A love story


First Posted: 1/27/2013

Note: John Rygiel and his wife Joanne celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary Friday. He submitted this story which we are pleased to share with our readers.

It must happen in the life of every young man. About the third or fourth year in high school, one girl seems to stand out from all the rest. It happened to me and her name was Mary. She was very pretty and a grade behind me. I watched her as we changed classes and followed her discreetly on my bike as she walked home after school with her two girl friends. The three were always together. Nobody noticed I had my eye on her including Mary. In fact she didn’t know I existed.

Spring came along with the junior prom. One day at lunchtime she came to me and said she wanted to ask me a question. Prom coming? Question? My heart skipped a beat. Mary turned to her two friends and asked, Should I ask him? They said, Sure.

Mary then asked me if I would ask my friend Joe if he would ask her to go to the prom with him. My heart dropped. I said I would ask him.

I didn’t go to the prom that year.

Two years later, 1947-1948, we were all out of school and went our separate ways. I became interested in photography and hoped that would be my life’s work. I got drafted into the Army in 1951 and soon became an Official U.S. Army Photographer. I was discharged in 1953.

In 1954, I spent a year in New York taking five different photography courses. I came home and opened my first studio, photographing weddings, making portraits of brides, families, babies and high school seniors.

One day I got a call from a local girl who was calling for her sister who was getting married and asked would I photograph her in her wedding gown. Her sister was Mary, my heart-throb from high school. I couldn’t believe my ears. Of course I said yes. Mary still looked pretty. Her gown was made of something I had never seen before and would see only once again. It wasn’t satin or velvet and it wasn’t just white. I asked her where she got the gown and what the fabric was. She said a local dressmaker, also named Mary, made it. The fabric was Silk Mist and it was Ice Blue. I filed those four words in my mind for future reference.

My business was successful and I became the yearbook photographer for the local Nesbitt Hospital School of Nursing. It didn’t take long to notice a tall, blonde, beautiful student nurse. I thought of her as a high class blonde the way she stood and walked. I was afraid to speak to her except to say Hi.

Her name was JoAnne. I found out years later that their mother taught her girls to stand and walk erect. Soon it became two months before graduation and it was, now or never. The Nesbit family owned the hospital and nursing school. Just before graduation they had a pool party at their outdoor pool. Of course I had to take pictures for the yearbook. At the edge of pool I took a deep breath and asked JoAnne, When are you going to let me take your picture?

Without hesitating she responded, Well, you never asked.

I almost fell into the pool. The next two minutes were critical. I said, How about Friday? She said, Fine. Pick me up at the nurses home. By 5:30 this beautiful high class blonde was sitting in my camera room. I posed her, moved the lights and looked into the camera. I blinked my eyes in disbelief. She asked if something was wrong. I said, No, I just know you will be in this camera room many more times.

She asked what I meant. I said, Someday you’ll know.

We finished the sitting. Then she told me she was going to Cape Cod for two weeks. Finally, on July 31, 1957, she got home and we went on our first real date. With the exception of her going away for two days to take State Boards, we were together every single night until our wedding day.

We got engaged on September 11 and got married on January 25. The courtship took just 197 days.

Wedding plans were being made. Since I was a wedding photographer, JoAnne asked me where to shop for a gown. I didn’t have to search far into my brain for the answer. It had to be Mary who made gowns. Soon we were with Mary who brought out several catalogs of gowns. JoAnne picked one that had a princess line.

The question was asked about the fabric. I asked Mary, Some years ago you made a gown for a girl named Mary. It was made of Silk Mist and it was Ice Blue. She said she remembered the girl and the gown and pulled out a large bolt of fabric and placed it on the counter. I looked at it, felt it and said, That’s it.

JoAnne looked at it, felt it and said, That’s it.

The wedding took place in Holy Family Church about 11 miles from where I lived. The night before at the rehearsal I didn’t have the marriage license so I had to drive home and back with the license. There wasn’t a speck of snow on the ground. By nine o’clock the next morning, 12 inches of snow had fallen. There were only three people on my side of the church – my parents and my brother’s wife. My brother was my best man. Minutes before the ceremony, the altar boy came out with a white bucket and placed it by the front pew. With all the snow, the roof leaked.

The organ started and JoAnne’s three sisters each walked up the aisle. The fourth was too young. Then, on the arm of her father, walked my beautiful blonde nurse, soon to be my wife. As they came close to the lights of the altar, she and the gown just glowed. The gown was made of Silk Mist’ and it was Ice Blue.

Happy anniversary, JoAnne. It’s been 55 wonderful happy years.

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