PASCO — Today when Elaine Minkiewitz and Otto Erdman pledge to be true to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, and to love and honor each other 'til death do they part, they will really mean it.
The couple, who both live at Tri-Cities Retirement Inn in Pasco, are 92 and 95.
"I'm the young one," she joked.
Erdman and Minkiewitz met last spring when both moved to the Retirement Inn.
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"It was fate, nearly love at first sight," she said. "He was there and I was there, and it just seemed right to be together. We probably annoyed a lot of people because we've spent all day and evenings together for months. It's been like one long date."
Neither remembers who popped the question.
"I think it was more a mutual conclusion that we'd be more comfortable and happier if we were married," she said, adding that cohabiting wasn't an option. "We're both Christians and just do not believe in people living together without marriage."
Erdman was born in Pomeroy, raised on a ranch outside Walla Walla and worked as a mechanic in Seattle for Pioneer Sand and Gravel, which later became Lone Star Sand and Gravel. He retired in 1978 and moved to the Tri-Cities with his wife, Mildred, who died in 1999.
Minkiewitz grew up in Eltopia, graduating from the high school in 1935, just before the school district closed. She attended beauty school in Seattle and worked for a short time in Yakima before returning to Pasco.
She worked at Aladdin's and Cherry beauty salons before opening her own shop, Elaine's, in her basement.
"I never had to advertise. I had my loyal customers who came to me for years and years," she said. "I didn't really retire. As my customers departed, in their own way, I became retired."
Her husband, Lawrence "Mickey" Minkiewitz, died in 1994.
"We've both been alone a long time," Erdman said. "Elaine and I get along just fine. We enjoy each other. It may not be a very long marriage, but it'll be a good one."
Minkiewitz agreed, saying, "Yes, our marriage could be short, but it suits our situation just right to be married. Now I'll have him and he'll have me."
Erdman's sister, Mary Novelli, 96, who also lives at the Retirement Inn, is happy for the couple.
"She's a nice lady. He's very fortunate," she said.
Since Erdman and Minkiewitz don't drive, their families and friends have pitched in to make their wedding day perfect. Even those living out of town have contributed, even if it's just supporting their decision.
John Minkiewitz, her son who lives in Marina del Rey, Calif., and his fianc, Angel Alger of Carlsbad, Calif., put together a big "wedding box," including the dress the bride will wear, wreathes of artificial flowers and the solution and equipment for blowing bubbles.
"I had fun trying them on," Alger said, adding teasingly, "I almost got you a big puffy one."
John Minkiewitz and Alger -- along with his service dog, Thelma, who is the designated "flower girl" -- are attending the ceremony with his brother, Mike Minkiewitz of Issaquah.
Erdman's daughter, Judy Fogel of Pasco, also has been working tirelessly.
"In fact, she bought the ring," her father said.
Also attending are his children, Sharon Hoeft of Hermiston; Don Erdman and Bill Erdman, both of Kennewick; and John Erdman of Richland, plus numerous nieces, nephews, grandchildren and great-grandchildren from both families.
The couple will be married in the library at the Retirement Inn by Pastor Jim Sinclair of the First Christian Church in Pasco. This evening, they will move into their new home, a room that they share at the Retirement Inn.
* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org