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Sarasota Thursday, Jul. 23, 2009 11 years ago

Columbia Restaurant gains over-the-hill status

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

Richard Gonzmart’s eyes seemed to smile as he described a photograph of his father, Cesar Gonzmart, and grandfather, Casimiro Hernandez Jr., slicing the cake that marked the 50th anniversary of the first Columbia Restaurant, located in Ybor City.

As a boy, the photograph made quite the impression. Ever since, Gonzmart knew this was something he wanted to experience for himself, something of which he wanted his own memory. He got his chance last weekend at Sarasota’s oldest restaurant’s 50th anniversary party.

Nearly 20 Gonzmart family members roamed The Columbia Restaurant Sunday, July 19, shaking the hands of 300 couples married 50 years or longer, who were invited for a complimentary lunch to celebrate the occasion.

“What an honor to be in Sarasota for 50 years in the same family,” said Gonzmart, a fourth-generation member of the Gonzmart family. “It’s about celebrating life and living every day with passion.”

Most couples called to book a reservation within minutes of reading the event advertisement.

Although couples were asked to bring along their wedding certificates as proof of their 50-year-long marriages, Gonzmart was surprised when most arrived with certificates in hand.

Asked how long he and his wife, Carol, had been married, Eugene Saunders grinned and said, “Let me check,” as he retrieved an envelope from his suit jacket pocket. “It says 62 years.”

Saunders said the secret to such a lengthy marriage is to never go to bed mad.

“Looking back, we’re trying to imagine how we could ever get to 62 years,” Carol Saunders says of the courtship, which began when they were 12 years old. “When our pastor asked, ‘Are you sure?’ Well, we definitely were.”


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