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Married life about friends, family

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When most couples celebrate something like 50 or so years of married life, other people throw a party for them.

The twosome becomes the center of attention for the event — family members, friends and even strangers step forward in receiving lines to hug and congratulate them on making it through so many years together.

I think John and Carolyn Seltzer didn’t get the message on how these things are done.

The Seltzers celebrated their 50th year of wedded life together this spring, but they were in Florida at the time and pretty far removed from their network of friends here in Columbus.

Despite the separation, their friends were still in the couple’s thoughts. Those thoughts crystallized into an idea back in May when they learned that a musical group from Canada called the Leahys would be performing at three venues in Indiana this month.

The Seltzers are very familiar with the Leahys. They had come to know them from a family tradition of vacationing on a lake in Ontario.

It’s a pretty long tradition. The couple has made the annual trip north through their entire married life.

For John, it’s an even longer tradition. He’s been summering at the lake since age 1.

It was during one of those vacations several years ago that they first encountered the Leahys.

“We knew them as a farming family who played fiddles for the regular square dances we attended,” John said earlier this month. “We buy our vegetables from their small farm stand on the shore of our lake. They are absolutely ‘regular people.’”

Well, not all that regular. Several years ago the Seltzers learned that the folks that sold them squash and tomatoes were celebrities who put on performances not only in Canada but throughout the world.

It was in the winter of 2004 while John and Carolyn were vacationing in Florida that they came face to face with the appeal of the “regular” fiddle-playing Leahys.

“We learned that they would be performing at the Naples Philharmonic and decided to go,” John said. “They brought down the house. We were stunned. All those wealthy snowbirds in the packed house gave them a long standing ovation.”

The Seltzers were so taken with the group’s abilities that they wanted to share their appreciation with others.

“We thought it would be wonderful to have them perform at a venue in Columbus,” Carolyn said. “We thought in terms of something like the Ethnic Expo, but the expenses of bringing them here were just too great.”

The discovery that the group would be coming to Indiana this month gave the Seltzers a double-barreled opportunity.

If the Leahy family couldn’t come to Columbus, then Columbus (or at least a network of Seltzer friends) could go to them.

“We began calling it our 51st (sort of) anniversary,” Carolyn said. “Although it was about us, it was also about so many people who have been important parts of our lives. They were with us through good times and bad. In a way they’ve been part of our marriage.”

The idea took the form of a jaunt from Columbus to the Stem Center at IU-Southeast in New Albany. The Seltzers chartered a bus for Dec. 13 and sent invitations to dozens of their friends. Four dozen of them boarded the bus early in the evening and were provided box lunches for the trip.

“It was a huge success from our point of view, and we all had a great time,” John said. “The performers (the eight siblings who make up the regular tour group and eight of their children) recognized us from the stage and then played the ‘Anniversary Waltz’ for us. Following the performance, they met with our anniversary crowd for an extended time. A number of our guests said that it was the best performance I’ve ever been to.”

I’m pretty sure that sums up John and Carolyn’s reaction, and they’re not just talking about the entertainment. They’re talking about sharing the experience with people they consider their family.

Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at

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