Andrea and Joe McFarland will celebrate their golden wedding anniversary on Sept. 9.
I know this because 50 years ago I played a significant role in their marriage. And I didn’t even know them.
Still, I single-handedly made their wedding far more memorable than they ever dreamed it would be.
I put the bride’s picture in the newspaper the week before she got married.
Let that sink in.
Everyone got to see the bride’s gown before she walked down the aisle.
Everyone invited to the wedding thought they had gotten the date wrong and missed it.
The phones at the Menichello home in Old Forge and the McFarland home in Pittston rang all day.
The bride, Andrea Menichello, woke up to the unbelievable news exactly 50 years ago today. It was the Sunday before her big day, carefully planned for the following Saturday, and there for all the world to see was her bridal photo.
Yes, she cried.
But surprisingly not for long.
That’s what she told me when we chatted on the phone a couple of weeks ago. I had run into her husband at the Duryea Veterans of Foreign Wars at a Memorial Day event and he introduced himself and reminded me of our connection. I knew I had to call his wife.
“Once the shock wore off, we actually had fun with it,” Andrea McFarland said. “My in-laws in particular. To everyone who called they said, ‘That’s right, you missed it.’ Then they told them the truth.”
Andrea said finding the humor in what happened that day set the stage for their entire marriage.
“You have to laugh at things,” she said. “That’s how you stay married for 50 years.”
Andrea calls her marriage blessed. They have 10 children, 22 grandchildren — including two sets of twins, and two great grandchildren.
Their children are: Sean, 48, of Maryland; Joseph III, 47, of Texas; Michele, 45, of New Jersey; 44-year-old twins Marine Master Sgt. Jonathan, of California, and Christopher, of Old Forge; Mary Ellen, 42, of Tennessee; Maria, 40, of Pittston; Stephen, 37, of San Francisco; Eric, 36, of Olyphant; and Andrea, 33, at home.
“We consider ourselves wealthy,” Andrea says. “Maybe not monetarily, but in every other way.”
I tried to apologize for what I did but Andrea would have none of it.
“The way things worked out, maybe you did us a favor,” she said.
I appreciate her kindness, but still, I regard it as the perhaps the worst thing I’ve ever done.
In those days, it was common practice for brides-to-be to make arrangements for what was known as a “pre-bridal” photo. They’d make an appointment at the studio of a professional photographer and pose in their gown weeks before their wedding. Often they would bring the exact bouquet of flowers they intended to carry at the ceremony.
Then they would drop off their photo at the newspaper office in a sealed envelope with instructions to publish it on the day after their wedding. Most weddings were on Saturday and the very next day there would be dozens of bridal photos in the paper. If it sounds pretty cool, it was. So cool it makes me wonder how and why the tradition came to an end. Today most wedding photos are published on a couple’s first anniversary.
I had been working at the paper about two months. I was 17 years old and had been hired as a part-time sports writer but was instructed also to type up every item that came in, from meeting notices to, yes, bridal announcements, and rush them to the composing room. In my enthusiasm I processed the Menichello-McFarland wedding a week early.
Bill Watson was the curmudgeonly old editor of the paper. Think grumpy Lou Grant, of the old Mary Tyler Moore Show, times 100. I was not at the office first thing Tuesday morning when my blunder came to light. I heard Mr. Watson blew like Mount Vesuvius.
My weekly shift began Wednesday afternoon and as soon as I arrived I was told Mr. Watson wanted to see me.
“By now you know what you did,” he said as I stood there knees knocking.
“Listen,” he continued calmly, “there’s not a mistake you can make in this business that someone hasn’t made before you. Don’t make the same one twice.”
And that was it.
I’ve thought about that moment over and over. Mr. Watson had the power to destroy me. I honestly believe he could have ended my newspaper career right then and there. Instead, he taught me a valuable lesson. One that’s still with me 50 years later.
Like the McFarlands, I’d say I’ve been blessed.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.