One year later, couple glad they braved blizzard

March 10, 1994|By MICHAEL OLESKER

When Rosalie Barnes and Bill Naunton got married one year ago this week, most of the people they invited to the ceremony didn't show up. Who could blame them? They couldn't make it through the snow, which everybody was calling The Storm of the Century.

The night before, when they'd gone through their wedding rehearsal at St. Ursula's Church, on Harford Road in Putty Hill, Monsignor Thomas Baumgartner, mindful of mounting snowdrifts and ferocious winds and impassable roads, said to the couple, "You know, I can marry you tonight."

"Can I have a Mass?" Rosalie asked.

"No," said the father.

"Then forget it," said Rosalie. "We're getting married tomorrow if they have to helicopter us in."

They didn't have to take flight, exactly, but there were some pretty dizzying moments. When Rosalie and Bill awoke on the morning of March 13, the weather experts were telling everyone to stay inside. It's dangerous out there, they said. Stay inside where it's warm, they said. Let's go, Rosalie and Bill said.

Stepping outside her door, Rosalie had to be lifted over the snow and carried to a waiting van. The organist never made it to the church. The singer couldn't make it either. When Rosalie walked down the aisle, fashionably attired in a white suit and red sweater and snow boots, the few guests who had plowed through the storm improvised. They all hummed "Here Comes the Bride" as she strode to the altar.

And there's one other thing worth mentioning:

Rosalie's 79 years old.

Bill's 82.

"Oh, you should have heard my children," Rosalie was remembering yesterday. She has a voice that's filled with delight. "The kids wanted us to wait. But I said, 'We're very determined people. We're going to do it.' "

Actually, it took some pretty determined people to get them together in the first place.

"I went to the doctor's one day for a checkup," Bill Naunton said yesterday, shaking his head at the memory. He looks a little like Louis Goldstein, the state comptroller, when Goldstein's had a happy day checking the state coffers.

"There was a young lady in the waiting room, very lovely, and she and I got to talking about things. We had a nice conversation. Then I went in to see the doctor, and when I came out, the secretary said, 'That lady you were talking to would like you to call her mother.' "

He didn't. Six months went by. Meanwhile, the young lady from the doctor's waiting room, who happened to be Rosalie's daughter, Sissy, was trying to get her mother to call Bill. She wouldn't. So it was left to Sissy and the secretary, Debbie Kemp, who worked for Dr. David Oursler, to put their heads together.

They scheduled Rosalie and Bill for simultaneous appointments. As the two stood filling out medical forms, Debbie Kemp said, "Mr. Naunton, meet Ms. Barnes."

The two realized they'd been snookered. They spoke for a minute or two, and then Bill said, "Well, we might as well go to lunch."

Lunch became three years of dating, and this weekend will be one year of marriage.

"I guess you could call the wedding The Bride Wore Boots," Rosalie says now. Both she and Bill were widowed in previous marriages. "My five kids were there. They dug us out in the morning. Bill's three kids were there. Grandchildren were there. All told, about 35 people made it, mostly family, but we'd invited more than a hundred.

"And there I was, walking down the aisle in those boots. But what difference does it make what you wear, if love is in your heart? And we're so much in love. . . ."

In her younger days, Rosalie had a restaurant at Harford Road and White Avenue, called The Tasty Shop. Bill was a plant foreman at Sparrows Point.

"We had second thoughts about marriage many times," he says. "You know, I was a boss all my life. She had her own place. You get a little older, maybe you get a little hard-headed. But we calm each other down," he says.

"Married life," she says, "is wonderful. We walk together, we pray together. It's wonderful every day, even when it snows. Other people feel caged. But the snow just makes us remember last year."

"Life begins at 82," he says. "We are very, very happy."

And what's a little storm of the century in the face of all that?

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