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Connoquenessing couple celebrates 72nd anniversary

David and Patricia Van Dyke have been married for 72 years. Julia Maruca/Butler Eagle

EAST BUTLER -- When Patricia Van Dyke attended a birthday party with a friend almost three-quarters of a century ago, she certainly didn’t expect to meet the love of her life.

“(My friend) said, come on, we’re going to go to Connoquenessing for a birthday party,” she said. “We went out, and I met him there, and that was 73 years ago.”

Patricia, 93, and her husband David Van Dyke, 97, celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary at a gathering on Saturday, Nov. 12 at Anna Marie's Winery & Cafe in East Butler.

The couple have been married since October 28, 1950, and hoped to celebrate their 70th anniversary two years ago, but found their plans stymied by COVID.

“We had to wait this long, and we decided it can’t wait any longer,“ David said.

The two gathered with three generations of their extended family — children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren — for a dinner to celebrate a long and happy marriage. At the event, family and friends circled around, laughed, and shared stories.

“It’s been an interesting life, with ups and downs, everybody has theirs,” Patricia said. “It’s something that you have to work on. You have to work on it.”

“She worked harder than I did — I had it pretty easy,” David joked. “It’s been a good ride. I made a good choice.”

Long life

David originally came from Connoquenessing, and Patricia from Butler. The two lived in Butler shortly after they got married, and later moved back out to Connoquenessing, where they have lived for the past 52 years.

David worked for 39 years as a truck driver, and his family occasionally accompanied him on long trips across the country for “work vacations.” The couple’s middle daughter, Cathy Van Dyke, fondly recalls an adventure across the United States to California.

“It was educational, to say the least, and hot, because back then, nothing was air conditioned,” Cathy said. ”We had a lot of fun times growing up.“

In their free time after retiring, David and Patricia liked to travel to Vancouver, Canada, and David enjoyed hunting, fishing, and playing baseball when he was younger.

Many of the couple’s kids were involved in competitive swimming, and Patricia and David’s son Mark Van Dyke grinned, remembering his mother’s frequent presence in the audience at swim meets.

“At all the swim meets, my name is Mark, and she would get up and as she was cheering for me, she would call me ‘Marcus Welby,’’” Mark said, referencing a 1969 TV show.

“She was obnoxious as a cheerer,” he joked. “Dad was very quiet, he didn’t say a whole lot.”

In total, the couple have four children, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, most of whom were able to attend the gathering Saturday.

“They’re truly an inspiration” Mark said. “72 years, I know my wife and I are 42 (years), so we’ve got a long way to go.”

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