Re­united duo get mar­ried in hos­pi­tal room

Texarkana Gazette - - SOCIETY -

ROCHESTER, N.Y.—He was an Elvis Pres­ley-lov­ing sailor who spun records for the U.S. Navy ra­dio sta­tion on the Caribbean base where he was sta­tioned. She was a lo­cal woman whose brother worked at the base.

More than a half cen­tury af­ter the brother in­tro­duced Jennifer Mey­erink and Stephen Wal­bert, the long-sep­a­rated cou­ple’s love was fi­nally sealed in Rochester, where they were mar­ried Mon­day in the hos­pi­tal where Wal­bert has been un­der­go­ing treat­ment for leukemia.

“That eter­nal flame turned into a bon­fire, and it’s still roar­ing to­day,” the 73-year-old Wal­bert said as rel­a­tives and staff at Rochester Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal crammed into his room to view the mar­riage cer­e­mony of­fi­ci­ated by the city clerk.

In a nod to Elvis, Wal­bert wore a black se­quined out­fit, a pur­ple scarf and avi­a­tor sun­glasses. The bride wore a black dress and pur­ple hat.

Wal­bert, a Chicago na­tive, was sta­tioned in 1965 in Trinidad and Tobago, where he worked nights as a disc jockey for the base’s ra­dio sta­tion. The two fell in love, but Wal­bert was trans­ferred back to the states. He gave his dog tags to Mey­erink, telling her, “Dar­ling, I’ll be back one day for this.”

But he never re­turned to the island na­tion. The two lost touch, and each got mar­ried and started their own fam­i­lies—Mey­erink in On­tario, Canada, and Wal­bert in Wis­con­sin. Af­ter Mey­erink’s spouse died, her sis­ter used Face­book to find Wal­bert, by then a wid­ower and liv­ing in Wau­paca, in cen­tral Wis­con­sin.

The two be­gan cor­re­spond­ing via email, and re­united in 2015. Wal­bert moved to Canada in March 2016.

“I never stopped lov­ing him. I re­al­ized that,” the 72-year-old Mey­erink said.

In Oc­to­ber, Wal­bert was di­ag­nosed with a form of leukemia. He de­cided to seek treat­ment in Rochester, where his son lives. Later this week, Wal­bert and his fam­ily will de­cide whether to con­tinue his treat­ment at the hos­pi­tal or choose hospice care.

“I haven’t given up hope on my­self yet,” said Wal­bert, the dog tags Mey­erink had saved for 50-plus years hang­ing from his neck. “I never will. But I have her back. And that gives me all the strength I need to get through the rest of my life.”

Rochester Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal via Associated Press

n Jennifer Mey­erink and Stephen Wal­bert share a mo­ment dur­ing their wed­ding Mon­day in Wal­bert’s hos­pi­tal room at Rochester Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal, Rochester, N.Y., where Wal­bert is be­ing treated for leukemia.

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