The bride did not have the starry-eyed blush of an excited young woman about to be married, but her glow was warm and serene. The groom prespired freely, not because he was so hot in St. Paul Christian Community Church in Northeast Washington.
The bride wore lavender satin and lace; the groom a white cutaway coat. And in an arch around them, smiling tearfully through the vows, stood their friends and family: nine bridesmaids (all daughters) dressed in fuchsia silk, the groomsmen and four grandchildren.
"And Two Shall Become One," proclaimed the pink wedding program as the Rev. Earl S. Luckett reunited them.
For Mattie Louise Barnes, 46, and Elmer C. Barnes, 49, their June wedding last Saturday ended nine years of divorce and rekindled the embers of a marriage that had lasted for many years.
Louise and Elmer Barnes were married for the first time in 1954 in a hasty civil ceremony sandwiched between Barnes' Air Force training tours. After the marriage ended, Louise Barnes said she promised herself that, if she ever remarried, she'd have a real wedding. But she never imagined she'd marry the same man again.
"They're so lucky," said a joyful guest at the reception for 100 persons. She said she knew many divorced women who are either glad to be rid of their former husbands or who have given up all hope of being reunited, though they refuse to marry anyone else.
On the day before the wedding, while young women ran up and down the stairs at the Barnes' home putting the finishing touches on their growns, the bride and groom sat calmly in the living room telling their story.
They met at the service club at Andrews Air Force Base in 1953.
"I was one of the younger hostesses," Louise Barnes said. "A lot of the girls were crazy about him." But within a year, she claimed the tall, handsome, 21-year-old fuels manager for herself. They married and began building their family.
"I was the serious one," Elmer Barnes said emphatically. "Military training was quite different then. We had to master our own discipline."
But when it come to his daughters, Barnes was soft-hearted. He remembers spoiling them, giving them goodies, although some of the girls still recall being frightened of the man with the stern face.
"They tell me now I'm a male chauvinist," Barnes said. He would not allow his wife to work, and she took (and still takes) great pains to prepare his favorite meal of smoothered pork chops, rice, hot biscuits and fried apples.
However, Barnes' work kept him away from home for months at a time -- Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Turkey, Canada.
"Transfers were somewhat of a problem because of the size of the family," he said.
"We never did fight," his wife recalled, but "things changed." Barnes tried to remain close to the children by phone but the constant separation cooled his relationship with his wife.
During a telephone conversation in 1968, they decided the marriage had come to an end. "I was in California then, I'd just come back from my first tour in Vietnam," Barnes said. His wife believes that "Vietnam had a lot to do with it. He stopped corresponding with the family."
Barnes isn't sure Vietnam was the problem. He doesn't remember pulling away emotionally, but "looking back, your patience was shorter and you were scared all the time." The divorce became official in 1972, shortly after Barnes went back for another tour in Vietnam.
"I was really upset, but I thought it was the best thing at the time," she said. "I never did get mad (at him) for leaving me with the kids. They were good for me. They kept me busy."
The dissolution of the marriage also meant Louise Barnes had to get a steady job, though Barnes continued sending money home. She went to work as a mail clerk at the National Institutes of Health, where she still works.
Louise Barnes started dating again at age 37, but she never remarried "I had two proposals, but it just never got to that point." Her reluctance frustrated her suitors, she remembers. Then, with a sparkle in her eyes, she glanced at her husband-to-be -- "maybe I was holding a candle for Elmer."
Meanwhile, Barnes returned from Vietnam and did a tour in California and a five-year stint in West Germany, where he remarried. But in 1977, Senior Master Sergeant Barnes retired, putting 28 years and 16 days of military life behind him. He spent a year working for a West German firm, but moved home to Pittsburgh the following year to care for his ill mother.
"Needless to say, as soon as I got back I called her and the girls," he said.
"When he called us," his wife recalls, "it was February. Snow was on the ground, I was glad he was with his mother. He asked if I'd send the girls up." During that conversation she realized Barnes was no longer married. (His second marriage lasted only two years and he had had no children.) "I felt real good about it." So she and the girls boarded a Greyhound bus for Pittsburgh. She hadn't seen him in nine years.
She went back to Pittsburgh during Easter vacation, and again that June. "I stopped going for awhile, didn't want to be pushy." But during Christmas 1980, "he called and asked if I'd ever thought of remarrying him. He said he thought we should."
She bats her eyelashes and rolls her eyes. "He always gives orders. I fuss about that, but I kind of like it." Looking very pleased with himself, Barnes said, "I never stopped loving the girls or their mother. When you have a family and you think about them, you want to be with them."
On April 11th, Elmer Barnes moved into the Barnes house on 20th Street NE, near the new Hechinger Mall. "Having him back in the house is beautiful," said his wife. She especially enjoys watching the tall, stately man strut through the house, she said with a wink.
According to May Simms, mother of the bride, the girls, who range in age from 12 to 31, lit up like a Chirstmas tree" at the news of the wedding.
The Barneses are a close-knit family and the wedding, the daughters said, has brought them even closer. Shebra says every time she tells the story to someone, they just shake their heads in wonderment and say, "There's still hope."