Do you remember where you were 40 years ago today? Gene and Deb Miller sure do. Here's a feature story I wrote for today's New Castle Courier-Times. This is our HOPE edition, a once-a-year project where we pack the first section of the newspaper with good-news stories. If you are in the greater Henry County, Indiana area, consider picking up a copy. Meanwhile, read on.
by Donna Cronk
KENNARD — Exactly 40 years ago, residents of Henry County – and the rest of Indiana – were snowed in or digging out of the worst snowfall in recorded state history, known as the Blizzard of 1978.
But few were as disappointed by the weather as Gene and Deb Miller. Their Friday-night wedding had to be canceled.
“So I had picked Jan. 27 to get married and then the blizzard happened,” Deb said.
Still, Gene, whose career was spent as a carrier with the New Castle Postal Service, didn’t fail to deliver for his bride. Forty years ago today, Jan. 28, 1978, he was able to get to her home in Kennard and the marriage took place.
According to the National Weather Service, the storm began Wednesday, Jan. 26 and continued for days with snow, high winds, blowing and drifting. Indianapolis set a record that January of 30.6 inches of snowfall. Indiana Gov. Otis Bowen declared a snow emergency for the entire state on Thursday morning. That afternoon, Indiana State Police considered all Indiana roads closed.
The snow had begun during the rehearsal in Greenfield that Wednesday night when the minister and musician were unable to make it to the Church of God in Greenfield, where the wedding was scheduled. The rehearsal dinner was at Gene’s parents’ home in New Castle following the rehearsal. She returned to her family home in Kennard following the rehearsal dinner and Gene stayed in New Castle. The blizzard hit in the night.
Her parents are the late Cecil and Vonda (Darling) Keesling and his are the late Lawrence and Hazel (Buck) Miller.
WEDDING IS OFF
On Thursday and Friday, nothing moved. The inevitable calls came on Friday: the preacher, caterer, florist and others were unable to get out for the wedding. The church preferred that the wedding be canceled. So what did the bride do then?
“Cried,” answered Deb, whose planned wedding night was spent in her family home, snowed in.
The night they were to be celebrating their new marriage, the couple was on the phone together for hours.
“When we finished talking we agreed to talk the next day, that being Saturday, and would try to figure something out, but little did I know he was making plans to come and get me to go get married on Saturday,” recalled Deb.
On Saturday, 10 to 15 feet of stacked snow lined each side of Ind. Hwy. 234. But the postman would not be deterred. Gene took off from New Castle for Kennard. He made it to Deb’s home that morning, knocked on the door and said, “Let’s go get married.”
She woke up those in her household and everyone got busy. Gene’s dad called the New Castle Church of God Pastor Elwood Evans. They got a cake and a gallon of punch from Kenny Eaton’s grocery store. Gene tried on his dad’s old suit and let the hems out on the pants. There were no flowers, but Gene’s dad gave his soon-to-be daughter-in-law a Bible to carry during the ceremony. Gene’s brother Bob Miller was rounded up as best man.
Deb’s neighbor played the wedding march and her mom taped it to be played. The rest of the wedding party made it, including maid of honor Kathy (Keesling) Riley.
And they had themselves a wedding in the basement of the family’s Kennard home. At the time, there was between eight and 12 feet of snow outside.
Today, on their 40th wedding anniversary, the couple has no big regrets. In fact, Deb said, “None at all.”
Gene is now retired from the New Castle Post Office. Deb, a nurse, is the public health director at the Henry County Health Department. They went on to have two daughters: Kelly Warrick and Jennifer Braun, who have now given the couple four grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.
It is hard for the couple to believe that it’s been 40 years since they experienced a blizzard – and a wedding – to always remember.