Family wedding sparks special memories

Published 4:30 pm Monday, October 13, 2008

Robert Vinson would have wept with joy. He couldn’t, so we did in his place.

“Rock”, as so many people knew him by that name, was my brother-in-law. He was more like an older brother than an in-law, always quick to offer advice, a joke, a pat on the back or a kick in the rear…whatever was needed in whatever situation.

In 1999, after a brave fight with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Rock Vinson left this world. He left behind his wife, my sister Cindy, a daughter, Elizabeth (aka “Betsy), and a son, Bryan.

This past Saturday afternoon on the wind-swept Outer Banks, Betsy married Todd Varel in front of family and friends gathered at the Currituck Club in Corolla. For my niece, it was 30-plus years of waiting for just the right man. I think she found a winner in Todd.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Rock on this grand day. He would have been so proud of his beautiful daughter and handsome new son-in-law. If Lou Gehrig’s Disease had not cut short Rock’s life, he would have placed Betsy on his arm on Saturday, sending her on her way to a new, wonderful life with the man she loves.

He wasn’t there on Saturday in life, but he was definitely there in spirit. Despite a cool, overcast day, I, and perhaps others, could feel Rock’s warmth.

That special feeling wasn’t only limited to thoughts of Rock Vinson.

October the 11th is not a favorite day among members of my family. It was on that day in 2004 that my mom, Blanche Joyner Bryant, drew her last breath on this Earth.

As her first grandchild, mom was always so proud of Betsy. After I moved away from home, I could count on mom to give me “Betsy updates”…what collegiate degree she was working on now; what number boyfriend she had kicked to the curb; when she was coming home.

When I found out that Betsy and Todd had set their wedding day for Oct. 11, I knew it wasn’t a coincidence. Rather, it was a two-fold reason; to honor the life of my mom and to make Oct. 11 a day of celebration rather than sadness.

There were plenty of family members present on Saturday to enjoy this celebration of a new beginning in life. Bryan, my nephew, and his cousin “Little Dan” Vinson (it’s nothing little about this grown man) served as the groomsmen. Bryan’s wife, Christie, an accomplished string musician who has performed with the North Carolina Symphony, played the violin. And, of course, my sister gave Betsy away.

In the audience were my brother (and chauffeur for the day) Tommy; my aunt Dare Jones (with husband Kelvin and granddaughter Danielle; all the way from Florida); and cousins Mary Ledden (with husband Charlie), Margaret Johnson, Debbie Warren and Betsy Morris.

We all turned out in our Sunday’s finest to witness a grand occasion where two individual lives became as one. Along the way, we bowed our heads and uttered a silent prayer that this new union will be blessed in the warmth and the love of those present and of those whose former lives helped guide Elizabeth Ann “Betsy” Vinson to this special day.

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Todd Varel. Here’s hoping you will forever remember this special day and the love that so many, here on Earth and in Heaven, have for you both.

(Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be contacted at or at 252-332-7207.)