Bryant and Afton Alder reflect on the secrets to a fulfilling marriage

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Bryant and Afton Alder of Bethany celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Friday, June 28.

It was tennis that brought Bryant Alfred Alder and his lovely wife, Afton Carter Alder, together 71 years ago.

“I was attending Utah State University and went to a tennis tournament with my girlfriend,” Afton recalled.

Bryant was playing in doubles matches for Bringham Young University. Afton’s friend was dating Bryant’s doubles partner and asked if she would be interested in going out to dinner with Bryant.

Afton was keen on the idea.

“I had watched him play tennis all day,” she admitted. “It was a blind date for him.”

Bryant smiled as he added, “A very fortunate one.”

As the Bethany couple reminisced about their early courtship, the details of the date itself slip away, but what remains are the feelings and impressions.

“It was long, long ago, but it was a beautiful night,” Afton said.

A year after that first tournament and date, Bryant and Afton were wed on June 28, 1943, in a Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Bryant, who had enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II, made the most of his three-day pass to marry his sweetheart.

Looking back

As their 70th wedding anniversary approached this past Friday, the couple sat down in their home bordering the Claremont Golf Course to reflect on their lifetime together.

Just three days after their seven children threw them an anniversary party on June 21 in the Club House with about 200 family and friends, the Alders were gracious and humble as they talked about what it took to reach this marital milestone.

“We grew up in a different time than now,” said Bryant, who is now 92. “Back when we had rations for butter and had to use gas coupons.”

They grew up appreciating the little things in life and being grateful for what they had, added Afton, who is 90.

“It was a different world, but we surely enjoyed it,” she said.

She remembers graduating from college, packing everything she owned into a Dodge convertible and driving across country to join Bryant in Virginia, where he was training to be an officer.

When Bryant was overseas serving in Okinawa, Japan, she gave birth to their daughter Joann.

“When he got home, our little baby was 4 months old,” Afton recalled.

After the war, Bryant returned to BYU to complete his degree. He was then accepted to the University of Oregon Dental School. Around that time, the couple welcomed their second daughter Linda, and the young family relocated to Portland in 1947.

After Linda came Barbara, Susan, Jim, Maryann and John, who grew up in the Cedar Hills area.

While Afton taught piano to a total of 191 students, including her children, Bryant practiced dentistry in the Portland area for 40 years, retiring in 1991.

During that time, Mrs. Alder was named Mrs. Oregon in 1966 and was a runner-up in the Mrs. America Contest. “This was before the bathing suit contests that they have now,” Bryant pointed out.

She was active in the Women’s Auxiliary to the American Dental Association, serving as national president in 1967. She was also chosen by American Mothers Inc. as the Oregon Mother of the Year in 1995.

Meanwhile, her husband was honored by Bringham Young University with its Community Service Award and served as a member of the BYU Alumni Board of Directors.

A shared faith

The Alders were also active in the Cedar Mill Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Our church means so much to us,” Bryant said. “Our shared faith and our church’s teachings guided us in our marriage.”

To make a marriage work, Afton said, “It’s important to have a love and respect for each other.”

Bryant joked, “You have to learn to just say, ‘Yes.’”

It also helps to share common interests.

“I’ve watched a lot of tennis, and he’s played a lot of tennis since that first tournament,” Afton said.

Bryant played tennis up until 10 years ago. It was only last year that the couple stopped playing golf.

Ultimately, it was the love of family and spending time with first their children, then their 32 grandchildren and now 56 great-grandchildren that Bryant and Afton cherish most about their life together.

“Our family means everything to us,” Afton said. “I just marvel at them every time I see them. I am so grateful.

“We have been so blessed throughout our lifetime, and we really thank our heavenly father for all those blessings.”

She said seven decades have passed in a blink of an eye.

“It feels like just yesterday we were married,” Afton said.

“It has gone by very fast,” Bryant agreed.

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