When dads play cupid


August 02, 1998|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Bill Gilroy and David Slagle met by chance at their 25th-year college reunion, neither one expected to watch their eldest children marry one another four years later.

The two men graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, N.C., in 1969. Though they were fraternity brothers, they lost touch after graduation. Sitting next to one another at the homecoming football game in 1994, they became reacquainted.

Bill spoke proudly about his son, also named Bill, a midshipman in his third year at the U.S. Naval Academy. David showed his old friend photos of his pretty daughter, Alexis, who had turned down her appointment to the Naval Academy to attend the University of North Carolina on a prestigious Morehead Scholarship.

Seeing the picture, Bill mentioned that his son and his fellow mids were already looking for dates for their ring dance the following spring. The dance - which marks the formal presentation of the midshipmen's class rings - is a whirlwind weekend of parties and celebration. Alexis, however, had a longtime steady beau, David said, so she didn't appear a likely candidate.

After the weekend, the two men parted. David returned to his home in Hayesville, N.C., and Bill to his home in Linthicum.

In the spring of 1995, David called his old friend and mentioned that he and his family would be in Annapolis to attend graduation at the Naval Academy and a wedding. Alexis was willing to come up early - with her father as chaperon - to attend the ring dance, should Bill or one of his friends need a date.

On May 23, 1995 - with only their fathers' recommendations and a few phone conversations between them - Alexis and Bill met for the first time at a party held the night before the dance.

"That first night I knew this was going somewhere," Bill says shyly. "We have the same values and the same likes - from food to our beliefs. This wasn't something either of us wanted to let go of."

They had a wonderful, romantic time at the dance. And for the whole next week, Bill squired Alexis around the area, showing her everything from the battlefields at Gettysburg to the night life of the Inner Harbor.

Alexis and Bill stayed in touch after that first meeting, managing to see each other about every three weeks. When Bill graduated in 1996, they were able to see each other every day - temporarily - while he was working at the Naval Academy and she was interning in Washington.

Seeing each other daily cemented the bond between them. Alexis is still overwhelmed by Bill's considerate ways. "I've never met a guy that's as thoughtful as he is," she says.

On New Year's Day 1997, a few weeks after he received her parents' blessing, Bill asked Alexis to marry him.

On July 25, Bill Gilroy, a Lutheran minister and chaplain with the U.S. Navy Reserve, married his son Bill to his old friend's daughter in a ceremony in the Naval Academy chapel. Alexis' parents, David and Patricia Slagle, looked on, along with Bill's mother, Nancy, and 220 other guests. Bill's brother, Brad, a senior at the academy, was best man, and Alexis' sister, Kattie, was maid of honor.

When they return from their honeymoon, Bill and Alexis will reside in Chesapeake, Va. Bill, 23, is a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy and the training officer on the USS Klakring. Alexis, 22, graduated from the University of North Carolina this summer. She plans to apply to law school in a year.

David Slagle and Bill Gilroy are proud of the role they played in their children's wedded bliss. But they are quick to point out where the credit really lies.

As Bill Gilroy emphasized in his wedding sermon, "It was the hand of God, working through us, their fathers, that brought them together."

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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