Divorced Wyoming couple remarry hours before COVID-19 death

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) – Patty Edwards had spent her morning like most days this month – thinking longingly about her ex-husband.

But that January day, something was different. The movie she was watching, a made-for-television romance in which a long-estranged husband and wife reconnect after years of separation, looked like a sign. In an instant, she knew what to do.

She got up and dressed. Her roommate walked over and asked where she was going.

“I’m getting married,” Patty told her.

“And she said, ‘Who are you marrying?'” Patty remembers. “And I said, ‘Victor,’ and she said, ‘Does he know that? I said, ‘Not yet, but he will.’ “

Victor answered Patty’s call from her hospital bed at Wyoming Medical Center. She told him exactly what she had explained to her roommate moments before.

“Who are you marrying?” Victor asked.

– You, she replied.

“I think it’s a good idea,” replied Victor through tears.

Patty drove straight to the Natrona County Courthouse. She applied for a marriage license. Someone asked where the other party was.

“He’s dying,” Patty said. “He can’t be here.

An employee walked around the office and handed Patty a piece of paper. She explained that someone else would need to fill out Victor’s personal details and sign for him, acknowledging that he was ready to be a part of the ceremony.

Her daughter Amber, who was with her, completed the papers. Patty hoped she would chair the ceremony.

Along the way, she called her twin sons, Ryan and Roy, and asked them to serve as witnesses. They named Pat, Victor’s son from his first marriage, and their adopted son Zachary, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.

They drove to a pawnshop to pick up wedding rings on the way.

The fantasy was interrupted, however, when Patty arrived at the hospital.

One of Victor’s nurses called Amanda Messmer, a patient advocate at Wyoming Medical Center. During his seven years in this role, Messmer has helped facilitate six WMC marriages. But nothing so fast.

“(Patty) wanted to do it in the next few hours. She says, ‘We do this’ and Vic was too, ”recalls Messmer.

Messmer made them sit down and told them that she would help them organize a wedding, but that would have to wait until the next day.

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People have described Victor (he also goes by ‘Vic’) as a constant prankster. Sometimes rude. More than generous. A father who is sometimes quick to anger, but just as quick to make a joke.

He walked everywhere, said Patty. After he broke his leg in a freak accident, he continued to walk to work on crutches, determined to support his young family.

Another time, Amber recalls, he bought car parts for a family that couldn’t afford them and then helped make the repairs.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned from him is not to be selfish, you know?” Said Amber. “There is more to this job than me and we have to take care of everyone. “

Victor was also a prime candidate for developing serious illness from COVID-19. He had smoked all his life and had previously had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. And his career breathing debris as a tire mechanic has left his lungs fragile.

“When Victor was diagnosed with COVID, I already knew he had really bad COPD, and I knew the chances of him moving away from it weren’t good,” Patty said.

Victor was reluctant to go to the hospital and feared they wouldn’t let him go, but when Patty first saw him after his diagnosis, it was clear he needed medical attention.

Patty tried to console his fears and promised that he wouldn’t have to stay if he really didn’t want to. He paused half a dozen times to catch his breath as he walked from the couch to Patty’s car.

Victor remained in the hospital until Christmas Eve, when he was no longer considered contagious and allowed to return home. But the virus had already taken its toll. He returned to the hospital a few days later.

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Victor had arrived in Wyoming via Minnesota, a nearly 30-year-old divorced father of a young son.

Her cousin’s husband’s brother, Victor came to Patty’s house one day to help fix his car’s transmission. It was 1980. Patty was 17.

She found this new man “intriguing” and “a little crazy”. Over the next few days, they were inseparable.

“There was a little shop on CY called Greta’s, and he went over there and bought me a ring and asked me to marry him in the parking lot about three days after we met,” he said. she declared.

They got married shortly after Patty’s 19th birthday. They had three children together and lived happily in Casper for 14 years.

“I’m not going to sit here and say that our marriage was not good, because it was, but like I told you before, I was 17, he was almost 30. He was ready to settle down, and I guess I wasn’t, ”Patty said.

