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Anniversary: “Que Sera, Sera.” Celebrating fifty years of togetherness.

> Written by Yanni Tzoumas

A milestone is good reason for a celebration. That’s exactly what Drs. William and Mary Oh had in mind as they were approaching their 50th wedding anniversary. “We wanted to have a fabulous party to celebrate with family and friends,” says Bill with a smile that reveals his gregarious personality. “We feel very blessed and a sense of disbelief that we are here celebrating our 50 years of togetherness,” adds Mary.

They met in their early 20s while attending medical school in the Philippines, where both their families had emigrated from China. Bill remembers fondly: “I was in the lab looking into a microscope. When I looked up, I saw Mary from a distance and I thought I was having a vision of an angel.” Mary blushes and modestly laughs, as she extends her hand to cradle Bill’s. Watching the two of them interact puts companionship, love and mutual respect in perspective. Their display of affection for each other, after all these years, is inspiring.

Bill recalls that on their first date, he had purchased two tickets to a classical concert. When Mary arrived, he was surprised to see her chaperoned by her younger cousin. He tossed the tickets and all three went to a movie instead. It was “To Catch a Thief,” with Doris Day and Cary Grant. Later, the movie’s theme song “Que Sera, Sera” became “their” song, asserting that in their life together whatever will be, will be.

They were engaged in the Philippines and shortly after finishing medical school, Bill moved to Milwaukee, Wis., to do his residency and Mary to Chicago for hers. Bill made the trip by bus every other weekend
to visit her. He laughingly remarks, “Making that trip every other weekend wasn’t nearly as difficult as the test I had to pass for our engagement.” In Chinese tradition, the groom, using chopsticks, must cut and eat four hard-boiled eggs coated in oil and submerged in a noodle soup. “But I passed the test!” laughs Bill.

And their relationship has also passed the test of time. Bill’s illustrious career as a neonatologist at hospitals in Chicago, Stockholm, Los Angeles, Rhode Island and a Professor of Pediatrics at Brown University School of Medicine, required that he travel extensively. “Things were not easy, especially in the beginning,” Mary recalls. “Our relationship was tried. But no matter what happens, we try to solve it together. The next day is a new day. We never go to bed angry.” Bill also notes that not adding fuel to the fire of an argument or disagreement is his best practice. He jokingly says: “There is an old Chinese saying: ‘It takes two coins to make noise.’”

With a deep sense of gratitude for Mary’s sacrifices, who had put her medical career on hold to raise their two children, Bill remarks: “I always put her as my highest priority.”

They both admit they don’t always agree on everything; nor do they like the same things.

“She loves cry movies,” quips Bill, “I don’t. I love to dance; Mary doesn’t. But we both love music, theatre, museums and each other.” Mary adds: “You learn to adopt and embrace the other person’s likes. It is a give and take—it’s a partnership.”

“When we got married in 1960,” remembers Mary, “we didn’t know what we were in for. But we knew we had each other, no matter what.” Remembering their wedding day, she notes: “We had a very modest reception at a Chinese restaurant in Chicago. We were both finishing our residency and had very little money. In fact, the flowers were a gift from a patient I treated at the hospital who managed a flower shop.” Bill adds: “The entire dinner for our 80 guests cost $400.”

Fifty years later, they were eager to renew their vows and host an elegant affair for 170 special friends and family. The 4 p.m. ceremony at St. Luke’s Parish in Barrington, R.I., had special significance. Partly because spirituality is an important aspect of their life and partly because this time, it was being witnessed by their children and grandchildren.

For the reception setting, they chose Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum in Bristol, R.I., overlooking Narragansett Bay. Cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres were served on the terrace as guests witnessed a colorful sunset. For dinner, everyone followed the lantern-lit walkway leading to the reception tent.

As Bill and Mary took the dance floor, the song they had heard more than 50 years ago on a movie screen during that first date, “Que Sera, Sera,” filled the tent and their hearts. Long ago, they took a leap of faith for a journey together not knowing what to expect. But their commitment to each other and a love they both nurtured and cherished withstood the test of time and all that life had in store for them.

“We feel truly blessed,” both assert, “and are most grateful for our children, our grandchildren and each other.”

Two days after their grand celebration, they departed for a two-week honeymoon to the French Riviera.

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