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By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Stopping By: Wedding of a lifetime

“I’m a Nervous Nellie,” she said, fidgeting with the white satin sleeves and sweeping skirt of her wedding dress.

She joked, “Where’s that champagne?”

“That’s for after the wedding,” said Nora, one of her daughters.

Susan resumed pacing, her hiking boots quiet on the carpet, her dress rustling.

She had been anticipating this day for weeks, months, years, decades even — for most of the time since 1998, when she and Gary Bolieu got together in Lafayette, years punctuated by his four proposals and her numerous trips back and forth to Hawaii, which she considers her other home.

She’d been through weddings twice before, long ago, reciting quick vows in front of a justice of the peace.

Neither marriage worked out. That’s why she was so reluctant to answer affirmatively the first few times Gary proposed.

Lucky thing he was persistent. When he asked the fourth time, she finally realized this relationship was different.

“He’s the love of my life,” said the 61-year-old bride. So this time, she told 67-year-old Gary, her answer was yes.

And just as this marriage would be different, this ceremony would be different, too, she decided. No courthouse would do.

“My first white wedding,” she said.

Gary, who sat back and watched it all unfold, explained, “She’s fulfilling her fantasies.”

As soon as they picked the date, May 16, Susan began planning furiously.

She found a dress. She found an officiant. And she found someone to give her away — nephew Karl Peterson.

She chose pink, white and red for her flowers and other decorations, figuring rhodies would make a perfect bouquet for mid-May. And she ordered a cake from WinCo, where she used to work.

She asked her granddaughter, Aeva, and neighbor, Rebecca Cox, to be flower girls. Friends at Greenacres Beach & Trail Rides brought their parade pony and cart to deliver the bride and her flower girls to the altar in her front yard.

She swept up armloads of bubble blowers at the Dollar Store, so the wedding guests could shower her with bubbles prior to the ceremony. And she selected two conch shells from her collection, one for her, the other for her groom.

She explained that such shells are often sounded during Hawaiian ceremonies — to open the state legislative session, to honor people, or to start a luau, a graduation or a wedding.

Susan is as Hawaiian as a haole raised in Gresham can be.

Still deeply tanned from years of surfing, snorkeling and rowing, she showed off tattoos with Hawaiian and Polynesian designs during an interview conducted a few days before her vows. She “talked story” like a native islander, sprinkling her tales with pidgin words and interrupting herself to shout “Aloha!” as a neighbor walked by.

A clutch of chains and necklaces hung around her neck. On one, a pendant reminded, “Do something good for someone every day.”

Multiple bracelets encircled both wrists, clinking as she waved her hands. Her fingernails were painted bright blue, but she planned to change them to pink for the wedding.

She said she dreams of moving back to Oahu someday. Her friends there will be happy to meet her new husband, and he’ll quickly pick up the island ways of talking, she figures.

Gary joked that he might not get much practice, as he’s not as talkative as she. But on his wedding day, he said, he was guaranteed to get two words in.

He practiced those a few days before the event.

“I do. I do? I do?” he said, trying out different inflections. “Do I? I do.”

Gary, a widower, suffered a stroke a few years before he met Susan. A Vietnam veteran, he also suffers from PTSD.

When he moved in with his parents in Lafayette, they told him about the nice woman next door who frequently dropped by with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Seemed her car wasn’t working right. Gary is mechanically inclined, so naturally, he offered to help.

He joked that he wonders now whether the car problems weren’t just a ruse to get his attention.

Whatever. It worked.

They dated, thought about marriage, spent time apart and dated again.

They found they both liked music. He likes Michael Bolton and Rod Stewart, while she’s a Bob Marley addict.

Both made art from recycled finds. Both enjoyed sitting outside in a papasan chair, watching the stars. And both liked to joke about their star signs.

Susan, born June 16, and Gary, born June 17, are both Geminis. So they really shouldn’t get along.

“But we hit it off pretty good,” he said.

In 2013, Susan couldn’t resist going back to Hawaii. He made plans to join her a few months later, but a blood clot made it impossible for him to fly. She returned to Oregon last July, and they settled into Southwest Terrace.

They discovered their relationship was better than ever, she said, probably because, “We’re united with the Lord.”

So when he asked again, she agreed to marry him.

“I love him. I truly believe in him. He’s always kissing me, saying ‘I love you,’” she said. She turned to Gary and added, “I love you!”

He replied, “I love you more.”

Nope, she told him. “I love you infinity ... infinity times 10.”

Once again, he disagreed. “No, I love you the most!”

It’s the right kind of argument to have, they said, especially with their wedding on the horizon.

Finally, it was May 16.

After waiting for what seemed like forever, but really was just a few minutes, Susan and her flower girls climbed aboard the pony cart. Juliette, a small mare, set off at a good clip — down the street, then right and up to Susan and Gary’s place, where friends and relatives awaited.

The girls tossed out rose petals and white rhododendron blossoms. Later, they joined the crowd in blowing bubbles.

Susan blew her conch. Gary blew his, too, the mournful sounds intertwining.

Susan’s nephew took her arm as she climbed from the pony cart. She hummed the bridal march as they walked toward the archway set up in the front yard.

As she and Gary held hands, officiant Roni Vergets spoke.

“Love and relationships are what life is all about,” she said. “Marriage enriches every aspect of life — happiness, commitment, even anger.

“Make the decision that you want to be married every day. Cultivate that relationship as it continues to grow.”

After the vows were said and the rings exchanged, the couple kissed. Then the groom called for the crowd’s attention.

“I’d like the world to meet Mrs. Bolieu, my beautiful bride,” he said.


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