Helen Lord Burr answered my question. She told me that she had been involved with the Oshkosh Salvation Army for 35 years and didn't recall any weddings being held there. A moment later she clarified that. She told me that when she first became involved, that there was a couple who had been married there, but she didn't know when.
Michele Bernard and Marvin Hildebrand were joined in holy matrimony by Captain Johnny Harsh on Friday March 30, becoming the first couple to do so in over 35 years.
Michele became a full-fledged Soldier in the Salvation Army a while back and also went to work for them as a Social Worker. She has lived in Oshkosh a long time. Marvin grew up about 30 miles from Tulsa, OK. He was living in Milwaukee and also was a Soldier in the Army. Michele and Marvin's life led them to a recent convention of sorts in Madison. They hit it off, Marvin decided to come to Oshkosh, and now they tied the knot.
Captain Johnny Harsh was delighted to do a wedding. He told me: "No more funerals please. Thank God! I'd rather do weddings." Captain Johnny explained to me that a wedding between two Salvation Army Soldiers is very special. It incorporates what is called "The Salvation Army Articles of Marriage." I couldn't put a direct link to it, but it is posted online. It encourages the bride and groom to go above and beyond the normal expectations of marriage.
As one person put: The entire affair was simple and elegant. Nothing more, nothing less. The church was nicely decorated and virtually full. Michele's hair was very very pretty. She was given away by George, long time driver of the Salvation Army truck you see about town. It was a serious affair with hints of humor. Marvin dropped the ring when the ring-bearer handed it to him. Captain Johnny remarked on 'jitters' and 'knees shaking' and when it came Michele's turn with the ring, Captain told her not to drop it.
Following the ceremony CJ's at the Wayside (Ripon) catered the meal. The dining room at the Salvation Army had been transformed for the occasion. The meal included Prime Rib cut to order and Chicken Breasts Cordon Bleu. There was lots of laughter and good natured kidding directed at Michele and Marvin.
The only sour note was that the Army's regular Friday hours ended at 2pm and no regular meal was served. This irritated people who normally come for that.
Captain Johnny Harsh told me that three more weddings are scheduled this year. That's quite a change from years past.