By Ethan Weinstein
Nothing could stop Jessie Gagnon and Earl Kehoe from finally marrying. Kehoe’s stroke hadn’t. Covid hadn’t. And the couple certainly wasn’t going to let the day’s 90-degree heat delay their marriage any longer.
So on Tuesday, June 30, the couple’s family and friends gathered outside The Pines Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation on Allen Street for a small ceremony. The groomsmen wore purple bowties and purple suspenders over white shirts — the inverse of Kehoe’s white-on-purple. Gagnon, too, wore lavender as she walked past balloons and doting eyes to join Kehoe underneath a shady gazebo.
Together, Kehoe and Gagnon laughed lovingly through their vows. When they solidified their marriage with a kiss, yips escaped from the crowd. It was the culmination of a four-year engagement, and a particularly difficult year and a half.
On Jan 2, 2020, Kehoe suffered a rare stroke. “On my day off,” he said with a wry smile. He spent 30 grueling days in an ICU in Burlington before moving into The Pines. All the while, Gagnon stayed by his side, even as doctors question Kehoe’s chances.
When the pandemic hit, Gagnon and Kehoe were separated — The Pines did not allow visitors.
“We had to have contact over FaceTime,” Gagnon said, which was difficult, because Kehoe’s stroke had taken his voice. Instead of speech, the couple communicated with their faces.
At Kehoe’s behest, his nurse, Kim Dunbar, became an ordained minister to officiate the ceremony. On the wedding day — nine years to the day since the couple started dating — she read of love’s curative power before the visibly moved crowd. That the two could finally tie the knot seemed a miracle. And Kehoe is determined to continue defying the odds: “I am going to walk again.”
“Everyone: Earl has an announcement to make,” Gagnon said, acting as Kehoe’s megaphone. “Earl is coming home the end of July.”