Wineka column: After 25 years, couple renews vows at the Square

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 22, 2012

SALISBURY — Mike and Carolyn McGee met for the first time July 17, 1986.
It was back in Salisbury’s cruising days, and they set eyes on each other on the Square, at the corner where today’s Pottery 101 stands.
They would never forget.
Within eight months, Mike and Carolyn were getting married and setting off on a life filled with many firsts — first anniversary, first child, first house, first loss, first challenge.
But the McGees celebrated a second Wednesday afternoon.
On their 25th wedding anniversary, they renewed their marriage vows at the place that’s still magical to them — on the Square.
Many of the key people who participated in their marriage on March 21, 1987, at the East Rowan Church of God were part of Wednesday’s crowd of almost 30 people.
Carolyn’s father, James Talbert, walked her “up the aisle,” leading her from the shoe repair shop on East Innes Street up the incline to the corner where everyone was assembled.
The two ministers who conducted the service 25 years ago — Mike’s grandfather, the Rev. Horace King Sr., and his uncle, the Rev. Phillip King — stood ready to do it again.
Back in 1987, Mike’s father, Bobbie McGee, served as his best man. But Bobbie died four months ago.
Talbert positioned himself next to Mike this time, holding a photograph of the late Bobbie McGee as the ceremony proceeded.
Mike’s sister, Tonya Anderson, had been the flower girl at the wedding 25 years ago. She bounced here and there Wednesday, taking photographs.
Jamie Talbert, Carolyn’s brother, also was in the audience. He had been ringbearer back then.
A purple boombox, sitting on the corner planter at the Square, provided the wedding march music and also a recording of Debbie King’s rendition of “We’ve Only Just Begun,” which she sang at the wedding in 1987. (She is Phillip’s wife.)
Wednesday’s renewal ceremony began at 3 p.m. — the same time as the long-ago wedding.
Still, a lot of things were different Wednesday.
Carolyn wore purple, not white.
Mike had a goatee in 1987. Now he sports a full beard. He wasn’t wearing glasses back then, either.
The colors for the 1987 wedding were yellow and white. Carolyn added purple flowers this time.
Mike received his same wedding ring, as the couple renewed their vows Wednesday. Carolyn scored a new ring — one with an amethyst (purple) stone.
Mike, who will be 45 next week, also was leaning on a cane that wasn’t part of the picture when he was 19.
Last year, he almost died from complications related to his back surgery.
McGee had struggled with back pain for four years and couldn’t walk without pain. He finally opted for surgery in May 2011 and, while recovering back home, came down with a fever.
When he began hallucinating and shaking because of his rising body temperature, Carolyn called for an ambulance. She thinks he died and came back to life as she held onto him on their way to the hospital.
In the hospital, McGee came close to death again, as he battled his staph infection. Doctors placed him on heavy doses of antibiotics, followed by months of occupational and physical therapy.
Mike’s mother, Gwen McGee, says her son vowed last year that if he ever walked again, he would celebrate his 25th anniversary with Carolyn by renewing their vows on the Square.
Tonya Anderson says Carolyn was with Mike every day for almost three months in the hospital.
“I still love her to death,” Mike said, comparing the way he feels now about Carolyn to how it was 25 years ago.
The couple’s son, Michael Jr., is 24, has two children and works for Duke Energy.
Meanwhile, Mike and Carolyn are in the process of adopting 3-year-old “Dessie,” who they’ve raised since she was two weeks old.
Dessie stood at the feet of Mike and Carolyn during Wednesday’s proceedings — until she had to go to the bathroom.
Carolyn said she has learned over the years that her husband is a good musician (guitar and bass) and a comedian.
“If he’s in a good mood, there’s never a dull moment,” she said. “I’ve got a good man.”
As the afternoon ceremony was winding up, Cheryl Goins, owner of Pottery 101, emerged from her store and presented the couple with a gift.
The couple and their relatives were overwhelmed at the gesture.
It was a good omen for a family whose marriages seem to last.
Mike and Carolyn now have 25 years under their belts.
Gwen and Bobbie McGee were married 50 years before Bobbie’s death.
And the 91-year-old Rev. Horace King Sr. reminded Wednesday’s crowd that he and his wife, Lucy, have been married an impressive 71 years.
“And we’ve never been separated,” King said.
A passing car honked its horn, as if to say, “Amen.”
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@