Google “wedding anniversary gifts” and even Hallmark quits at 60 years.
Good thing Jim Saunders makes his own cards.
The Oro Valley resident and his wife, Noni, have been married — drum roll, please, because if anything deserves a dramatic buildup this number certainly does — 80 years.
On their anniversary Tuesday, Jim gifted Noni with one of his original, computer-generated creations. They celebrated with a shindig featuring piano music, cake, speeches and toasts at Splendido at Rancho Vistoso, surrounded by family and friends.
The two nonagenarians — Jim hits the big 1-0-0 Aug. 31, Noni is 97 — may not be fast on their feet, but they’re quick with a quip. Go ahead and ask how you pull off an 80-year marriage.
“It just came about,” Noni deadpans.
They met as teenagers on a blind date at a Los Angeles ballroom. Friends paired them as dance partners. Jim says the blue-eyed blonde reeled him in with her sweet charm. Noni admired his strong work ethic — he’d quit school at 14 to get a job — and felt like she’d known Jim forever. Soon, the two were inseparable, so much so that they realized it just made sense to get married. They dated maybe five, six months before tying the knot.
“I didn’t have any time to waste,” Jim says with a smile.
Not surprisingly, over the course of 80 years, you forget some stuff. Like the actual proposal.
“I know I didn’t get down on my knees, but I must’ve asked you,” Jim says. “Do you remember?”
“It wasn’t a formal, ‘Will you marry me,’” Noni answers.
No matter. The two became Mr. and Mrs. and a year later son Craig came along. Seven years after that, they had another son, Marshall.
Jim became a business owner, buying a cosmetic dental lab and apartments, and Noni joined him, helping manage properties and overseeing books and payroll. They worked together. More than that, they played together: hitting the greens for golf, dancing, fishing and bridge.
After retiring, the two worked on cruise ships — Noni taught bridge and Jim golf — before relocating to Oro Valley 10 years ago. Jim still golfs three times a week, and the couple continue to play cards and games together, but not backgammon any more because Jim’s tired of constantly getting thumped.
His parents have just always enjoyed each other’s company, says Marshall, who adds he never saw them argue when he was growing up.
Jim and Noni, though, recall one real doozy. Noni says she got sick of Jim feeling like he always had to have the last word.
“I thought, ‘OK, have the last word’ and away I went.”
She took off in their car, stranding him. Jim walked four miles to work, grabbed a set of wheels and went from motel to motel, searching for his wife. By the time he found her, Noni says, “I’d even forgotten what we’d argued about.”
All in all, “We’ve been happy together,” Noni says.
Besides, Jim points out, “It’s too late for trade-ins.”