Column: Couple celebrates 50 months by giving

• Originally published in Kane County Chronicle on July 23, 2010

John and Georgene O’Dwyer probably won’t get the chance to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. John, 83, and Georgene, 77, are just in their fourth year of marriage. It’s certainly possible, but unlikely.

So, the Batavia couple decided to throw a big hurrah for their 50-month wedding anniversary instead.

“Whether it was 50 months or 50 years, we wanted to celebrate our life together,” Georgene said.

The two remarried after losing spouses – John, two, and Georgene, one after more than 50 years of marriage. John never got to celebrate 50 years with either of his wives, so the two decided to throw their big celebration at 50 months.

But while a party was in order, presents were not.

“The first thing [John] said was we didn’t want presents like when we got married,” Georgene said.

Human nature, however, dictates that gifts must be brought to celebrations. So, the O’Dwyers figured out a way to redirect the presents to a worthy cause.

John, a longtime Batavia doctor, and Georgene asked the more than 150 guests who showed up July 11 at Riverview Banquets in Batavia to bring a donation of food or money for the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry. The two got the idea from Georgene’s daughter and son-in-law, Laura and Eric Lacher, who asked for food for their 50th birthdays.

The party was held. The guests came with food and money for the food pantry. And by the time the party ended, the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry had a vanload of food and a handful of checks.

Stan Johnston, the chairman of the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry, said the total amount donated was about two weeks’ worth of donations.

“When the food pantry got it, Mr. Johnston said he never expected that much food,” Georgene said. “The checks totaled $1,000, and he was excited about what he could do with that. It was very gratifying and humbling to have so many people consider our wishes and do that.”

Johnston confirmed he was surprised by the donation and the way it was collected.

“It has happened other times, but not very often,” Johnston said. “Most of those are children that are having a birthday party and ask people to bring food or money for a food pantry. First time that it was adults.”

And the food pantry certainly was happy to take the donation, especially during this time of great need.

“We’re holding up,” Johnston said. “We’re not as well off as we were this time last year because of the economy, but we’ve had no problem distributing food. We’ve never run out of anything.”

Johnston knew of the O’Dwyers beforehand, but said he had never met the couple. He certainly wasn’t surprised by the generosity of the Batavians, though.

“The people in Batavia have been very generous in the past,” Johnston said. “Whenever we’ve had to call them, they’ve responded. We’ve never had to miss somebody or not serve somebody. We’ve been lucky enough to keep things rolling.”

And with help from those like the O’Dwyers, the food pantry will continue to do so.

Joe Grace can be reached at jgrace@kcchronicle.com or 630-845-5368.

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