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Couple celebrates golden anniversary with the wedding they always wanted

Chip Ellis
Patricia and Harry Staggers celebrate their 50th anniversary together with the wedding they never had, renewing their vows at the Sylvester Baptist Church on Sunday.
Chip Ellis Patricia Staggers is just as excited to marry Harry the second time around.
Chip Ellis The original 1963 cake topper, photographs and congratulations greeting card from Patricia's parents were on display during the couple's reception Sunday.

SYLVESTER, W.Va. -- Patricia Staggers strode toward the altar of the Sylvester Baptist Church on Sunday, her long, sparkling veil tucked neatly in her hair and her beaded white dress glinting in the light.

"Way to go, Pat!" a woman shouted from the pews.

Patricia held her bouquet above her head and waved it triumphantly.

The wedding of her dreams came 50 years after her first wedding. She and her husband, Harry, were married at the Boone County Courthouse in Madison on July 29, 1963, in the presence of five guests. She was 17 and Harry was 19.

"We had a bridesmaid and a best man, and three others guests there, and that was it," Patricia said. "It was a slapdash marriage; I was just in a little white suit."

Harry, 69, who has worked his entire life to provide for his wife, three daughters and son, thought his first wedding to Patricia didn't quite cut it.

"It was his idea," said Ressie Cowley, a friend of the couple. "He told her, 'You've done so much for me for 50 years, and I want to give you a real wedding."

The Staggers celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Sunday.

"He wouldn't be good without me and I wouldn't be good without him," Patrica, 67, said. "We've been together too long. It really is 'one flesh.' There will be nobody else for me, and there will be nobody else for him. It's been all these years, and it's carried us through, through thick and thin, and it will always be Pat and Harry."

The couple met on a more somber occasion, during a wake for Harry's cousin, who was killed in a car accident in the summer of 1959. Patricia, who was 14, attended with her mother, a good friend of Harry's aunt.

The two dated but broke up. Harry moved to Chicago to work at Rust-Oleum Paint and Patricia started seeing another man. After they split, though, Harry called her on the phone and told her they should get married.

"I told him the truth, that I wasn't sure if I loved him enough to marry him. He said, 'I love you enough for both of us, and I'll make it work,'" she said. "Lord willing, it stuck. It was meant to be. It won't ever be anything else but that. I've got what I want, and I don't want anybody else."

Harry flew from Chicago to marry Patricia, his first time on a plane. The two applied for a marriage license on a Wednesday and were married the following Monday, on a rainy morning in Madison.

"The first 50 years were hers; these next 50 years are mine," Harry joked.

On Sunday, the Staggers' grandson, Darrell, who they adopted and raised as their son from infancy, gave Patricia away. Their granddaughter, Adara Cantley, served as one of her bridesmaids, while Adara's sister, Shanna, was Patricia's maid of honor.

"I was really happy for them," Shanna said. "Fifty years is a big accomplishment, especially nowadays. All of my friends' parents are divorced, so seeing someone be married for 50 years is really exciting."

Shanna, 19, is engaged, and she said seeing her grandparents happy after so many years has been inspiring to her.

"I told my fiancé's friends 'I'm going to be in a wedding,' and when they asked whose, I said, 'My grandparents, they're celebrating their 50th,' and they're all shocked. Everyone I've told about it was shocked," she said.

Patricia was shocked too, when, back in April, Harry popped the question again.

"I was sitting there, and he said, 'I want to ask you a question,'" Patricia said. "He said, 'Would you marry me again on our anniversary?' I made a joke out of it. I said, 'Yeah, three or four more times. You'd better believe it.' He said, 'No, I'm serious.'

"I said, 'Well, since you're serious, do you want to get up in front of the pastor some morning while we're at church and we'll take our vows over?' And he said, 'No, that's not what I want either. I want a wedding. You didn't have a decent wedding the first time. It wasn't enough,' he said, 'You've been good to me over the years, and this is my gift to you.'"

Harry said he had heard people say it was the first wedding of its kind they'd ever seen; the two exchanged rings and said "I do" all over again, and after saying their vows, they sang "I Hope We Walk the Last Mile Together," a hymn the two had heard played in the church that Patricia said was perfect for their big day.

"He always made life easy for me; he always put me in front of him," Patricia said. "We have a good life together."

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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