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University of Missouri

Side by Side

John and Toni Thornton celebrate their golden anniversary with a little black and gold.

Toni and John Thornton wedding photo

Toni and John Thornton celebrated 50 years together June 30, 2012, with a dinner for friends. Photo courtesy of the Thorntons.

When Toni and John Thornton met at MU in 1960, they had little in common except the Agriculture Building.

Toni, a senior education major, was a part-time secretary in the School of Agriculture, and John was a graduate assistant in the school’s chemistry lab. When they were introduced, it wasn’t a mutual love for sports that drew them together (Toni was a Cardinals fanatic; John didn’t follow sports much), or an interest in politics (Toni was active in student government; John was busy with his studies), or a similar upbringing (Toni is from small-town Corso, Mo.; John is from Kansas City, Mo.). But there was a connection.

Toni and John Thornton

The Thorntons hosted a dinner at the Reynolds Alumni Center to celebrate 50 years of marriage. Photo courtesy of the Thorntons.

After encouragement from Toni’s cousin, Toni gave John her buzz code to Templecrone, an all-girl co-op where she lived for three years. When Toni’s code — two short buzzes — rang, all 29 ladies in the house knew it was John. Their courtship included movies at the Missouri Theatre, dinner at The Shack and dances at Templecrone.

On April 8, 1961, John gave Toni his TKE pin, a sign to both of them that things were getting serious. In fact, the next token John gave Toni wasn’t an engagement ring. “We were too poor,” John recalls. It was a band at their wedding ceremony in Millwood, Mo., June 30, 1962.

Three children, three grandchildren, 50 states, seven continents and 50 years later, the Thorntons celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the Reynolds Alumni Center.

“Columbia made an impression on us because of the role it played in our meeting and the time we spent together at the beginning of our relationship,” says Toni, BS Ed ’61.

John and Toni Thornton with Beetle Bailey statue

The Thorntons pose with the Beetle Bailey statue that sits outside the Reynolds Alumni Center. Photo courtesy of the Thorntons.

In the past 50 years, Toni and John, MS ’63, who live in Independence, Mo., have cultivated a few more shared interests, including traveling and visiting presidential libraries, baseball stadiums and train depots. Favorite trips have been a cruise to Antarctica, a 2011 trip to Brazil, and a 2012 trip to India and Nepal. But neither would discount the benefit of having varied passions.

“It’s enriched our marriage because we have things to come home to share,” John says.