When Patricia Breen and Joseph Thomas were wed Aug. 5, 1967, at Immaculate Conception Church, the Clintonville couple naturally held their reception at the Clintonville Woman's Club.

When daughter AnnMarie Nordgren of Lebanon, Tennessee, decided to stage a surprise 50th anniversary party for the couple, just as naturally, she contacted the very same club.

"Luckily enough, they had a spot available for us that was near their anniversary, and it just took off from there," Nordgren said in the wake of the surprise event July 30. "It just seemed like the right place to hold it."

The Thomases, both 72, thought they were going to have lunch with members of their immediate family. Joe Thomas was under the impression they were headed to the Rusty Bucket, and so was surprised when the car diverted to the Woman's Club.

Pat Thomas, though, said she suspected something was up but wasn't expecting as many as 70 people to be on hand for the event.

"It's much fancier now," Joe Thomas said of the club.

"We had finger sandwiches," his wife recalled of the reception a half-century ago.

"And lemonade," her husband added. "Back then it was cheap compared to nowadays."

"My parents are fabulous at entertaining and planning family events, and they go out of their way for our birthdays," Nordgren said of the couple's six children -- four of their own and two more they took in after Joe's brother and sister-in-law died in 1981. "We really wanted them to just enjoy the day and not have to worry about it, and we would take care of it all.

"Trying to plan a surprise party is really hard with a big family. I think we managed to pull it off pretty well. I think they were pleasantly surprised."

"I thought it was fantastic," said Kristen Steinhausser, director of sales and marketing for the Woman's Club. "It was the first one we've ever had. Our building is just 52 years old so I thought it was really cool, and I hope we do a lot more of them."

The Thomases met as students at Watterson High School, but they were friends at first and didn't start dating until 1962, their senior year.

Both attended Ohio State University, Pat to obtain a nursing degree and Joe to major in marketing.

Six months after the wedding, with Pat expecting their first child, Joe went into the Army for almost two years, including time spent in Vietnam.

After returning stateside, he worked at Lazarus and then spent 28 years as supervisor for a construction firm.

When she wasn't home with the growing family, Pat worked as a registered nurse at OSU Medical Center and Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Eventually, the Thomases had three sons and a daughter of their own, but after taking in a niece and nephew, they had six children ages 11-16 under one roof.

"They like that they have a big family now," Pat said.

"They were just the most wonderful people at making all of us feel special," Nordgren said.

"I don't know how they did it raising six kids, but somehow they made us all feel loved and smart."

Pat and Joe exchanged a glance when asked if theirs has been a happy marriage and then agreed that indeed it has been -- and continues to be.

"It's the best one I've had," Joe said.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1