Sure, lots of brides and grooms stay at the Pfister Hotel, but as 90-year-old newlyweds, Ernie and Harriet are quite special.
Their unique situation was apparent to their families who lovingly helped plan their wedding – and it was also recognized by every guest in the Lobby Lounge on Saturday night. When the couple rolled through with “just married” signs on the back of their wheelchairs, the 20-plus guests in the lounge gave them a standing ovation.
“It was quite a reception,” says Jennifer, who is married to Harriet’s son, Jay.
The wedding took place on Saturday afternoon at a local church. Twenty-five guests, all family, attended and Ernie’s two great grandchildren, ages 8 and 10, were ring bearers.
Harriet, who kept her last name, wore a light green suit and jacket with a matching blouse.
“I bought a pair of new shoes and a brand new purse,” she says.
At the last minute, Harriet realized her shoes were not very comfortable and so Ernie suggested they run out to Kohl’s for a new pair.
“I wanted her to have the right shoes,” says Ernie, who was decked out in black pants, a herringbone suit coat and a very pale yellow shirt for the nuptials.
After the ceremony – which according to Harriet was “wonderful” – they had a dinner at the Open Flame in Hales Corners. The couple feasted on ribs and their guests ordered ribs, chicken or salmon.
Then, they went to the Pfister for a three-night honeymoon. When asked why they chose the Pfister, Ernie chuckled.
“Actually, I wanted to go to Vegas,” he says.
Ernie has been to Las Vegas three times and wanted to take Harriet there to see a show, but their children were concerned about their safety and suggested the Pfister instead.
Harriet’s son, Jay, comes to Milwaukee from Minneapolis about once a month to visit his mother and always stays at the Pfister. Ernie and Harriet met at an assisted living facility in Hales Corners called Harmony.
Ernie was married for 65 years to a woman named Audrey. They raised three daughters. For the last 18 years of their marriage, Audrey suffered from Alzheimer’s.
“Ernie’s wife was very sick. He took very good care of her for 18 years. Cooking, washing clothes, taking care of the house. All while working two jobs. He is a very nice man,” says Harriet.
Harriet was married to John, who passed away in 2001, for 51 years. The couple had two sons.
Neither expected to fall in love again.
“It’s a miracle,” says Harriet.
For Ernie, it was love at first sight. Harriet became smitten after Ernie appeared at her door singing “happy birthday” to her.
Some of the other ladies at Harmony expressed their romance envy to Harriet.
“They come up to me and say, ‘How did you do that? We’ve been trying to find somebody ourselves for a long time,’” she says, then, looking at Ernie, “I guess I just meet the right people.”
Ernie and Harriet are the first married couple to live at Harmony. In order to accommodate their bond, the facility – which does not have double rooms – agreed to let them use one room as their bedroom and the other, across the hall, as a living room.
“Our days go by so fast and we just enjoy being together,” says Ernie.
The couple shares a love for gardening and are the only members of Harmony’s gardening club. Ernie says they left a sink filled with ripe tomatoes and will have even more when they return to the facility after their honeymoon.
He then told a story about the time Harriet playfully sprayed him with the hose and got him soaking wet.
“Luckily I dry off pretty quick,” he says.
Ernie and Harriet also like to watch sports together. Harriet never cared much about sports before meeting Ernie, but she knew it was something he enjoyed.
“So I learned about them quickly,” she says.
“Now, she’s the one who says ‘let’s watch the Brewers game,'” says Ernie, patting her arm. “I’m just so happy we’re together.”