Norma Stiles said the love of her life had wanted to marry her for years, but she put it off, and for one reason or another, the formality didn't happen.
On Monday, Reginald Stiles whispered a final wish from his bed in the intensive care unit at Manchester Memorial Hospital. Dying from a respiratory disease, the 60-year-old Hartford native said he wanted to make things official with his longtime sweetheart, the mother of his son.
"I just wish I did it years ago," Norma Stiles said of the twilight marriage as her husband clung to life late Tuesday afternoon. "I've loved him all my life, since I was 14."
Monday was Labor Day and all public offices were closed. Realizing the press of time, pulmonary care specialist Dr. Saud Anwar, a former South Windsor mayor, contacted his pal, Manchester Mayor Jay Moran, who called Justice of the Peace Mike Pohl and Town Clerk Joe Camposeo.
Camposeo opened his office in town hall, and he and Assistant Town Clerk Lisa Irish processed the marriage license application, which had been sent electronically. Camposeo then went to the hospital and met Pohl, Anwar and the bride and groom. The couple swore that information on the application was true, and Camposeo handed the ceremony over to Pohl.
In photos taken in the ICU, Norma (Caron) Stiles, 61, holds a small bouquet with purple flowers to match her blouse. She said she and Reginald grew up in Hartford and had been together since 1994. He has two children from a previous marriage and had worked as a roofer, auto mechanic and many other jobs – a jack of all trades, Norma Stiles said. The newlyweds have an 18-year-old son, David Reginald Stiles.
Camposeo said he walked away with immense gratitude for the chance to help fulfill a man's last request. Moran and Pohl said they shared that feeling of thankfulness. Moran called the marriage an example of "compassion and community."
"This is why we're involved in public service... The forces of goodness were in that room when we did that ceremony," Pohl said.
Anwar praised the public servants who helped make the last-minute-marriage happen. On his Facebook page, he wrote, "You guys are heroes. Today, you made a big difference for many people."