A special wedding: father gets license to marry couple
SALEM – Steve Pendleton isn’t a minister, but for one important day in his son’s life, he was. The Salem man got a special one-day license in order to perform the wedding ceremony for son Derek and fiancé Brandi Compton on April 21.
The wedding was more than a year earlier than Derek and Brandi’s original planned date of June 28, 2013, which would have been the four-year anniversary of their first date.
What set the change in motion was that three weeks before their wedding, Steve Pendleton was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. The pain in his leg he thought might be a blood clot and shortness of breath he experienced was cancer in his lungs and other parts of his body.
The couple who are both 21 decided not only did they want to make sure Steve felt good enough to participate in the wedding, but wanted him to be the one to marry them.
“Steve marrying us meant more to me than words can express,” Brandi said. “It meant more for him to do the ceremony. We didn’t want it any other way.”
For him, “It was an honor. I felt very blessed that they would even consider having me marry them,” Steve said.
They chose him as their marriage celebrant because Derek has always looked up to his father. “My dad is a special man. I’ve always thought he should have been a preacher,” he explained. “We wanted his name on our marriage certificate.”
The couple and their families pulled together, and “put together the most beautiful wedding,” Rhonda Pendleton said. She and Brandi’s mother, Michelle Atkins of Vinton, pitched in to help the couple rearrange the details. It turned out the location they had booked for their 2013 wedding was available for April 21, and so was the cake baker they had already chosen, Pennie from Viva la Cupcake.
The couple made multiple trips in one week to the Montgomery County Circuit Court Clerk’s office to go through all the proper steps for Steve to be appointed, Brandi said. The license had to be issued there because the wedding would be at Maison Beliveau in Montgomery County.
On the day of the wedding, Steve was still strong. “He had only been on oxygen for a week,” Rhonda added. Since then chemotherapy has been sapping some of his strength, and a visiting nurse now comes to their home to oversee his care.
After their wedding, Derek and Brandi moved into his parents’ home so he can care for his dad while Rhonda works as a special education teacher’s assistant at Salem High School. Brandi, who graduated from Virginia Western as did her husband, was at Tidewater Community College. She is transferring back to Radford, and meanwhile, working in finance.
Derek had been studying criminal justice at Old Dominion University. He came home, and switched over to ODU distance learning. He works at FedEx from 4 to 8 a.m., studies while Steve sleeps, and plans on completing his degree by May 2013.
More than 100 guests attended the wedding, “and there was not a dry eye in the place,” Rhonda said. One of Brandi and Derek’s few disappointments was a couple of their original wedding party were not able to participate.
“My cousin, Wesley Brugh, and I were born six weeks apart. We have been together as cousins and best friends all through life. We moved in together in Norfolk to go to ODU. I wanted Wesley to be a part of this special time. He did a great job being the DJ and escorting Mom at the wedding,” Derek said.
His older brother, Chad, who is a teacher and coach in Winchester, and his family were part of the event.
Putting together the wedding arrangements early was a whirlwind because at the same time the Pendletons were having to rearrange their house so Steve could get his IV medications and rest comfortably in a recliner in the living room of the split-level home.
Meanwhile, Brandi was matron of honor for her older sister, and helping her prepare for her own wedding which was last weekend in Fincastle at her dad’s parents’ farm.
Steve Pendleton formerly worked for Rhonda’s brother, Patrick Helvey, driving for Executive Limousine. When he got sick he was in his fourth year as a meat cutter for Beef Products in Roanoke. Only two weeks before his diagnosis, he had toyed with the idea of dropping the insurance, he said. He and his family are immensely thankful he didn’t.
Currently, Steve’s treatment regimen involves “a chemotherapy pill released a couple of years ago,” he said. Even in the face of the Stage 4 diagnosis, he’s optimistic and has never lost his sense of humor, his family noted. “Her ring tone is ‘Alert, alert. It’s the wife,’ ” Steve said, laughing.
In a year or so, Brandi and Steve are looking to complete their college educations they planned to have finished before they got married. Someday, they will have a wedding trip, and move to their own place. They haven’t regretted a thing, they said.
As Brandi put it, “It’s been rough but we are so thankful for being able to have done what we did with our wedding and to spend this time with Steve.”