Only in a Small Village...

At 9:55am, on the warm summer morning of July 24, 2002 Richard and Patty entered Hazard's city limits for the very first time. The Methodist steeple towering a short distance before them has served as a sentinel to visitors for almost a century. For these newcomers however, its presence carried additional meaning. After traveling 1,000 miles to get here, they knew they had reached their destination. They also knew their lives were about to change. It was the morning of their wedding, and the ceremony would begin in five minutes.

WildflowersThough Richard and Patty had never seen the inside of the Methodist church, the wedding guests comprised of folks from around the area were already seated, having warm but curious anticipation of a soon to be married couple they had never met before. The couple's only prior contact was Pastor Valera Heydenberk, a seasoned missionary who had just taken over pastoral duties for the Hazard congregation. As unusual as the wedding circumstances would seem, however, the couple's plans were well established. In the weeks prior, they worked out the marital licensing and counseling arraignments with Pastor Valera, who, in turn, coordinated help from the United Methodist Women and final arraignments were made.

Richard, whose career was in insurance, resided in New Jersey but would travel to his native home of Ravenna, Ohio to spend weekends with his mother who lived in a care facility. This is Wedding photowhere he met Patty, a nurse employed there who helped Richard with updates and care planning for his mother. Over time, the two discovered that they had a lot in common, including their recreational enjoyment of outdoor bicycling. Their relationship deepened and Richard eventually moved back to Ohio where nuptial planning began. This vibrant middle-age couple wanted a central location for the wedding in hopes of making it accessible for family members in various regions to attend. This led them to glance across the Nebraska map and with a few clicks on the Internet, they came across the Hazard Web site where they saw the photo of a tall white steeple in a village setting. Somehow, the couple knew they found what they were looking for.

On the morning of the wedding, denim attire and windows laced with wildflowers marked the theme. At 10:00am, after ascending up the front steps, the lovely bride took a pause, and with the nod of the pastor, the crowd stood as Patty received her first glance inside the church as she began the altar walk. The groom soon accompanied her and Pastor Valera proclaimed a moving message of Christ-centered love and commitment. Their vows were exchanged and the couple were pronounced husband and wife. The couple turned for their first glance of the wedding guests who stood to give the newlyweds an ovation. Assisted by her husband, Patty then proceeded down the isles and handed a long stem rose to each of the ladies the in congregation.

Touring main street via horse and wagonBlessings and hugs were exchanged, then everyone gathered at the altar for picture taking. The celebration then moved downstairs for the wedding reception. Pastor Valera signed the official marriage certifications while wedding cake and refreshments were served. Before being seated, Richard fielded questions from the guests. Meanwhile, Ben Cords was preparing his horse team and wagon out front in order to provide the newlyweds a surprise tour of the town in Hazard fashion.

After the cake, the couple and Pastor Valera were escorted outside where they boarded the wagon as Ben took the reins. His horses, Bob and Beau, led them down main street and around the surrounding community. After seeing the village, Richard and Patty treated their wedding guests to lunch at the downtown cafe and visited for another hour before heading out of town. There would be no final goodbyes though, as the couple has continued to share their hearts and lives through correspondence. As of November, 2002 they fulfilled their long term goal of relocating to the mountainous region of Sandpoint, Idaho.

Patty has resumed her career in health care and both provide weekly volunteer work at their church, First Methodist in Sandpoint. In helping to feed the less fortunate, Richard is "in charge" of making corn chowder which, as word has it, is not too shabby. Residents continue to offer their best wishes to the couple whose genuine sincerity touched their hearts.

Patty, thanks for the cookies and the Holstein Christmas cards. Your attention to detail is amazing. Continued best wishes on your admirable career and may your bicycle never meet an ice patch. Richard, dido on the ice patch, and kudos with the chowder. If you ever figure out how to send soup in the mail, locals tell us they'd really love to sample it.

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