A family affair in the truest sense of the word. When Alison Ferrell and her husband, Matthew Ferrell, married at Old Saint Vincent’s Church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on May 13, there was one very special person in attendance, seated right up by the altar: Her 92-year-old Uncle Bill Lee Eblen.
Eblen, who served in both World War II and the Korean War, was more than just a wedding guest, however. He was also Alison’s “something blue” in his Marine dress blues.
“Uncle Bill was seated by the altar throughout our ceremony so I was able to see him as soon as I walked down the aisle,” Alison, 30, tells The Knot. “We caught each other’s eye during the ceremony and I felt an immense amount of pride and joy seeing him in his dress blues. It made me happy to see him highlighted in a special way that day. He deserves all this recognition and more. He has such a big heart and is a very compassionate man. A true American hero in our family.”
Alison had the idea to include Eblen in her ceremony as soon as she got engaged. (Matthew, 34, an attorney in Cape Girardeau, popped the question at the site of their future home in September 2016.)
“I come from a large, close-knit family where we were taught to have the utmost admiration and respect for those in the armed services, so having Uncle Bill as my ‘something blue’ seemed like the perfect fit,” Alison, a speech-language pathologist, says. “I wanted to find a way to honor him, and my husband, being from a family of war veterans himself, was on board with the idea.”
The couple’s unique plans were nearly thwarted, however, when Eblen came down with a case of pneumonia. Knowing that he needed to get well so he could be a part of the Ferrells’ big day “became a motivating factor in his recovery,” Alison continues. “While there were definitely some ups and downs in his recovery, I never doubted he would be there for my wedding day. He is a Marine, after all!”
In an interview with ABC News, the proud uncle said, “I immediately started doing more calisthenics, walking more instead of riding my little three-wheel bike. Then all the people around here were talking about, ‘You gotta get back in shape again. You’re laying around on your you-know-what too much.”
With dedication and perseverance, along with a little help from neighbors and family members, Eblen was able to locate all the necessary pieces to put together an outfit resembling his original Marine blues. He was wheeled down the aisle holding a sign reading, “I’m her something blue,” and the touching images, shot by photographer Claire Bira, have since gone viral.
“The past few days have been a whirlwind with all the media attention, but it has brought our entire family a lot of joy to see how touched and inspired others are by our Uncle Bill, or as social media has started calling him, ‘Uncle Blue,’” Alison concludes to The Knot. “The kind messages of gratitude he has received have had him grinning from ear to ear and he is genuinely very happy. His favorite saying is ‘Let there be Love,’ and he has certainly been shown a lot of it from all over the world.”
As for Alison’s three other items? Her “something old” was her grandmother’s wedding ring; her “something new” was a necklace Matthew gifted her on their wedding day; and her “something borrowed” was her godmother’s bracelet.