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‘Nothing stops us:’ Amidst coronavirus and protests, octogenarians tie the knot

Back in December, they set their wedding date for June 6. And June 6 it would be – pandemics or lockdowns, protests or curfews.

“At our age, you don’t postpone a lot of stuff,” said Bob Chesney, 80.

So last week, he and his bride, Nancy Vanderplas, 81, exchanged vows at their Huntington Beach townhome.



Simultaneously, a large Black Life Matters protest was finishing up near the pier. Concerned about potential looting, cities around Southern California had set curfews that night – causing wedding guests to worry whether they could get back home.

And then there was coronavirus.

“It was a grand slam,” said Chesney, a promotional video producer.

But none of that stopped the soon-to-be Nancy Chesney from charging ahead. As a special events coordinator with friends in the right places, she could go through the back doors of closed businesses even as the pandemic took hold.

A jeweler helped with designing the rings; a clothier arranged a private rendezvous for her to choose a gown. She likewise knew just who to call for floral arrangements and that rhinestone-embellished cake.

With the usual channels unavailable, the lovebirds obtained their marriage license at a “pop-up courthouse” in the parking lot of Anaheim’s Honda Center.

It all came together just as they had originally envisioned, albeit with a smaller audience.

“Nancy came gliding down the staircase looking like the princess that she is,” her husband gushed.

In socially distanced clusters, about 40 friends and family members looked on. Another 50 celebrated via Zoom – some remotely sipping champagne and sporting their Sunday best. The bride’s young-adult grandchildren served as bartenders.

“It was pure delight,” Nancy Chesney said.

Her son made a surprise appearance from Big Bear. Facing health issues, he initially thought coronavirus would keep him away.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw him standing there,” Nancy Chesney said.

The Chesneys both lost their longtime spouses in 2013. Nancy then lived in North Tustin, but soon afterward downsized to her current house. Bob lived in Fountain Valley.

“I dated because I like to get dressed up and go out,” said Nancy Chesney. “But I never dreamed I’d get married again. At 80, you think twice.”

Then two years ago she spotted Bob at Shepherd’s Grove Presbyterian in Irvine. Finding him attractive, she tried repeatedly to strike up a conversation – finally resorting to flattery.

“He ignored me until I complimented a video he made for church,” she said.

The two discovered a mutual affinity for theater and concerts. But Bob Chesney, too, felt in no hurry to remarry.

“When you’re only buying one ticket, you get a better seat,” he joked.

Bob eventually moved in with Nancy – which brings him to a funny story: “Someone asked if we were married and I said, ‘No, we’re lovers. I got a shot to the ribs for that one. She said, ‘You’re  telling church people we’re lovers?””

A year ago on Father’s Day, he surprised her with a sapphire ring, saying it could mean anything she wanted it to mean. She decided she wanted it to mean their engagement.

Although she received “some lovely things anyway,” Nancy Chesney did not anticipate gifts. “At this point in my life,” she said, “I have enough toasters and coffeepots.”

Bob Chesney said he hopes their love story “inspires other people to pack it in.”

“We don’t think of ourselves as old,” Nancy Chesney said. “We have dreams and plans. We go, go, go. Nothing stops us.”

Source: Orange County Register

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