They came in wheelchairs and holding canes. Some have been married for more than a half-century. All had a spouse who has suffered serious health setbacks and is in a rehabilitation facility, but they were standing by their loved ones despite the hardships.
On Wednesday, six older couples renewed their wedding vows at a ceremony at the Glen Cove Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation on the day before Valentine’s Day.
Nassau County Legis. Laura Schaefer sang “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and then asked the couples if they took one another as husband or wife.
They responded, as best they could in some cases, with an “I do.”
Madeline Moritz, administrator of the facility, said it was the first time they held a marriage vow renewal ceremony.
“We just thought it was a beautiful way to celebrate the love that these family members and residents have for each other,” she said. “We’ve been counting down the days” until the event.
Darlyn Devoe, 63, was there with her husband, Arnold Devoe, 67. He suffered a traumatic brain injury several years ago, and has been in the facility for 2 1/2 years.
He can no longer speak, and needs help dressing, though he understands what other people are saying.
Darlyn said despite the health problems, she still loves him deeply — and was thrilled to renew their vows. They have been married since 2004.
“We want to get married all over,” she said, laughing. “We love each other. It’s a commitment. We’re in the same boat together.”
Their relationship was hatched in the parking lot at North Shore High School. She was a bus driver. He worked security.
When she would pull into the lot, he would make his way over. A friendship blossomed, and before long, love.
“I came in every day for my afternoon pickup and Arnold would come over and we would talk. He was admiring my bus,” Darlyn said laughing.
Arnold would meet up with her when she drove for field trips as well, bringing her lunch.
“He surprised me with whatever the special of the day was” from the deli, sometimes Italian, sometimes roast beef. One day it was ostrich.
“I gave it away, sorry,” she said.
Hard times started in 2011 when Arnold was diagnosed with a tumor that was growing outside his brain but within his skull. Eventually, in 2016, he had two falls.
“That was the end. That was the final shake-up,” Darlyn said.
She said she has no regrets, and is standing by her husband, good times or bad. “He would do anything for me,” she said, “so I would do it for him.”
Another couple, Denward and Ruth Collins, have been married for 60 years.
They met as teenagers at St. Stephens Lutheran Church in Hicksville, as members of a youth group.
A few years later, Denward showed up for Mass one Sunday, and “I saw this woman through the glass door teaching a Sunday school class and I thought, ‘Wow, who is she?’ Well it turns out she was Ruth.”
In high school she had gotten a job and “gone out and gotten herself a professional hairstyle and professional business clothes,” he said. “I didn’t recognize her.”
They started dating, and married Oct. 4, 1958.
On their 50th anniversary, they could not celebrate much since Ruth was sick, but they did hold a big event for their 55th. On the cake were words celebrating their 50th anniversary, and in small letters “Plus Five.”
Ruth, now 80, has been in the facility since last May, but hopes to go home in the spring.
Denward, 83, said he has no second thoughts about his bride, with whom he will mark 60 years of marriage in October.
“It’s in our genes. We are who we are,” he said. “We have the same values.”
He said they both have made jokes about whether they should stay together.
“At this point I said I am too old to go dating again,” he said. “She says, ‘I’m the same. Let’s stay together.’”
Schafer said she was moved by all the couples. “It’s really an honor to be here today, to celebrate love, which we could all use a lot more of in our lives, I’m pretty sure, every day.”