Through no small feat, leukemia survivor Ralph Duquette rose from his wheelchair to walk his daughter down the aisle. A surprise nobody saw coming.
The father of the bride had undergone several struggles after his cancer diagnosis, including extensive chemotherapy, blindness in one eye, and had even been in a coma, waking up after five days. His doctor’s diagnoses were often more grim than inspiring, but Duquette was determined.
The wheelchair-bound father told WLBZ2, “When a father is presented with their daughter for the first time, they know how it’s gonna end – that they’ll have to give her away and I’d have to walk her down the aisle one of these days, you know?”
But when his battle grew more difficult, his hope of fulfilling his fatherly duty faltered. “I’ve known that for all my life, and when I got ill it was like, it’s never gonna happen.”
The bride, Heather, reiterated their grim beliefs to ABC News, saying, “We had talked about it about a year ago but we realized in the condition he was in it just wasn’t going to be possible.”
With the help of physical therapists, and despite the odds against him, Duquette began the journey to re-learn how to walk for the wedding. He started to gain the strength to stand, and then to step, just so he and his daughter could have that memory of walking her down the aisle.
“It was very difficult to stand and take small steps at a time,” Duquette told WLBZ2. “Then we gradually got to the back door, down the stairs, figured out the length that I had to walk from the stairs, like 50 feet down. I fell a few times.”
In order to keep the surprise from everyone – his daughter included – he practiced “two or three times a day” during the summer when no one else was home. According to ABC News, only the physical therapists, Duquette’s caretaker and the wedding DJ knew his secret.
At his daughter’s wedding on October 10, Duquette received some assistance to stand from his wheelchair, but it was just the pair, father and daughter, who walked arm-in-arm down the aisle.
“My dad was helped up out of the wheelchair and walked over to me and I just started crying,” Heather told WLBZ2. “I was scared and nervous and sad and happy all at the same time.”
“When she grabbed my hand I sort of felt safe and walked down,” Duquette explained to ABC News, “It was so amazing, she was so happy. It was something that every father dreams of.”
Heather also said that her father was strong enough during the reception for the two to fulfill another special wedding tradition, the father-daughter dance. The pair joined together on the dance floor for Al Martino’s “Daddy’s Little Girl.”