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Rolla Presbyterian Manor residents remember their wedding days

Summer is the best season for swimming, fresh produce — and weddings. Every year, tens of thousands of couples say “I do” around this time of year, so we thought it would be a good time to ask residents to share their wedding memories.

Illa Bell and her husband George married on Oct. 18, 1945, about three weeks after Illa turned 21. The couple had been courting for two years, but Illa’s mother said she couldn’t get married until after her 21st birthday.

The Bells’ wedding ceremony took place at First Presbyterian Church in Rolla, a pretty, white building on a hill. (The structure has since been turned into an antique mall, Illa says.) About 40 family members and friends were in attendance.

Illa and her mother traveled to St. Louis to buy her wedding gown, a white jersey street-length dress trimmed with gold nailheads. Her two attendants wore melon and blue sheer wool dresses, and George’s two attendants wore rosebud corsages. She chose black accessories and a white Bible adorned with an orchid and white satin ribbons.

After the ceremony, Illa’s parents hosted a wedding reception at their home with cake, punch and coffee. Bouquets of flowers were placed around the house as decoration.

“It was just a nice little celebration with family and a few of our closest friends,” Illa remembers.

Jessie Roach wed her husband Jack in Salem, Arkansas. They had purchased a pharmacy in Newburg, Missouri, but they couldn’t move into the attached apartment until they tied the knot. “I’m old-fashioned that way,” Jessie says.

There was no waiting period for a marriage license in Arkansas, so they traveled some 130 miles to Salem, which is just across the state line.

A couple with whom the Roaches were friends with decided they would go and get married, too. The two couples had a double wedding in the Methodist church, as Jessie refused to get married at the courthouse — she was old-fashioned that way, too.

Jessie wore a beautiful new green suit, and her friend and fellow bride Margaret wore a suit as well.

“There wasn’t anyone there except the preacher, his wife, and the other couple,” Jessie remembers. “But it was a lovely wedding. I hated to leave home to get married, but it was just what we had to do.”

The two pairs of newlyweds enjoyed a good dinner together after the ceremony. They traveled home in the morning, and the day after that, the Roaches went to work in the pharmacy.

Jessie and Jack stayed together until his death nine years ago, and their friends Homer and Margaret Guffy enjoyed a long marriage, too.

“I’m proud to say that both marriages lasted,” Jessie says.

Barb and Michael Durnin married on Sept. 30, 1967, at Christy Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Louis, which is the church where she was baptized. However, the ceremony was officiated by the Presbyterian minister who served the congregation where they were members.

More than 300 guests were in attendance. “They were standing out the doors,” Barb remembers. After the ceremony, the guests gathered for a reception in the church basement.

Barb wore a “very ’60s” dress with an A-line skirt and lace bodice. Last September, her vintage-loving niece wore it for her own wedding.

Her mother handled almost all the preparations for the celebration. Barb’s father had one job: to engage the services of a photographer, which he neglected to do. Most of the wedding pictures were taken with his Brownie Instamatic. While most of the photos didn’t turn out well, “We got one good wedding picture,” Barb says.

That wasn’t the only surprise.

“My husband met me at the altar with a broken foot,” Barb recalls. Michael suffered the injury a couple days earlier when he was kicked out of a bar, which Barb didn’t know anything about until after the ceremony. She notes that he stopped drinking like that and quit entirely a few years later.

In another dramatic moment, three women — a bridesmaid, a candle lighter, and the girlfriend of wedding guest — fought over Barb’s thrown bouquet, a sheaf of white flowers.

“They were down on the floor,” she says, chuckling at the memory.

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