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A special wedding needed a special dress

By STEPHANIE HAYES, Times Staff Writer
Published November 30, 2007


SPRING HILL - Helen Tinley had everything in common with her husband, Harold. They loved history. She was creative; he was handy.

She knew how to wear clothes, and he loved it. He remembers the blue houndstooth suit she wore at the military YMCA dance when they met.

They had two kids. She stayed home until the boys were grown. Then she became a fashion coordinator in a Chicago store. Later she designed jewelry and painted pictures in her Spring Hill home that reflected her intrigue with history. She wrote a poetry book called Charleston Is.

Mrs. Tinley wrote this essay in the St. Petersburg Times in 2004 when she and her husband celebrated their 60th anniversary.

* * *

I was a war bride. A bride who carefully packed her wedding dress into a suitcase and traveled 3,000 miles to wed her fiance who was in the Air Corps.

Because I couldn't plan a traditional ceremony and reception, I decided that "my wedding dress should be special." I was convinced that if I shopped for it at Bonwit Teller, on Fifth Avenue in New York City, it would be.

Seated in Bonwit's elegant bridal salon, several dresses were brought to me before I decided on a light blue, two-piece, street-length gown. Everything about it pleased me except for a very large flower (made of many tiny blossoms) attached to the jacket. As the consultant in the salon removed the flower, she suggested it could be used to create a matching hat.

I still have the receipts from the sale to remind me that the cost for the dress was $70.70. Today that figure seems minimal, but for me, it meant about two weeks' wages.

I can still remember when the bright blue boxes arrived from New York. The hat box was quite chic - round with its own blue silk carrying cord. Inside my bridal hat rested on a cloud of white tissue - a flowered fantasy. As I placed it on my head, a short pale blue veil fell to my shoulders. I knew at once that everything was going to be special.

It was a quiet ceremony in a large, Spanish-style church. There was organ music, and as we exchanged vows, the beautiful notes of the Indian Love Call echoed throughout the vaulted, almost empty, church.

In time and after two babies, I slightly outgrew the size 8, pale-blue creation that I had cherished. Although carefully protected, its delicate blue color faded to gray. Strange spots began to pock the fabric. It saddened me to see it deteriorate, so one day, on impulse and while alone, I watched it disappear into ashes. The hat survived longer. Even so, white hair could never hide under brown netting.

The marriage? It has also lasted well."

* * *

Mrs. Tinley had a heart attack in August. She died Tuesday at 85.


Helen Tinley

Born: Feb. 16, 1922.

Died: Nov. 27, 2007.

Survivors: husband, Harold; sons, John and Mark; grandchildren, Virginia, Elizabeth, Caroline and Matthew.

Services: 11 a.m. Saturday at Brewer and Sons, 280 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill.

[Last modified November 29, 2007, 21:58:12]

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