Homeless couple weds in nursing home

Thursday, September 16, 2010 | 12:00 p.m. CDT

SAVANNAH — It took three weeks and some generous donations to get Karla Raymer a birth certificate, Social Security card and identification card, but that was all she needed to finally marry the love of her life Wednesday afternoon at Shady Lawn Nursing Home.

However different it may have been, she said she could not be more appreciative of the perfect wedding the home gave her.

Raymer, 48, and her new husband, Bill White, 51, met in Kirksville, seven years ago, and moved to St. Joseph in 2008. Shortly after, White was laid off from his job. Unable to find work, the couple found themselves homeless, living in tents near the Missouri River and eating most of their meals at the Open Door Food Kitchen.

It wasn't until Raymer fractured her hip, putting her in the hospital and then at Shady Lawn for recovery, that she began to have hope for a brighter future.

"I would never have dreamed of it, a wedding like this one," Raymer said. "It was the right time. God has been with us, and I want to thank everyone who is doing this for me — for us."

After learning that the senior housing assistance program would place only Raymer in an apartment following her recovery, Keri Edwards, social services director for the nursing home, and Joseph Belcher, an outreach specialist for the Social Welfare Board, worked together to officially join Raymer and White as husband and wife.

"I knew she wouldn't want to go anywhere without Bill," Belcher said. "I asked her how she felt about getting married, and she said he'd only asked her about a million times,so we started getting things together."

Everything from the flowers to the dress and even the rings for the wedding were donated to the couple by family, friends and staff members. Residents, staff, family and friends all gathered to watch the ceremony 2 p.m. Wednesday.

"It's really something to have here at the nursing home, and everyone's excited," Edwards said. "We probably won't see one of these again."

Sandee Chesser, of Savannah, donated the rings for the wedding. She said she first met Raymer while volunteering at the Open Door Food Kitchen months ago and has been her friend since.

"It's good to see something wonderful come out of something bad," Chesser said. "It's really something to see where they've been— where they came from, to seeing her and him so happy now."

Catholic Charities of Kansas City and St. Joseph is working to locate a home for the newlyweds. Once Raymer's fractured hip is healed enough, the couple will be moving to another city, where they hope to rebuild their lives.

"From this, I've learned God is there if you take the chance to listen," she said. "We've got a second chance and a new beginning together."

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