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Wedding

The happy couple, Edward Guida and Nicole Hartstein-Guida with Nicole’s mom, Jane. Photo from Gurwin Jewish
In a clinical setting, a little room for love

On the 28-bed respiratory care unit at the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack, one might not expect to see twinkle lights, champagne bubbles and a chuppa, but that’s just what the staff and residents saw when Nicole Hartstein and her then fiancé, Edward Guida, surprised Nicole’s mother, Jane Hartstein, with a wedding.

From left, Rabbi David Altman, groom’s mom Mary Guida, Nicole Hartstein-Guida, Edward Guida and Mons. Joseph Calise

Jane, who was completely shocked upon seeing her daughter in her wedding dress, has been on a ventilator for more than three years, living at Gurwin for almost that long after a stroke. “I can’t believe this,” she said when she was wheeled into the decorated family room on the unit. “I’m just so happy, I can’t believe they did this.”

According to Nicole, she and her fiancé wanted her mother to be part of their wedding, but knew she could not make the trip to the New Jersey wedding venue on Sunday, May 26. So instead, they decided to get married at Gurwin prior to their scheduled wedding and reception, officially changing their anniversary, if only for those in the know. 

The “wedding” went on as planned at the West Mount Country Club in Woodland Park, New Jersey (and Jane live-streamed it on her TV at Gurwin), but Nicole and Edward knew that the important ceremony had already taken place.

For that ceremony, Gurwin staff transformed the family room on the respiratory care unit into a wedding chapel, complete with lights, Mr. & Mrs. signs and tulle. And when Jane was wheeled in, she burst into tears, so happy to be able to share in her daughter’s joy.

The happy couple

When Nicole saw her mother’s tears, she had to wipe her own away, as well. “I know you wanted to be at our wedding, so we’re bringing our wedding to you,” she said, hugging her mom before she took her place to walk down the makeshift “aisle” outside the family room.

“A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri played and staff and residents watched as Nicole was escorted by her uncle, James Jacobs, into the family room where a small group of her family, including her mom, waited with the priest and rabbi. Nicole beamed as the ceremony made her officially Mrs. Hartstein-Guida.  “This is amazing,” she said.

An eight-year relationship lead up to this point, and Edward knew that his bride-to-be needed her mother to be at her wedding. “I just want Nicole to be happy, and I want her mom to be happy, too. We knew we wanted to do this,” he said.

As the kiss was exchanged and congratulations were expressed, Jane sat watching the festivities. “I can’t believe it,” she said, tearing up. “This is the best gift anyone could ever have given me.”

Photos from Gurwin Jewish

This is the season for speeches. We’re about to enter the graduation and wedding time of year, when principals, best men, maids of honor and valedictorians stand in front of a group of people and share their thoughts during these momentous occasions.

For those about to grab the microphone, I’d like to offer my top 10 list of things not to do in a speech — in reverse order.

10. Don’t make inside jokes that no one, outside of your best friend and maybe your sibling, understands. Looking at your friend after you’ve made a joke that no one gets and pointing back and forth between this other person and you only endangers that friendship.

9. Don’t make a speech without practicing. Find someone who can be helpful and not someone who thinks you shouldn’t change anything you do, ever. That honest person might prevent you from saying, “The groom is so lucky. He gets to sleep with Karen — I always wanted to sleep with Karen. I can’t wait to hear about it.”

8. Don’t correct yourself on small details, such as, “Remember when we had that school snowball fight in second grade? No, wait it was first grade, right? No, no, it was second grade. I was right the first time.” Most people won’t care about those details. They’d rather you got it wrong than hear you go play a one person game of memory ping-pong.

7. Don’t forget to thank everyone you should thank. You can acknowledge your friends for helping you get through those tough years, the writers of your favorite movies for giving you a chance to laugh, and the woman at the supermarket for encouraging you to submit an application that got you into a summer program. Never forget to thank your parents, any relatives who are in attendance and the teachers who somehow managed to educate you despite your insistence that their subject was irrelevant.

6. Don’t imagine that alcohol makes you a better singer. It doesn’t. Besides, there’s always an enormous collection of cellphones at any wedding. You can’t erase that horrible rendition of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Ever. Strangers will come up to you and screech at you.

5. Don’t quote someone else extensively. Winston Churchill was a tremendous speechmaker, JFK said some memorable things, too, as did Martin Luther King Jr. Audiences can read and have no desire to hear you butcher an extensive collection of words someone else delivered.

