Kenwyn and Jim Hopper had been planning for years to spend their 50th wedding anniversary in Rome. They would rent an apartment near the Trevi Fountain and take side trips to Florence and Venice. The highlight would be experiencing Mass in the Vatican for their wedding anniversary.
“I had always wanted to go to Rome to see the pope,” Kenwyn says. Both she and Jim are Catholic.
Then Venice flooded, and the Hoppers figured they probably wouldn’t be able to go there. When the coronavirus hit northern Italy, they figured it was only a matter of time before it hit the rest of Italy.
“When the virus hit ... that's the end of that plan,” Kenwyn Hopper says, adding that it was not worth risking their health.
“It was really a disappointment,” she says. They had spent the year watching TV specials and movies on Italy.
Luckily, with a great travel agent through AAA, they were able to get all of their money back.
“We were very excited about that,” she says. “We have the money to go next year in April for our 51st — at least, that's the plan.”
They say that the secret to their marriage is having a good sense of humor.
“Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself,” she says.
“She does have a bit of Mother Theresa about her. It’s a miracle she puts up with me,” Jim Hopper says.
In fact, every anniversary they joke about whether they will renew their contract.
The Hoppers were married April 18, 1970, in St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Houston after dating for a little more than a year.
When they met in the Washington, D.C., area, Kenwyn was working in a hospital after just finishing her master’s degree at Catholic University. Jim was in the Marines and stationed at Quantico, Va. She was a girl from St. Louis; he was a guy from Beaumont.
They met at a party and went out twice.
“I knew right away she was the one,” he says.
When he was getting ready to get on a train to go back to Virginia, the practical side of Kenwyn came out.
She told him that this wasn’t going to work. He vowed that he was going to come back and visit her and stay on her front porch if he had to.
She agreed to one more date. They realized that everyone waiting for the train was watching them.
“They all broke into applause,” he says, when she agreed to a third date.
When he got his first job in Houston, working for IBM, he asked her to move there.
“I knew he was the one, too,” she said. “I just took the leap.”
This year, on April 18, instead of a 2 1/2 week trip to Italy, they decided to celebrate by having something Italian for lunch.
The day before, they called up their favorite pizza place, Austin Pizza Garden, which is exactly like the pizza they remember from Carmel, Ind., where they moved from seven years ago. Turns out, the owner of that pizza restaurant is the father of the Austin Pizza Garden owner.
They ordered a Colossus pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage, ham, mushrooms, red onions, green peppers and black olives.
When they told Austin Pizza Garden that this pizza was for their 50th wedding anniversary, the restaurant decided to give it them for free. The staff told them they were just thrilled to do it for them.
On April 18, they got all dressed up. Jim wore a suit; Kenwyn wore a dress.
“We’re usually in our robes all day,” she says.
They used the selfie stick they had purchased for their trip to take their picture with the pizza.
Later, their three daughters and seven grandchildren came by with posters and paraded in front of their house to mariachi music playing, all while each household practiced social distancing. They sat outside separated while the grandchildren played but never came close to touching.
“They’re strict!” Jim says of his children.
“It’s hard not to hug them, though,” Kenwyn says.
The day ended up being very special.
“God doesn’t make bad plans,” she says. “I’m always grateful every day for our health.”
Next April, they are hoping to be eating pizza in Rome, though.