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The Renaissance Bride
They met online, then disaster struck...
They were married in March, under towering live oaks in beautiful Audubon Park. The bride wore a copper-colored gown and carried orange and yellow tulips; the bridegroom wore a dark-blue tuxedo and a black silk bow tie.
They decided to marry in New Orleans because they felt an affinity for the town, and it's recent destruction and climb back to life. The future looks bright for this loving couple, but it wasn't always that way...
Bernadette Murray and Randy Fertel met at an online dating site in 2004. She was an urbane, sophisticated advertising executive in Manhattan, he an instructor at the New School in New York, as well as head of the educational Fertel Foundation in New Orleans.
Bernadette was attracted to Randy's online portrait, with his tousled hair, goatee, and "earnest face". She answered his ad, and they soon had a date at a Greenwich Village restaurant. It was not a great first date, she said. All his answers were monosyllabic.
The evening was salvaged, however, during the long walk they took afterwards, and a good night kiss earned Randy a second date with her. Subsequent dates went more smoothly, but it was on a visit to New Orleans that Bernadette truly fell for Randy. She met his longtime circle of friends. Creeps dont have good friends, she said.
Randy was enamored, too. Here was this incredible, successful executive who was at the top of her game, but wasnt cutthroat, he said of his new love.
Bernadette is the energetic go-getter, the one who keeps guests wineglasses filled, asks about co-workers children and takes home-cooked meals to sick relatives. At least she was until disaster struck. She started having chest pains, which led to tests and eventually a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. They had only been dating for a few months when their relationship was put to the ultimate test.
She tried to let him off the hook, telling him that she didnt expect him to endure what appeared to be a long illness. He responded by showing up at the hospital with a diamond ring. I felt like she needed to know I wasnt going anywhere, said Randy.
Bernadette received a bone-marrow transplant in September 2005, and she became bald, wilted to 88 pounds and couldnt go out in public for nearly a year, while her immune system was weak.
She was embarrassed to be so needy and fragile in front of someone she had only dated for a short time, she recalled. I weighed nothing, my head was swollen, and my hair was coming out in clumps, so we had a barber come shave my head, she said. I couldnt move, I couldnt lift my head.
She recalled one day when Randy showed up with tubes of fancy skin lotions: I looked down and thought,"There is this man at the end of the bed that I hardly know who is rubbing my feet so that Ill feel better. Bernadette slowly recovered from the leukemia, but a second deadly blow struck in January of 2006... breast cancer!
I thought this was just about too much, Randy said. But I couldnt bring myself to desert her. She needed me. Because she was too fragile for chemotherapy, she had a mastectomy followed by breast-reconstruction surgery. Six months later, by July 2006, her blood work showed no sign of cancer. The couple now splits their time between New York and New Orleans.
At their wedding ceremony on March 10, the jazz musician Kermit Ruffins played Just a Closer Walk With Thee, a traditional New Orleans funeral dirge, for their processional. Ben Fong-Torres, a Universal Life minister, led a service in which he talked about Bernadette's illness and how at one point in their courtship she had swooned when Randy played for her an Olu Dara tune that went: Your lips, your lips, your lips are juice-saaayyyy like a Louisiana plum".
After the ceremony Mr. Ruffins and his band struck up an upbeat and joyous tune, and led the guests to a reception at Randy's home, which borders Audubon Park. Guests then gathered in the dining tent for a tasty New Orleans feast. And Randy sat beside his rosy-cheeked bride in her Renaissance.
--- Condensed from a lovely story
*** Read more great true tales of true love in our section Love Stories