4. Don’t try to sell something. You’re there to support the graduate, the bride and groom and numerous families. This isn’t the time to suggest that people moved by your speech can pick up tissues at your store
because you sell the softest tissues in town.

3. Don’t talk about how difficult it is for you to give a speech. Chances are the audience supports you
anyway, so there is no need to tell them, over and over again. If you aren’t particularly good at public speaking, they’ll notice.

2. Don’t look down at your poorly written notes during the entire speech. If you look up once in a while, you won’t sound like you’re muttering anecdotes and advice in your sleep.

1. Don’t give a long speech. The most important part of any speech is to keep it short. Sure, you might be funny and have some words of wisdom that people will remember. And, yes, you might recall an
anecdote that sheds light on the people in your class. People want to eat dessert, go to a party, or throw their ridiculous square hats with tassels into the air for the annual picture of stupid hats in the air. A good rule of thumb for speeches: When in doubt, leave it out.

Mather President Kenneth Roberts (left) and former hospital administrator Arthur Santilli watch as Joanne and Ray Wolter cut a cake for their 40th wedding anniversary. Photo from Mather Hospital

What was supposed to be a special day for a Sound Beach resident and her husband-to-be 40 years ago took a sudden turn with little time to spare. Thanks to the efforts of her community hospital, the day became arguably even more memorable.

On May 14, 1976, a day before Ray and Joanne Wolter were supposed to be married at Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Port Jefferson, a giant monkey wrench was thrown into their plans. Her father, William P. Strauch Jr., walked into the family’s home and told the bride and her relatives, who were beginning to assemble for the wedding the next day, that he had just been in a car accident a few blocks away, and he had walked home.

“He was a tough guy,” Wolter said of her father at a 40th anniversary celebration at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital on Tuesday, where members of the Wolter family and hospital administration from then and now gathered to remember that unusual day.

After some convincing, Strauch boarded an ambulance to Mather Hospital, where it was found he had a punctured lung and a few broken ribs as a result of the crash. Doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to attend his only daughter’s wedding the following day. The hospital’s staff quickly sprung into action.

“I didn’t even have a chance to think beyond ‘oh my goodness,’ and somebody was there at my side offering me assistance and offering me a solution,” Wolter said.

Ray and Joanne Wolter’s 1976 wedding was the first at Mather Hospital. Photo from the hospital
Ray and Joanne Wolter’s 1976 wedding was the first at Mather Hospital. Photo from the hospital

Nurses from the emergency room spoke to then-Associate Administrator Arthur Santilli, who has since retired but made a surprise appearance at the celebration Tuesday.

“When she came to me and talked to me about this, I said, ‘Let’s offer them Mather,’” Santilli said Tuesday. “The wedding was an uncommon thing but anytime our community had a need, we stepped forward — as they still do.”

The wedding took place in a conference room at Mather the next day. A few weddings have occurred at Mather since, but the Wolters’ marriage on May 15, 1976, was the first time the hospital served as a wedding chapel. Nurses prepped Strauch, dressing him in his light blue tuxedo jacket with black pants, white shirt and black bow tie. When it came time for his daughter to be married, Strauch walked her down the aisle, and Joanne Wolter said there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

“The party I hardly remember, but the wedding piece I remember crystal clear and it was thanks to you folks and your compassion and your quick action,” the wife said Tuesday, as she thanked hospital administration for helping to make her wedding day happen.

Ray Wolter said his wife frequently comments on her favorite photo of her and her father from that day, which is displayed in their current home in Farmingville.

“Thanks to the leadership in this place, we were able to celebrate a day that could have been very difficult, especially for my wife who remembers that day — of course I do, too — being able to walk down the aisle with her father,” he said.

Joanne Wolter remembered the craziness of those 24 hours, and the difficulties of contacting 150 guests to let them know about what was going on in an era before cell phones. The reception went on as planned at The Wagon Wheel in Port Jefferson Station, which is now The Meadow Club.

“Our bond with Mather Hospital is a strong one … even now,” she said in an invitation to Tuesday’s anniversary event. “It’s our community hospital. It always will be. Every year we remember this day and how Mather went the extra mile for my family.”

Santilli downplayed the importance of his quick decision-making and accommodating actions: “We fix what we can,” he said.