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Couple takes sentimental journey back to Hagerstown

December 18, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Fifty years after they "ran off'' to get married in Hagerstown, a Mechanicsburg, Pa., couple was surprised to find themselves Saturday on a chartered bus with 49 relatives retracing their journey.

"We always joked that if they ran away again, we were going with them and that is exactly what we did," said Patty Seif, daughter of Helen and Charles Ritter.

She and other relatives spent months preparing Saturday's trip to celebrate their anniversary, which is today.

The Ritters thought they were being taken shopping Saturday, but when they arrived at the shopping center they found 49 relatives, a bus and a banner congratulating them on their anniversary.

The bus took the group to Hagerstown, where they took pictures outside the Otterbein United Methodist Church, where they were married in 1949.

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They were married in Hagerstown because at 18 years old she wasn't old enough to get married in Pennsylvania, Helen Ritter said.

They later drove by the former location of the Alexander Hotel in Public Square. They were given an enlarged copy of a postcard they sent from the hotel.

"We went to a movie before we left - This is where we are staying, doing nothing," they wrote on the postcard, which was postmarked Hagerstown and carried a 1-cent stamp.

The Ritters loved Saturday's surprise.

"It was wonderful," Charles Ritter said.

"It's something," Helen said.

On the day they were married they kept hearing "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," sung by Gene Autry, and their kids have joked that it's their love song, Seif said.

The song was played on the bus during the trip and they also played trivia games. All the prizes were reindeer-themed, she said.

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