Transforming H-Dock

Published in the July 2013 Issue July 2013 News Pat Belsole

This story began a few years back while attending a football function at a mutual friend, Dave Vagnoni’s house. Little did Dave know that he would eventually become my brother-in-law!

When I first met Joie, I proudly spoke of my daughter and her accomplishments and was soon greeted by the host who stated, “Ah, I see you’ve met my sister-in-law.”

Hearing this and looking around to notice a room full of men and only a few women, I opted to move on and socialize with others as I didn’t want any issues. Months later, Dave called me and asked if I would consider a blind date.

“With who?” I asked curiously. When he replied Joie, I said, “but she’s married to your brother!”  He let me know that his brother had unexpectedly passed a few years earlier. From then on, it was game on. Having many mutual interests and being the same age, we knew early on we had an opportunity of a lifetime.

Our dating quickly evolved into co-habitation and on Valentine’s Day 2011, we visited our local Hershey Italian Lodge and found what we thought would be a perfect place for our wedding. The date was set and we began preparations for our July 7, 2012, wedding. Rooms were reserved, menus were chosen and the guest list was developed.

This is where everything went awry.

Hurricanes Irene and Lee came back-to-back and doused central Pennsylvania with abnormal amounts of rain. Our kitchen, dining area, garage and basement all had water damage. Costly repairs were needed as mold began creeping into the kitchen cabinets from behind the drywall. With less than a year until our big day, we set out to repair the damage and remodel our kitchen before our out-of-town guests showed up.

Initially, we thought we had it aced. With our contractor chosen, cabinets ordered and tile picked out, we began the 3-4 week project with a committed contractor who would complete the repairs before moving to his next job. This is where Murphy’s Law sets in. The cabinets that came in were five different shades, the refund was a nightmare and took forever, more cabinets needed to be ordered, delivered and installed and then the tile debacle began. Wrong shades, different sizes and lack of availability took this four-week project to over six months overlapping what was to be our special day. We were living without a stove, kitchen sink, dishwasher, garbage disposal and had been surviving with a small crock pot and microwave for months. Our decision was to postpone the wedding until our life was a bit more manageable.

As you can imagine, the next few weeks were filled with many conversations about when and if we were going to be married. My future bride began to doubt my intentions and even questioned whether we would marry at all. It was not looking good! I reached out to our friend, President Judge Jeffery Schmehl, who would preside at our ceremony, to see if he had any available dates before the Labor Day weekend when he could officiate. His only open weekend was August 25. My fiancee was pleased to know that I had taken the steps and booked a tentative date. Where would it be? How could we pull this off with less than six weeks to plan everything? We had discussed having a lake wedding a few times in the past and had always came back to the, “What will we do if it rains?” issue. With summer soon over and my future bride’s patience running short, we decided to roll with it no matter the weather.

Our friend, Bob Szajna, gratefully accepted the duties as Master of Sound for the day and was accompanied for the ceremony and reception by April Schmehl. Our dock neighbors, Luke and Sallie Reissman, unknowingly got involved when we joked about getting married under the radar arch of their houseboat as the name of their boat is All You Need Is Love. How perfect!

Since it sounded like a good idea, we decided to approach them after hosting breakfast one morning.  Little did we know, their agreement and enthusiasm would lead to the best wedding many of the attendees will have ever witnessed.

Our slip on H-Dock at Lake Raystown Resort in central Pennsylvania would soon be transformed. With little time to waste, invitations were ordered and the planning began. The next weekend on the dock was filled with volunteers and dock neighbors looking for any way to help out. Bret and Kathy Bowersox offered up their boat, Requisite, in order to host guests, and Dale and Denise Struck offered to put their boat, Wish You Were Here, in our slip. By doing this we situated the three largest houseboats together in order to accommodate everyone. In lieu of a wedding gift, we asked if each dock guest could bring a covered dish and we’d supply enough Fat Freddie’s barbeque for everyone….add a half barrel each of Labatt’s and Coors Light and everything began to take shape!

Over the next few weeks, plans began coming together as repeated “strategy sessions” were held. H-Dock never needs an excuse for a strategy session, but this time it took on special meaning, especially for us. Plans took place ranging from all the young men of the dock being ushers to all the male attendees opting to go for that famous T-shirt-that-looks-like-a-tux look. Our unofficial, unwilling, but qualified Mayor of H-Dock Rob Hemminger, even became an ordained minister in order to bless our special event. My sanity was questioned by my bride-to-be, among others on the dock, when I pressure-washed the two tiers of steps leading down to our boats. Little did she know that the chalk fairies would show up early the morning of our wedding.

Sallie and Luke offered to host the rehearsal dinner. An Italian buffet was served along with our typical choice of H-Dock beverages. We went through everything one more time and made sure everyone was comfortable with the schedule of events. With the forecast looking towards a sunny wedding day, we all relaxed and enjoyed some pre-wedding game activities.

As the sun broke, the dock became alive, albeit by force. Groom-zilla awoke in a panic and at 7 am, I began to pace feverishly up and down our dock. Where are the chalk ferries? Where is everyone that would decorate the steps? Where are the people who promised to blow up balloons and tie them off? I retreated to Parrotise and slammed some java. Already more than an hour behind schedule, missing the balloons and ribbon, it seemed like we were headed for a noon disaster. As the morning turned out, everything came together and was ready for my future bride when she approached the dock. Tearing as she approached our pier and saw its transformation, this reinforced to her what today was all about. As Joie was getting her hair done by dock mate Trudy Smith, I remained an excited mess next door.

The time had come, the music started and we all awaited the official wedding music to begin. Seated in typical H-Dock style, all the young ushers made sure attendees had a drink of their choice in hand as they took their seats. We thought this was a great idea until about five minutes before the wedding was to begin, Bob announced over the PA system that it would be a good time to refill glasses before the wedding starts. You can only imagine the mad exodus to the kegs on this sweltering sunny day.

The entrance song for the groom and wedding party was none other than All You Need is Love in celebration of the event hosted onboard a boat by the same name.

As I reached the top of the stairs, I was handed a microphone and began to lead the chorus for this appropriate Beetles classic. With everyone on their feet and the song ending, I called out to my bride-to-be as All or Nothing by Theory of a Dead Man began to play. After catching her gown in the spiral staircase, she entered on the second verse to cheers from all three hosting houseboats.

Our wedding was anything but traditional. We exchanged our personal vows and as a sign of my eternal love, I presented my bride with her ring. In return, she offered up a toast of ‘Zyr’ vodka as a sign of hers. As everyone watched with curiosity wondering what would be next, vows were exchanged and we enjoyed our ceremonial kiss! After we were presented to everyone as husband and wife for the first time, Reverend Rob Hemminger was called to the makeshift altar to offer a blessing for our marriage along with the food we were about to eat.

As husband and wife, we thanked the attendees and publically praised our H-Dock family for not only coming together in helping us pull this off with such short notice, but for preparation of the food. While Come Together may have been an appropriate song to officially close the ceremony and begin the reception, we decided to lead everyone in nothing other than the appropriate Beetles classic With a Little Help from My Friends.

When it was all over, we couldn’t have planned a more perfect wedding day! Our H-Dock family pulled together in order to give us special memories of our wedding day that will certainly last a lifetime.

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