitcher Rollie Fingers, who still sports his trademark handlebar mustache, even if it’s a bit more salt and pepper these days than jet black like it was when he was throwing heat on a regular basis.

Rollie Fingers gave Peter a thumbs-up and exited a floor before our party. Keith and Sue Ellen, baseball lovers of note, arched their eyebrows and with looks of amazement said, “Peter, did you arrange for Rollie Fingers to be in our elevator, too?” Peter explained that it was just a chance meeting, but I’m going to chalk that one up to divine providence.

We arrived at the couple’s 1976 honeymoon suite and Peter explained that he had figured out which room Keith and Sue Ellen had stayed in and was delighted to share this treat with them as a special bonus for their day of celebration. I’ve seen some pretty appreciative people during my time as Pfister Narrator, but the looks on everyone’s faces that day will be burned in my memory forever. The sort of excitement that everyone was feeling as they stepped through the door made it seem like we were back in the bicentennial year when Sue Ellen had been decked out in an elegant frock and Keith and his groomsmen had sported red, white and blue bow ties that bridesmaid Mary had made for the boys.


Peter, major domo master of revels, is high charm mode.

The friends all gathered together and reminisced about the day. Sue Ellen’s bridesmaids Sue and Mary recalled that the newly married couple left their reception without any of their wedding gifts. I learned that the bonds of friendship amongst the group had been formed over 40 years earlier prior to the wedding when all the couples had lived in the Normandy Village apartment complex west of downtown Milwaukee. Jokes flew through the room the way that they do between people with an easy shared shorthand, and it was clear that these six had surely had some high times together over the years. I took cameras and snapped pictures back and forth, the girls together, then the boys, then all the couples, with smiles growing bigger and bigger on each shot we took.


Keith, Sue Ellen, Sue, Greg, Mary and Dan…friends for life.

I couldn’t help but notice that the room we were in was set up with two double beds separated by an aisle. It seemed oh so 1950s television for a honeymoon suite. Teetering towards an indelicate question, I asked Keith and Sue Ellen, “Were there two beds in this room the night of your wedding?”


The married couple bridging the divide.

Keith and Sue Ellen smiled devilishly at each other, and gave me a laugh. “No,” said Keith. Sue Ellen finished his thought saying, “I remember that there was only one bed back then.” Forty years and counting, and all the memories of brides, grooms, wedding parties, and the secrets of pillow talk are absolutely keeping the love fires aflame for this happiest of happy couples.

Follow me on Twitter @jonathantwest for more smart remarks and snappy retorts.

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