In November 1987 I performed the wedding for Richard and Ellen. Richard was a counselor at the Iowa State Penitentiary. Ellen was a cocaine addict. The Pen had the look and feel of an old James Cagney movie.
You had to be tough minded and physically capable to be a counselor at the prison. Richard was both of those.
Ellen was a sweet young woman. She had a young child, a girl with beautiful red hair. Ellen hated her addiction and committed herself to treatment several times. She used to make money to support her habit by stealing Social Security cheques out of rural mail boxes. Living on Social Security myself now, I can feel how terrible the theft of those cheques were for the victims.
They were an unlikely pair and, no, they did not meet in the prison. When Ellen was incarcerated, it was the county lockup.
They met in church!
To say the least Ellen was well known within local law enforcement circles. But, as I have said, she was kind and adorable despite her addiction. I did one of the talks for her treatment when she was in residential recovery care. I did her 4th, 5th, and 6th step with her. The 12 Step program was virtually the only tried-and-true program at the time.
They were so in love. I remember trying to help them take seriously the obstacles ahead, given each of their situations-in-life. But they were determined. So, in November 1987 on a Friday I led them through their vows in the church. I was determined to do the service in the church, even though there were those who objected.
After all, there were a lot of people that rejected Jesus too. He would have loved both Richard and Ellen. I wonder if they are still together after 31 years. Maybe I’ll see if I can find them. They truly constituted an extraordinary bond in my book.