FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Pauline and George Renaud are about to mark the 50th anniversary of the day they were united in joy and sorrow.
Their Nov. 23, 1963, wedding was the day after John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas.
They planned to go to Williamsburg, Va., for their honeymoon.
Instead, the couple went to Washington, D.C., for the funeral of a slain president.
Pauline remembers Nov. 22 as a day full of excitement and preparation. George had just returned from picking up pastry for their reception in Pawtucket, R.I.
She was 18, George was 25 and the future was bright.
"As far as I was concerned that was the biggest thing in our lives," she said of the impending marriage.
Then the bulletin of Kennedy's shooting sliced through the euphoria. Happy anticipation became shock and disbelief.
"All of a sudden Walter Cronkite announced the president of the United States was dead," George said.
"People were crying in the streets," Pauline said. "It was turmoil everywhere; everywhere you went people were screaming.
"You just couldn't believe it," she said. "It was the first thing in our lifetime that had happened so tragically."
They decided to go on with the wedding. Too many guests were coming from out of town and it was too late to cancel.
The reception was held in a big club where a TV was in another room. Guests were drawn to watch the latest developments.
"It was hard. People were trying to be happy for you, yet the TV was on, and people kept going to the TV," Pauline said. It cast a pall over the wedding. "People cried. You sat there and cried. You couldn't help crying."
The couple decided to postpone their honeymoon and head for Washington, D.C. "All the stores had black buntings and pictures of JFK," Pauline said.
They got up at 5 a.m. to go to the Capitol and watch the funeral procession. "We went to the ceremony. We went to the eternal flame (at Kennedy's grave) the first day it was open to the public," Pauline said.
The Fort Myers, Fla., couple have many photos, including the caisson and the riderless horse, along with some of the attending dignitaries who marched behind them, such as Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia, and Charles de Gaulle, president of France.
"I think, 'Why did we do that?' " Pauline said of their change of plans.
Her husband was a Navy veteran and a social studies teacher, and the couple believed it was an important part of history. "We just had this pulling to go there and see what was going to happen," she said.
"We needed to pay our respects. First things first."
Mary Wozniak, The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press