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Second time around

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

With any new marriage, there are countless decisions to be made as the bride and groom meld their lives and possessions.

Where will they live? Who will manage the household budget? Whose family will they spend holidays with?

Ralph S. Turner and Virginia Hueftle, who were married in a casual outdoor ceremony Saturday, still have some decisions to make about their new life together. But they’re in total agreement regarding one of the toughest questions for most newlyweds.

“We’re not planning on having any children. At least not right now,” said Hueftle, 82. She manages to keep a straight face until Turner, 86, lets loose a chuckle.

Hueftle’s sense of humor is one of the things Turner loves most about her, he said. And as it mirrors his own, they spend a lot of time laughing together.

When the couple started making plans a few weeks ago for their Hawaiian-themed wedding, Turner said his bride would walk down the aisle in a green bikini to match the green tennis shoes she told all her friends she planned to wear.

He had a few people convinced, he added.

“They’ll believe anything, these people,” he said with a slight smile.

In actuality, Hueftle wore a white pantsuit with a crown of white flowers topping her silver hair and a white lei around her neck. Turner wore a blue Hawaiian shirt to complement the electric blue walker he used.

Both widowed, the couple met in the dining room at the Lakes of Litchfield, the senior community where they met and reside. Turner moved into Hueftle’s Essex Drive home after the wedding.

The couple started out as just friends.

“He was a very good friend of the woman I sat with at the table in the dining room,” Virginia said.

“He used to stop and chat with her and tease her, and what have you. That’s how we became friends and it just grew.”

“We were going to just be companions,” Turner said. “But it went a little further than that.”

Before he became involved with Hueftle, Turner said he spent a lot of time on his own.

“I used to sit over in the room and watch TV and read and read,” he said. “The only time I really went out was when my daughter and her husband came down.”

After 21 years in the military and another 27 years working for government intelligence as a civilian, he got used to being alone a lot as he travelled the world. But he’s happy that he doesn’t have to be anymore.

He’s on the go much more often since he and Hueftle “got serious.” They’re on the Wii bowling league at the Lakes, they enjoy going out to dinner and to the theatre with friends, and they love going to Morse Park Landing and feeding the birds.

A lot of people were surprised when Turner and Hueftle decided to get married, but no one more so than them.

“You definitely don’t expect to fall in love at our age,” Hueftle said. “But it just happened and here we are. The minister that’s marrying us said he’s so happy we had the guts to get married. Most people our age feel like this, but are ashamed to get married, because they’re so old.”

That may be the case, but everyone they told about their plans was happy and excited. “It really perked the place up, I can tell you that,” Hueftle said of the Lakes community.

The couple issued an open invitation and about 150 people, mostly Lakes residents, witnessed their vows. The wedding was all people talked about for weeks.

“I wonder what they’ll do after Saturday,” Hueftle said.

Turner’s three children came into town for the ceremony and Hueftle’s daughter flew in from California. Her son, Kris, of Florence, gave her away. Their children were all happy and supportive, they said, as were their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“It’s great,” Kris said. “I’m glad to see her so happy.

“What’s funny,” he added, “is that when they got together this year, they were trying to keep it quiet. It started out as this secret little thing. They told everybody they were just friends and that it wasn’t any big deal. Then they were dating and three weeks after that they were engaged.”

The 11 a.m. ceremony was officiated by the Rev. Charles Nunn, Lakes chaplain, and the Rev. John P. Miller. When Nunn reached the point in the ceremony about procreation, the wedding party and guests broke into giggles.

“I don’t know how many weddings I’ve done, but none of them has been this much fun,” Miller said before pronouncing them man and wife.

Nunn called the union remarkable.

“In more than 50 years in the ministry, I’ve never officiated a wedding for a couple this old,” he said. “I think it’s wonderful that a couple their age wants to marry in a traditional way. They even went through premarital counseling, although they’ve both been married before.”

Turner was married for 65 years before his wife died on Valentine’s Day in 2008. Hueftle was widowed in 2005 after 54 years of marriage.

Hueftle said the most surprising thing about the love between her and Turner is how their love is different from what they felt with their late spouses. It’s just as true and just as strong, she said, but different.

As a reflection of that, the couple selected white gold wedding bands, because both used yellow gold in their first marriages. Another difference is that, in this marriage, Hueftle’s wedding band will rest beneath a diamond engagement ring. She didn’t get an engagement ring for her first marriage, she said.

“When she told me that, I thought she should have one,” Turner said. So they picked one out together.

Turner and Hueftle were married in a brief, simple ceremony in the Lakes’ courtyard. They wanted very little fuss, they said, and with that location, little was needed. There were no decorations and, with exception to the leis worn by the wedding party, the only flowers were the jasmine vines that wrapped the archway where the vows were exchanged.

Now that they’re married, Turner said there will only be two real changes in their relationship. First, Hueftle won’t have to drive him back to his quarters every night in time for his 8:45 p.m. curfew.

The second?

“Up until the marriage she’s been in charge,” he said. “The night of the marriage everything changes.”

Hearing that, Hueftle looks at him for a second, then throws her head back and laughs.

“See, he has a great sense of humor,” she said.

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