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Valley News Dispatch

Valentine's Day offers veterans a chance to renew wedding vows

Emily Balser
| Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, 4:09 p.m.
Suzanne Michalak gives her husband, Butch, a kiss during a renewing of their wedding vows on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, at the H.J. Heinz campus chapel in O'Hara during the National Salute to Veteran Patients.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Suzanne Michalak gives her husband, Butch, a kiss during a renewing of their wedding vows on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, at the H.J. Heinz campus chapel in O'Hara during the National Salute to Veteran Patients.
Suzanne Michalak reflects on her 54 years of marriage with her husband, Butch, during a renewing of their wedding vows on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, at the H.J. Heinz campus chapel in O'Hara during the National Salute to Veteran Patients.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Suzanne Michalak reflects on her 54 years of marriage with her husband, Butch, during a renewing of their wedding vows on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, at the H.J. Heinz campus chapel in O'Hara during the National Salute to Veteran Patients.
Suzanne Michalak puts her arm around her husband, Butch, during a renewing of their wedding vows on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, at the H.J. Heinz campus chapel in O'Hara during the National Salute to Veteran Patients.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Suzanne Michalak puts her arm around her husband, Butch, during a renewing of their wedding vows on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, at the H.J. Heinz campus chapel in O'Hara during the National Salute to Veteran Patients.

It's been 54 years since Suzanne and Francis “Butch” Michalak got married.

After dating for a couple of years, Butch proposed by offering Suzanne her pick of engagement rings.

“He got a hanky full of diamonds, and he said, ‘Pick one,' ” she said.

On June 27, 1964, they said “I do.”

There have been a lot of changes in those decades since marrying — moves, three children and illness — but their love has continued.

The couple was able to celebrate their marriage on Valentine's Day by renewing their vows at the H.J. Heinz Campus of the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System, where Butch, 77, receives treatment. He's been diagnosed with dementia and is nonverbal. The couple lives in Coraopolis.

“It was very special,” said Suzanne, 76. “I feel this was a little extra blessing for us.”

Butch served two years in the Army in the early 1960s. He was stationed in Germany.

The Rev. George York, chaplain of the campus chapel, said the hospital has been doing the Valentine's Day vow renewal for about eight years.

“It brings us closer to them,” he said.

The chapel was decorated with ribbon and flowers and music filled the air. A handful of people were there to observe.

The men were fitted with a boutonniere, and the women carried a small bouquet.

York said being able to see the Michalaks renew their vows was special. He recited Butch's vows for him.

“It means more to her right now to be able to tell him that she loves him,” York said.

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, emilybalser@tribweb.com or via Twitter @emilybalser.

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