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UpSide Classic: Fifty years later they got the wedding of their dreams

In front of 18 guests, under the shimmering haze of the white sky, June and Norman renewed their vows.

Norman and June Baldwin renewed their vows 50 years later.
Norman and June Baldwin renewed their vows 50 years later.Read moreFile

This article originally appeared in The Inquirer on June 16, 1994.

The letter said he was about to be sent overseas, part of the intensifying American effort in World War II.

So June Schoellkopf left her home in Merchantville and boarded a military train in Philadelphia and headed toward the Army Air Corps base in Walla Walla, Wash., where her fiance, Norman Baldwin, was stationed.

For six days, she was the only woman on the train. But aside from a young man sitting next to her who fell asleep with his head on her shoulder, everyone respected her engagement ring.

The train pulled in at 3 a.m. Because her hotel room would not be ready until later in the morning, June drove with Norm to a quiet open hill, where they spent a few hours talking under the stars.

By dawn, they decided to wait no longer to get married and hastily bought wedding rings for $57. June picked up a pink-and-white polka-dot silk dress, and Norman got clearance for her to come onto the military base. With 10 members of Norman's crew standing up for them, June and Norman were married on June 4, 1944.

Fifty years later, the Baldwins are still married. And in all that time, June has had only one regret, she said — that her family and friends never got the chance to see them as bride and groom.

Yesterday, she remedied that. In front of 18 guests, under the shimmering haze of the white sky, June and Norman renewed their vows at the Old Pro Golf Course on Route 70 in Cherry Hill.

The invitations that had been sent out mentioned only an anniversary luncheon and a round of miniature golf. The guests arrived wearing shorts, T- shirts and sneakers. For nearly a half hour, they sipped drinks and tried to stay cool inside the small arcade area attached to the course — which is owned by June’s brother — waiting for the Baldwins to arrive.

What an arrival it would turn out to be. A bagpiper wearing a kilt marched across the parking lot, blowing the notes to the "Wedding March," while a white stretch limousine followed slowly behind. The guests waiting inside shrieked at the sight, clapping and cheering.

That was nothing compared to their reaction when the limo driver popped open the trunk and pulled out a red carpet he then unfurled beneath the passenger door. With their friends roaring, Norm and June gracefully stepped from the car.

"Well, it's about time you two got married!," screamed Lorayne Pims of Haddon Township, who has known the Baldwins for about 43 years.

The two promenaded down the carpet, Norm in a traditional black tuxedo, June in a sleeveless white chemise dress with a row of feathers ringing the hem and a set of rhinestones circling her neck.

They entered the arcade area, and with the rumbling of trucks passing by on Route 70, turned to face each other and repeated their vows.

"I vow to laugh with you in joy, to grieve with you in sorrow, and to grow with you in love," June said.

Then, pulling back her veil, she smiled and said: "I still love you, and you may now kiss the bride. "

The “newlyweds” toasted each other with champagne chilled in a silver bucket — a far cry from the strawberry shortcake and ice cream they shared in the base mess hall with a group of German prisoners of war after their wedding in 1944.

“The prisoners were very nice — they had made us this huge sign that said ‘Congratulations’ and hung it up in the mess hall,” June said.

She broke the news of her marriage to her parents with a simple, practical telegram:

"Dear Mom and Dad: Guess what? I'm married. Please send ration stamps. "

Norman would leave for Europe six weeks later, and fly more than 50 missions as a radio man-waist gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber. He wrote his new wife every day, and when he made it home safely, the couple settled down in Marlton and raised three children.

Last week, the Baldwin children threw an anniversary party for their parents in Washington. Yesterday, the family and friends who had been unable to attend that event got a second — actually a third — chance to celebrate the Baldwins’ wedding.

“I just feel so blessed and so lucky to be able to have this day,” June said.