Two Villagers who fell in love here in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown, completed the circle by tying the knot in a wedding Saturday evening at the home of friends in Bridgeport at Miona Shores.
“Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” asked Pastor Chris Holck of Live Oaks Community Church.
A moment of awkward silence followed as the bride’s two grown daughters, serving as bridesmaids, exchanged nervous glances.
“We do!” shouted the 70 guests gathered at the poolside ceremony.
Relieved laughter followed.
Katherine Henley lost her husband to dementia in December 2011.
“It was tough on mom,” said daughter Kelly Brode who had traveled down from Ohio for the wedding.
Meanwhile, Pete Coccionitti had gone through a difficult divorce.
Pete spotted Katherine at the Duval pool but was a little shy about taking the next step.
His friend, George Mayhew, elbowed him into action.
On Saturday, George served as Pete’s best man.
“They’re just a great, great couple,” said George. “I am so happy for both of them.”
Pete’s mother, who will soon turn 90, traveled down from the Buffalo, N.Y.-area for the wedding.
Traveling has been difficult for Ann Coccionitti in recent years, but she was determined to make the trip.
She said her son reminds her a lot of the man to whom she was married for 61 years.
Nicholas Coccionitti met his bride-to-be before he shipped out to serve in World War II. He was wounded in France and returned to marry the girl he’d left behind.
“He’s just like his dad,” she said. “And she is a wonderful lady.”
This was the second wedding at the home of Frank and Kathy Criste.
A few years ago, George and Joni Foster tied the knot at the same spot.
“I did not want to get married. Could not have cared less,” Joni said.
George and Joni happened to both be on the Villages Transportation shuttle from the Orlando airport to The Villages.
George, a widower, was vacationing in The Villages and needed a ride from the shuttle station to the place he was staying.
Joni took a chance and offered him a lift.
In November, they will mark four years of marriage.
Hostess Kathy Criste had been nervously watching the weather in anticipation of the outdoor wedding.
Turned out to be a spectacular evening.
“This might be a lucky spot to get married,” she said.