HALFWAY, Md. — Theirs is a story of enduring love the first time and new, comfortable love the second time.
The Rev. Robert Krempels and Virginia Perna each found themselves widowed in 2008. His marriage lasted about 63 years. Hers, about 52 years.
They connected last year at a local church function. One date led to another.
They found solace in each other, companions who understood the sadness of losing a soulmate.
On Saturday, after a year-and-a-half of courtship, Robert, 92, and Virginia, 75, got married.
At the Virginia Avenue Church of God in Halfway, they were joined by 100 friends and relatives from New Jersey, Tennessee, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and other points.
“God has planned the circumstances that has molded their lives to this point ...” said Pastor Donald Goude, who officiated. “As they grow closer to Him, they will grow closer to each other.”
The couple shared vows they wrote.
Robert told his new wife: “God saw my want, God knew my need .... I gratefully accept you as a precious gift from the hand of God. The more I know you, the more I respect you. The more I respect you, the more I love you .... As we walk on, let us do it hand in hand with each other.”
“I stand truly amazed at how God has blended our lives together,” Ginny, as she is known, told her new husband.
Pastor Goude added playfully, “The bride and groom wanted to make sure that you did not have any opportunity to oppose this wedding.”
During a picture session, a photographer encouraged Robert to kiss Ginny for one shot. He gave her a peck on the mouth.
It was too quick. Their lips met again, a pose they held for several seconds. Ginny joked that it was getting a little warm in the church.
Robert’s attendants were his sons, Douglas and David. Ginny’s attendants were her sisters, Millie Grimes and Martha Wyand.
Martha’s daughter, Carol Hyndman of Olney, Md., said Ginny and her sisters went to 14 shops before they found the right three dresses for the wedding.
In the hallway outside the reception room, Robert and Ginny recalled when they met last year.
Robert said various people thought they would be a good match and urged them to look for each other at that senior citizen event.
Ginny has been living in California, but sometimes visits and stays with her sister in Williamsport.
Robert invited Ginny to a concert. On the way home, “she began telling me how she was missing her husband,” Robert said. “She had given years of kind care to him, in his illness.”
They learned that their spouses had died four months apart in 2008 — Mary Catherine Krempels at age 91 and the Rev. E. Joseph Perna at age 82.
“I sensed how fond she still was of him,” Robert said. “She loved him and it really so well impressed me. It expressed the way that I felt about my wife, who I was missing so much, and so, from there, it became very natural.”
During a hike along the C&O Canal National Historical Park, Ginny invited Robert to see her late husband’s grave in Williamsport. Robert asked Ginny if she could help him get the right flowers for his late wife’s grave.
“The thing that impressed me was his loving, caring personality,” Ginny said of Robert. “I was down. He came to me. I met him at a time when I needed somebody.”
Mary Krempels of Portsmouth, N.H., who is married to Robert’s son, David, said the family realized that love had blossomed when they saw the couple last Thanksgiving.
“They laughed together,” she said. “They had wonderful admiration. Church is very important (and) their love of family.”
Experiencing giddy love, “they call themselves elderly teenagers,” Mary Krempels said.
Robert and Ginny also figured out that their previous lives had only a few degrees of separation.
Robert and Joe Perna were both Assembly of God ministers.
Robert taught at Eastern Bible Institute in Green Lane, Pa., while Joe Perna was a student there.
Al Wallace of Daytona Beach, Fla. — who has been married to Robert’s sister, Esther, for 57 years — said he and Joe Perna sang together in a trio at the bible school. Robert taught Al at the school.
“Considering the age,” Al said of Robert’s and Ginny’s romance, “I just have a feeling it’s the most natural thing to happen. No rough edges at all.”
“My dad and I were best friends, very tight,” Ginny’s son Robert said.
Robert Perna recalled that when his father was ill, he asked Ginny to pledge to find a new husband when he was gone.
“That showed so much grace that he would think of her future happiness,” he said. “He gave my mom a gift.”
Robert Perna said it’s wonderful that his mother found a new companion to love.
“She’s two ahead of me,” he joked.