Newton couple surprised for 67th anniversary

Walt and Shirley Long sit in chairs outside their home as a Newton Fire/EMS Department firetruck rolls during during a parade Friday morning to commemorate their 67th anniversary and Walt's 88th birthday. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now

NEWTON—“Long” seems to be the operative word in Walt and Shirley Long’s married life, as the couple tied the knot on Walt’s 21st birthday and now, years later, they celebrated their long marriage, which has lasted 67 years.

That has the potential for 24,455 goodnight kisses, 24,455 breakfasts together, 24,455 times saying, “I’m home,” and 24,455 nights watching a favorite TV show together.

Their anniversary and Walt’s 88th birthday were on Friday, Aug. 28. To commemorate the events, friends, family, church members and former co-workers drove past the couple’s house that morning, honking horns, waving, giving well wishes, singing and smiling. There was even a Newton Fire/EMS Department fire truck and ambulance in the mix.

“It was absolutely wonderful and a great surprise,” Shirley said following the parade. “I was absolutely flabbergasted. It was cool in a world of isolation that so many people could do this. Compassion is still with us. We are really blessed to have 67 years.”

Walt echoed her thoughts.

“It was a big surprise to us,” he said.

There were at least 20 vehicles in the parade, if not more, as well as Sue Ice on a recumbent bike stopping to sing to the couple.

“The size of this parade is indicative of the kind of people they are,” neighbor Kay Larson said.

Walt worked for many years at Prairie View as a social worker and Shirley was a nurse in town, for Dr. Tompkins and Bethel Hospital.

Up until the last minute, the event was a surprise to the couple. The family lured them out of the house by telling them about some yard work that was needed.

“We told them they were going to do some painting of some bricks,” their daughter, Sheri Appel said, indicating those bricks were to be in their yard.

Shirley said that morning they had breakfast, went on a walk and then talked about “the kids,” who were going to their house at 9 a.m.

More than the kids came, but one of their kids, in addition to Appel, who was there was son, Wayne Long. Their other son, Wes Long, didn’t want to take the chance flying to Kansas for the event because of the pandemic.