One day in 1957, 17-year-old Fred Morse was attending a church youth group meeting in Tucson when he spotted a 14-year-old young woman named Joy across the room.
For Fred, it was love at first sight.
“I thought ‘That is the girl for me, and I never wavered from that,’” Fred said.
“But she was not as impressed with me as I was with her. Elvis Presley was all the rage that year, and I had my collar turned up and my hair in a duck tail.”
“I met him and thought ‘Oh, goodness, he’s an Elvis wannabe,” Joy said, laughing at the memory. “I was looking for someone a bit more serious.”
It took about a year for Fred to muster up the courage to speak with Joy. Someone needed to buy supplies for a project their youth group was working on, and since Fred had a car, he realized this was his chance to make a move.
“It was my opportunity to sneak into her life and not risk being rejected,” Fred said.
He asked Joy to go with him to purchase the items, and she said yes.
As they ran the errand, Joy realized she was impressed with the man beneath the duck tail.
“We got acquainted, and found out that we really liked each other,” Joy said.
On June 5, 1959, the couple had their first date. Two and half years later, on Dec. 22, 1961, Fred and Joy were married at First Baptist Church in Tucson. He was 21 and a student at University of Arizona, and she was 18.
On this past Dec. 22, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in southTempe, still as much in love as they were when they were first married.
“We thought we were really grown up, so we said let’s get married in December during Christmas break, and our parents were totally in favor of it,” Joy said, reminiscing about their wedding day.
“We were in love, but we also had other intangible things going for us too, like we had the same goals and the same value systems.”
Three hundred guests attended the wedding, Joy said, which included a reception in the fellowship hall in the church basement with cake, punch, coffee, tea, mints, and nuts.
The couple traveled to Phoenix for their honeymoon and stayed at a motel on Van Buren.
They returned to Tucson and settled nicely into married life, with Fred attending college and working parttime at Safeway, and Joy working for Mountain Bell as a long distance operator.
The couple moved to Denver and then to southern California so Fred could attend seminary. They had two daughters, Michelle and Melisa, and focused on raising their family.
The couple moved back to Tucson in 1970, and to their home in south Tempe in 1990.
After their girls were grown, Fred and Joy did quite a bit of traveling, including trips to Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and Russia, as well as to almost all of the 50 states.
Fred retired in 2006 after working at KFLR radio for 23 years. He currently works part time as a funeral assistant for Green Acres Mortuary. Joy worked in administrative positions in different churches until 2003. She now works as a household manager for a Tempe business executive.
On Nov. 19, Fred and Joy attended a party held in their honor at First Baptist Church in Tempe. Over 400 guests turned out to celebrate with them, including their daughters with their families and 11 of the 12 attendants from their wedding.
The couple had a renewal of vows, and served the same menu as they did 50 years ago.
“It was a very special day,” Joy said.
Looking back, both Fred and Joy said it’s hard to believe that so much time has passed.
“It seems like it has just come up so fast,” Joy said.
“We’ve prayed for one another, and with one another, and we’ve had a lot of fun together over the years.”
Like any couple, Joy admits that she and Fred have had their share of challenges along the way, including some health issues.
“Every family has trials, and no one is exempt from conflict—it’s just a truth of life,” she said.
“But we had a great desire to make our marriage work, and I believe strongly in doing things that are purposeful and intentional, which means sometimes doing what is right, not just what you feel.”
“The key word is ‘commitment’—we are committed to each other,” Fred added. “With God’s help, we’ve been able to do that. There is no question that we’ll be with each other until our lives here on Earth end.”
Michelle Keso, one of Fred and Joy’s daughters, said her parent’s faith is “the glue of their relationship”
“My parents modeled a life of service and now I see that in my marriage and in the next generation, as the grandchildren give their time and efforts to meet the needs of others,” she said.
“I think my parents’ marriage is unique in many ways. They have truly left a legacy for the next generations and I am very grateful for this undeserved gift that was given to me and my children.”