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David Weinlick dies; married stranger at Mall of America

David Weinlick and Elizabeth Runze on their

David Weinlick and Elizabeth Runze on their wedding day, June 13, 1998. Credit: AP / Scott Cohen

MINNEAPOLIS — David Weinlick knew he would get married on June 13, 1998. He just didn’t know who his bride would be.

Friends came to his aid and picked Elizabeth Runze from among hundreds of interested women. After knowing each other for only a few minutes, Weinlick and Runze said “I do” at a well-publicized wedding at the Mall of America in Bloomington.

The marriage lasted almost 20 years until Weinlick died Sunday night of colon cancer. He was 48.

Weinlick, who was diagnosed with terminal, inoperable stage IV cancer in March 2017, died in hospice care, said his friend, Minneapolis City Council member Steve Fletcher, who helped arranged the marriage.

Weinlick jokingly told family and friends he would be married June 13, 1998 — even though he didn’t have a bride in mind. They helped him as the date approached, shooting a commercial and placing advertisements. Runze, known as Bethy, stood out because she was willing to work on a relationship.

Fletcher said the couple’s marriage lasted because they knew how to “really appreciate the unique and amazing things about each other.”

Bethy Weinlick quit her job as a nurse soon after her husband’s cancer diagnosis. David Weinlick had left work for the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party years earlier.

The couple had four children.

“How lucky am I that I was chosen to be with this person,” Bethy Weinlick told WCCO-TV on Tuesday. “ . . . And I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat, even with this ending.”

The couple renewed their vows at the mall last August. The ceremony also served as a fundraiser for the Angel Foundation, which supports families coping with cancer.

The mall plans to host another foundation fundraiser on June 13, the couple’s 20th anniversary.

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