Rose could read a map; Pete could drive---their daughter joked that’s what brought them together over 50 years ago! Rose and Pete Connelly gathered in a surprise celebration to mark a milestone that has become increasingly more elusive for couples today~their 50th wedding anniversary!
50 years have passed and their children knew this day needed to be commemorated! This was their chance to celebrate the love they've witnessed their whole lives between their parents. It may be 50 years later, but Pete proudly told me Rose still fits in her wedding dress! That sounds like two reasons to celebrate!
Rose and Pete thought the night was to be a quiet celebration dinner with their youngest daughter and son in law. Instead, this was just a ruse to get them to their favorite Italian restaurant in Carroll County~ Paradiso, where they were surprised by their whole family! All four of Rose and Pete’s kids, spouses and 7 grandchildren eagerly awaited their presence.
Usually a flat tire is the excuse you give to delay the guests of honor for a surprise party. However, an actual flat tire on daughter Sheila’s car did delay her getting Rose and Pete to the restaurant at the pre-planned time. But, make no mistake; it did not delay the actual start of the party! The family had no problem passing the extra time. They started the celebrating early so the party was in full swing by the time Sheila and Tony arrived with the beloved guests of honor!
While waiting for their arrival we ventured into the cozy, dimly lit dining room where the fireplace was crackling. The intention was for a few serene family portraits. Yes, we did those, but then they quickly evolved into the kids all filling the lens with what kids do best---creating memories with each other by being kids!
Throughout the night, as I photographed the family, I began to think, ‘there’s something special about Irish-Italian households’ (not just because I’m a part of one). It was very evident that family is such a deep core value with the Connelly’s. Family is the place where life is celebrated. Family is the place where life’s storms are weathered. All the while laughter and love entwines itself around everyone as they gather.
When Rose and Pete arrived the surprise and confusion was evident on their faces. Through the night Rose kept clasping her hands to her face in disbelief that her family had planned this. It’s clear she is a strong and modest woman who would rather have the attention on all those around her then herself….a true model of graciousness!
Pete laughed through the whole evening with each member of his family. He spent time with each of his children and grandchildren independently through the night. Pete even came to check on me because he was concerned I was lonely!
Each of the children and grandchildren sought out Rose and Pete through the night for some one on one time. Not one of those interactions passed without some kind of embrace. I have to admit I held back a few tears when I watched how Rose and Pete were so tender with each of their family members. There’s no doubt about it---this family knows they are loved!
Rose and Pete’s only son, Michael, toasted his mom and dad recounting the blessings of a wonderful childhood they were given. He praised his parents for the firm moral foundation they passed on, grounded in the teachings of Christ.
Michael recounted hilarious stories the family all appeared to know well which only made the stories that much more treasured among them. He recounted the first time he and his dad went crabbing. They pulled 12-inch crab after 12-inch crab up from their crab pots. Delighted, they figured this was normal.
All was well and good until the Delaware park police made their grand entrance to inform the Connelly men they were crabbing in a restricted area for licensed waterman. They were instructed to return the crabs to the water. Deflated, they dumped the crabs back in and the park police left. Then young Michael asked, ‘Dad what about the bushel we have in the car?’
(Jamie's admiration of Pop-Pop makes me celebrate he wasn't looking at the camera!)
The family contends those were the best crabs they have eaten to this day!
Time at the restaurant was winding to a close. Most families would call it a night after several hours of partying, but not when it’s an Irish/Italian crew! This party was just getting started! We headed back to Rose and Pete’s house for the family to continue their celebration.
Gifts were exchanged, drinks were clanked and toasts continued. The adult kids must have been rooting for gift ideas for mom and dad because I heard Rose say a few times through the night, “I have four kids who are happily married and have good careers so they can support their families---what else could a woman want or ask for? Really what else??”
The grandkids were happy to chase each other, sport the new Ravens angry bird t-shirts from Aunt Sheila, build pyramids and delight in the table of desserts.
The girls showed me one of their favorite past times at their Grum-mum & Pop-Pop’s house---blowing up balloons and throwing them around….I told them one day a photo of this will flood back memories of their childhood time spent playing here and sharing life.
As I chased everyone around to photograph the family, I saw walls lined with photos of children and grandchildren, but I could not find a single wedding photo of Rose and Pete. Upon further searching I found there weren’t any. 50 years ago Rose and Pete had to elope because the union on an Irishman to an Italian was so frowned upon. If those naysayers could only see Rose and Pete today!
The night wound down to a close about midnight. Something tells me this night provided many treasured memories for the entire Connelly family! Happy 50th Rose and Pete---the joy you share is a great inspiration for us all!