Celebrating 70 years of marriage

Bill and Velma, September 2021
Warren Te Brugge

As wedding anniversaries go, 25 years is silver, 50 is gold, but 70 is platinum, a metal even more durable than gold. 

The family and friends of Bill and Velma Warder of Minneapolis came together in November to celebrate the couple’s own story of durability. Bill and Velma Warder marked 70 years of life together since they were married on a snowy Thanksgiving Day on November 22, 1951. 

Seventy years of marriage is a milestone that fewer than 0.1 percent of married couples reach, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The couple met and were married at Zion Baptist Church, Minneapolis, at the location on Lyndale Avenue North before the freeway was built. The Rev. H.W. Botts, Sr., officiated the wedding. Bill and Velma raised three children—Paul Warder, Cheryl Warder Reeves, and Julie Warder. 

The couple has one grandchild, Kellen Reeves, and four great-grandchildren: Quinten, Cameron (who is in heaven), twins Zavier and Zaire; daughter-in-law Pamela Warder; granddaughter-in-law Michelle Reeves; and great grandsons-in-law Christopher and David Johnson.  

Bill Warder, originally from Ellsworth, Kansas, arrived in Minneapolis on August 31, 1948, after serving in the Army. He received a G.E.D. while in the Army, but Kansas did not accept it. Bill planned to go to college and came to Minnesota to get his high school diploma. 

He later enrolled in Bethel Theological Seminary and received the Master of Divinity degree. In 1955, Bill was ordained as a deacon, and later he was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1999. 

Bill started working at Northwest Airlines as a mechanic for five years and later as an aircraft inspector for 20 years. He served as secretary-treasurer of the union for four years. He retired in 1993. 

In the later years of Bill’s career at Northwest Airlines, he decided to study speech communications at Augsburg College and graduated with a B.A. degree in 1992. Bill is also a vocalist with a rich baritone voice and studied at MacPhail Center for Music. He was an active member of the Apollo Club Male Chorus and in the church choir. 

Bill and Velma Warder on their wedding day

Velma was born in Minneapolis and raised on the city’s Northside. She received a B.A. degree in Journalism and a B.S. degree in education from the University of Minnesota. She studied piano and organ at MacPhail. For private piano study, one of her teachers was the late Esther Roach of South Minneapolis. She also studied organ with Harvey Gustafson of Minneapolis. 

Bill and Velma both graduated from North High School. After graduating from high school in 1949, Velma was employed as a secretary at the New England Furniture Company in downtown Minneapolis. 

Later, she worked at the University of Minnesota and also as a secretary and editorial assistant at the Minnesota Council of Churches. In 1968, she was employed as an elementary school teacher in the Minneapolis Public School District and worked in that capacity for 26 years. 

She was a church organist and pianist for more than 60 years at Baptist churches in Minneapolis including Zion Baptist Church, Temple Baptist Church, and Greater Sabathani Baptist Church, and River Hills United Methodist Church in Burnsville. 

Many of Bill and Velma’s activities centered around church, especially with a group called the Friendship Club and also with Phyllis Wheatley Settlement House.

Bill, Velma and the children often gave recitals of voice, organ, and piano, often emphasizing African American music. Bill and Velma still use their musical gifts, accompanying choirs and singing. Both have been active volunteers in church and schools. 

Velma also accompanied various choral groups ranging from the Norwegian Women’s Group (Nina Grieg Singers) to musical theater ensembles (The Accents) to church and school choir productions. 

Velma was an active member of the Black Music Educators of the Twin Cities and the Minneapolis Retired Teachers, Inc. As a freelance writer, Velma has published more than 200 stories, articles, and poems in religious and educational periodicals.

They say one of the keys to a long-lasting marriage is to have a close relationship with the Lord. She says to follow what He says to do and to rely on His grace to help you through the hard things and to give Him praise and thanks for everything. 

 Pam Russell Warder welcomes reader responses to pamyoung44@yahoo.com.