A Father’s Love

February 1, 2009 | By More

Story by Dianne Edwards

This is my daughter, Rachael. She wants to marry either a king or a doctor, and she’s single.”

Those were the first words that Michael Hearndon heard from his future father-in-law, Dwight Hays, as he lay in the hospital with late- stage cancer, recovering from a stroke.

That was in February 2007, recalled Rachael, a beautiful blue-eyed redhead with a vibrancy that emits the moment she enters a room. Her father was a veteran and had been hospitalized at the Veterans Administration Hospital (Fort Logan H. Roots) in North Little Rock. It was there that she and her future husband, Michael, met. 

Rachael described the circumstances with clear, bright eyes and  a  strong voice.

“It was the first night that my father had been admitted to the hospital in North Little Rock. It was raining and very nasty. I had picked up my mom and we had gone to the hospital together.

“The team of three male doctors came into Dad’s room to discuss his physical condition. They begin to talk to him and he interrupted, introducing first my mother, and then me,” Rachael recalled.

But her father persisted. “This is my daughter, Rachael. She wants to marry a king or a doctor, and she’s single.” She said, “The doctors all giggled. I was mortified. My hair was a mess, I looked awful.”

As her father’s hospital stay continued, Michael dropped by frequently to talk with her father both during and after rounds. She and Michael talked and discussed her father’s worsening condition.

“He was kind, telling us what to expect, how Dad was doing. Michael and I eventually decided to go on a ‘date.’ Since he lived in Little Rock and I lived in the River Valley, we chose to spend an afternoon hiking on Pinnacle Mountain.

Michael later asked for my number, which my mother wrote on a piece of paper and handed to him.

“He lost the note so he never called. I told my father that I had given up finding anyone. I wanted a spiritual, caring individual.”

“On a following visit, my dad said that Michael was just such a person, very driven and spiritual, and that I should give him another chance,” Rachael remembered.

Though her father died in May 2007, the relationship, founded because of a father’s love and bold intervention, continued.

Michael proposed to Rachael on Easter of this past year. The couple has been together for two years, and Michael, who Rachael describes as a ‘Godsend’, is amazingly wonderful, helping her mom around their house.

“His parents own a farm in Mississippi,” she explained. “He’s very handy, use to fixing things.”

The engagement ring, which the groom-to-be selected only with the assistance of a jeweler, is quite unique and projects a traditional, vintage styling. Because of its uniqueness, the couple chose to continue a vintage theme for their entire wedding.

Rachael created the “save the date” cards herself, using hand- pressed flowers in the design. Her bridal gown, a Mori Lee creation with vintage reflections, is adorned with lace, beading and broaches and features cap sleeves and buttons up the back.

Before actually shopping for the dress, Rachael went online and looked through numerous magazines to find what she liked. She recommends this to every bride to be.

I thought I knew what I wanted. I knew I wanted something different,” Rachael explained. “I tried on several gowns first but even the gown consultant agreed they just ‘weren’t me.’ Then, my mother and my aunt, who were shopping with me, found the perfect dress. It was in the window and we’d all walked right by it.”

According to Rachael, Michael is glad that she and her mother are having fun planning the wedding. Michael’s mother, who lives in Mississippi, is also involved in preparing for the wedding and reception, creating crocheted table runners for the couple.

Rachael’s mother, Betsy, and her late husband both grew up in Atkins. Betsy works as the federal program coordinator for Atkins School District. Even before her father’s death, Rachael and her mom were very close.

“Since Mom and I are both involved with the school systems, we have to work on wedding plans around that schedule,” explained Rachael. “We’ve been going around, looking, planning – especially during summer vacation and the holidays when we were both off work.”

Rachael’s father, as well as well as both sets of grandparents who are also deceased, will be remembered during their wedding day. Rachael will carry a locket of family wedding photos with her bridal bouquet.

The wedding will be very family oriented, she continued. Rachael will be escorted down the aisle by her uncle, Bill Conley, to join her mother who will ‘give her away.’ The flowers will include roses but will be simple and subtle, continuing the vintage theme. The couple will leave the ceremony in a Vintage antique automobile, she added.

Photography for the engagement photo and the wedding are being taken by Tom Bagby, with whom the family has had an ongoing photographic history, explained Rachael.

Michael grew up and graduated high school in Lucedale, Miss., before attending and graduating from West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown, W.V. He was participating in an internship rotation in physical medicine and rehabilitation at UAMS in Little Rock when the couple met. He will complete his residency at UAMS in June. Following a honeymoon cruise, “which the location of which Michael is keeping a surprise,” the pair will move to Georgia where Michael has accepted a fellowship in musculoskeletal studies focusing on pain management.

Rachael, who teaches second grade at Crawford Elementary, is completing a master’s certification in both curriculum administration and building educational leadership. She will graduate in May, and though she knows she will have to re-certify following their move, she is anticipating their new life together.

Rachael Elizabeth Hays and Michael Lavell Hearndon will marry on Saturday, June 6, at Munger Chapel on the campus of the University of Ozark in Clarksville. Rachael recalled visiting the University of Ozark campus and being drawn by the beauty of the chapel. The University of the Ozarks was founded in 1834 and is a private, liberal arts-based university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. The 30-acre campus is located in Clarksville, about 28 miles west of Russellville.

The chapel, which was dedicated in 1933, was a gift of Ms. Jessie Munger of New Jersey as a memorial to her father, the late Raymond Munger, who was respected for his high ideals and strong educational values. The Gothic-designed chapel, built of limestone and trimmed with Nucarth stone, was constructed for $75,000.

A three-manual Reuter organ, rebuilt in 1991, graces the beautifully-carved oak interior of the quaint chapel. The antique cathedral glass windows are perhaps the most attractive feature in the chapel.

However, on June 6, the beauty of Munger Chapel will be outshone only by the love of a young couple, who – though brought together through the loss of her father – have found happiness. Rachael believes she and Michael have her father’s blessing.

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Category: Bridal

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