Diamond anniversary for Florence couple

·4 min read

Sixty years of marriage calls for a few factors. Love is the most important, but the right circumstances and a bit of fortune often play into the milestone as well.

For Bill and Linda Barton they had a mixture of all these, allowing them to mark their diamond wedding anniversary last Thursday.

To say the couple has known each other all their lives is near literally true. Bill and Linda grew up close together in Toronto, near the Humber River. Bill’s father was in the army, serving six years overseas during World War Two. As a result, Bill and the family lived in wartime housing in the Weston neighbourhood of York.

Linda’s uncle also signed up to serve, and as it happened their family ended up living across the street from Bill’s. Bill would often visit her four cousins, which is where he first met Linda. Bill would usually chase her away, an early sign a crush was developing.

When he was 17 Bill signed up for the army himself, in the artillery corps, where he served three years. One weekend during this stretch his cousin called asking if Bill was coming home for the weekend. He told Bill he’d arranged a blind date for him.

But love wasn’t blind in this instance. When Bill showed up the mystery girl was the person he’d known for years growing up. The rest was history as the couple says, and a little over a year later Bill and Linda were married in Weston’s Riverside United Church.

Since then the pair have had three children, nine grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren. The family is “still on its way up” according to Bill. Their last 35 years have been spent farming and working in Shelburne, north of Orangeville, following another twist of fate.

Returning back to Brampton from their Lake Simcoe cottage one weekend, Sunday southbound traffic was busier than the couple cared to navigate. They instead took Highway 89 west, ending up in the small town.

While walking the Shelburne streets looking for a cup of coffee an ad caught their eye: 60 acres of farmland for $89,000. A price that would be a distant memory today. “Guess what? We’re buying that!” Bill remembers saying. Linda says they had no farming experience whatsoever, though Bill counters that he did spend time on a farm when he was four years old.

The farm started with a few cattle, later expanding to include turkeys and chickens. The farmhouse expanded too, starting off at 900 square feet and over three decades later standing at nearly 4000. Many family members occupied its walls over time.

But last year Bill and Linda decided it was finally time to sell the farm they’d called home for so long. They moved into their daughter’s house in Florence. That’s when a new opportunity presented itself.

The Old Mill Store was up for sale, coincidentally built by one of Bill and Linda’s sons. But it had fallen into a state of disrepair under current ownership. The couple went ahead and purchased the property with one idea in mind.

“We’ve done it just for the town, no other reason,” says Bill. Over the past several months they’ve turned the derelict lot and building into a variety store offering food items, pharmacy goods and home supplies. There’s also a restaurant side ready to open, once COVID restrictions allow it.

Bill and Linda say they want Florence residents to be able to buy food without leaving town. A loaf of bread or bag of milk would previously require a trip to Thamesville or Bothwell. This is inconvenient, and not even recommended advice in COVID times. “We’re doing our part to try and get everybody to stay home,” says Bill.

The store is now open and keeping the couple busy. RV trips across the country and golf outings have been replaced with renovations and stocking shelves. But they still managed to take some time to celebrate with some Chinese food for dinner Thursday, 60 years after tying the knot in a Weston church.

“The secret is to try and do something for your partner each day. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a cup of tea or you pick up something that’s fallen on the floor,” says Bill on the key to six decades together.

“And have a good sense of humour!” adds Linda.

Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent

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