Fern and Bob Welch tie the knot

Fern Welch, 89, left, and Bob Welch, 90, greet each other before their wedding ceremony at Westminster Towers on Thursday.
Fern Welch, 89, left, and Bob Welch, 90, greet each other before their wedding ceremony at Westminster Towers on Thursday.

When Bob Welch had back problems last month, he said he'd go through with his July wedding even if they had to carry him out on a stretcher.

The 90-year-old rolled down the aisle Thursday afternoon in a wheelchair instead.

"It's not often a man can get married sitting down and have a wife that'll lean down to kiss him," he said after the couple's first kiss as newlyweds.

Welch and his new wife, Fern, 89, were married in the second-floor lobby of Rock Hill's Westminster Towers retirement facility. More than a dozen people showed up for the ceremony, which began as a plot to elope in York with only two witnesses.

"We wanted it to be very private, but we couldn't figure out which two witnesses we'd bring," Fern Welch said. "Pretty soon, my sisters and daughters were planning for decorations and dessert."

A three-tier cake and pastel rose petals were brought in for the small get-together. Fern, in her beige wedding gown and jacket, carried a single rose bouquet to match Bob's single rose boutonniere.

The ceremony was scheduled for last month, but when Bob's back went out, everything was postponed.

That includes the honeymoon. Instead of a vacation, the two will celebrate by having a small dinner party at Olive Garden with family members.

The couple met last November through mutual friends. Bob popped the question this spring after bringing his new love to dinner and other activities at Westminster.

"He called me before our first blind date," Fern remembered. "But before he said anything, he asked me how much I weighed. My friends fooled him into thinking I weighed 200 pounds."

Fern plans to move into Bob's apartment at the retirement facility on India Hook Road. Eventually, she said, they will be able to make the place look less like a "bachelor pad."

"All I need for now is my bookcase and filing cabinet," she said. "Then we can begin making a new place together."

Fern graduated from Winthrop University at age 54 and worked as a textile teacher for 15 years. After age 65, she published 16 children's books.

Bob worked for 30 years at International Paper in various states, working his way up from manager to district supervisor to vice president. He's a graduate of Clarkson University in New York.

Weddings at Westminster Towers are becoming more popular as the retirement facility sees more singles through the years, an employee said. The Towers hosted a lobby wedding for two residents last December.

"I think it's wonderful," Fern's daughter, Beth Ramsey, said before the wedding. "Mom likes companionship, and now she's found someone who can give that to her."