After more than a decade, they go their separate ways. But they couldn’t stay apart. They each left Casper at different times, sometimes together and sometimes separately. When Patty at one point adopted her new partner’s son, Victor traveled to Nebraska to help raise him.

They had both considered remarrying. Victor had asked Patty a handful of times over the years, and Patty had asked Victor once years ago too. But the timing has never been right.

“They were best friends, you know? Said Amber. “You still have this really good friend who knows you and knows everything about you and who you go to for everything. And that was them. And even when they were in opposite relationships, they still had that.

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Patty woke up on her wedding day feeling uncomfortable. She had not been able to reach Victor the day before. Her fears turned out to be justified – Victor’s team at the hospital had spent the morning deciding if the wedding could still take place.

“Friday morning when I arrived his oxygen demand had increased overnight and he just didn’t look well,” said Meagan Reisinger, one of Victor’s nurses.

She called the nurse manager and told her that Victor could not make it to the chapel. His condition was too unstable.

Amanda called Patty from Victor’s phone and told her he had taken a bad turn.

“Of course she kinda collapsed,” Messmer said, “and I was like,“ No, no, we can still do that. We just have to do it in the room and you have to change things up a bit.

Her daughter would not be allowed to officiate and her sons would not be able to serve as witnesses. But at this point, Patty didn’t care.

She got dressed and went to the hospital.

Initially, the plan was to wait until 2 p.m., the time they all agreed to the day before. But Patty insisted. She had a hunch that if they didn’t do the ceremony right away, they would completely miss their chance.

It was noon. Amanda called the chaplain.

“Can we do it like this now?” ” she told him. “Like in the next 20 minutes?” “

Dave Mondele had done rounds with other patients. When Amanda called, he immediately turned around, grabbed his minister’s manual, and walked over to Victor’s room.

The ceremony lasted 10 minutes. Patty was sitting in bed with Victor, with witnesses (Messmer and the other hospital chaplain) on either side. Reisinger, the nurse, used a phone to record the ceremony and another for FaceTime Patty and Victor’s children.

The couple took their vows. Instead of a kiss, Mondle told them to wink at each other. Then there were only the newlyweds, finally alone. Patty showed him her ring.

“The gold of the Black Hills. I knew you always wanted Black Hills gold, ”Victor told him.

She played their song to him from her phone – “Wings Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler. They called their children. She told Victor about the lease she had just signed the day before for a house in which they could grow old together.

Finally, Patty decided she should let him rest. Before leaving, she lifted her oxygen mask and gave him a kiss.

“I love you, Mr. Edwards,” she told him.

“I love you so much, Mrs. Edwards,” he replied.

Before she could reach the hospital entrance doors, a quick-response alarm sounded through the intercom. It was for Victor’s room. Patty ran upstairs.

Messmer also heard the call and rushed into the room just in time to intercept Patty. They sat together in the waiting room until Victor’s doctor appeared.

“Look, I’m going to be blunt with you,” the doctor said. “He has no healthy lung tissue left. He’s not going to get out of that fan.

She had to decide if her husband would stay on life support.

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By noon on January 15, Patty Edwards was married. At 5 p.m., a widow.

“I believed if I could just give him a reason to live he would,” Patty said later, through sobs. “I should have married her years ago, I just didn’t.”

His remorse, however, quickly turned to gratitude.

“Never in this life will you find another man so good, so funny, so dedicated to everything he did,” said Patty, now months later. “I’m not saying that for some other reason than it’s true.”

Victor’s funeral was well attended. COVID-19 restrictions for churches had started to ease in early January, and nearly 200 people came to WORD Church to honor its memory.

Now Patty thinks she could travel. Victor had always wanted to buy a mobile home, so Patty is looking for one.

She keeps the memory of her husband around her neck – a heart-shaped charm with Victor’s face engraved in it. And she hopes people don’t read her story as a tragedy, but rather as a love story.

“The reason I’m doing this is because a thousand years from now someone might go into the archives and find out what their last day was,” Patty told a reporter. “And I think it’s totally awesome.”


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