Renewing Vows At The Tonto Bridge

Christine and Elgie Harrison

Christine and Elgie Harrison

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“Remembering passages is as important as the event itself.” — Christine Harrison

In an intimate and personal ceremony, the Harrisons renewed their marriage vows during the New Year’s Day hike at Tonto Natural Bridge.

“We didn’t want to be ostentatious. We just wanted a quiet moment to remember powerful memories and renew our commitment,” said Christine Harrison.

Just as the private and timeless relationship between water and stone created the cavernous bridge, the Harrisons’ marriage has grown deeper as time passed.

And as the bridge took years to develop, so did their relationship.

They met through the Weyerhaeuser paper company. She has a Ph.D. in organization structural development, while he built and managed factories.

“You could say, I did the software, he did the hardware,” said Christine.

Christine created the corporate culture by selecting people passionate about working for the mill. Working as a high-powered internal consultant, she traveled the globe on the corporate jet.

He managed and built paper-processing plants that improved the efficiency and profitability of the company.

They met while working at a plant in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“When we worked together, there was a connection that was deeper. We were friends first. The attraction came afterwards,” said Harrison.

This is the second marriage for both. Christine had been divorced for 20 years when she met Elgie.

Similar to water and stone, each has a strong personality. They took their time getting to know each other, which proved easy since they worked in different parts of the country.

As time went on, however, love eroded their differences and they decided to live together.

“We lived in Texas. I worked in Iowa and he ran the paper mill in Oklahoma,” said Christine.

As retirement approached, they decided to move to Arizona. They each wrote a list of things they needed to be happy, such as a lake for fishing and proximity to golfing and hiking. Elgie had lived in Flagstaff, but did not want to again. He said it was too cold. Phoenix, he said, was too hot.

“Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we decided Payson was just right,” said Christine.

When they moved to Payson, Christine started planning for their wedding. She wanted someplace that connected her to the beauty and spirit of nature. The Tonto Natural Bridge fit the bill. It felt like a ‘Cathedral of Nature’ to her.

“We got married on Dec. 21. We had 35 people from around the world attend,” she said.

She had hoped to reawaken those feelings from her wedding on Dec. 21 this year, down to inviting 35 people to attend the renewal of vows, but the park was closed. When she read the park would have a hike on Jan. 1, she jumped at the chance.

While on their hike together to renew their vows, she and her husband quietly asked each other, “Would you marry me again?”

But Harrison need not have worried about the answer to that question he said he loved her more now than ever — and under that travertine bridge, Christine felt the wonder and beauty of nature and love.

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