World War II Navy veteran Leroy Hartman wasn’t a pilot.
But when he got back to the states, he married his wife, Bernice, mid-air in an airplane.
The two 87-year-old Port Huron residents celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary Friday at the St. Clair County International Airport by taking another ride in the sky in a small Piper Warrior airplane. Leroy Hartman said the clear skies in 2014 were similar to their wedding day in 1948.
“I’ve been in a few airplanes since then — I don’t think a flight can be compared to that day,” Leroy Hartman said. “There was crowd of people around. It was quite something”
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The couple didn’t have much money
when they decided to get married, so Bernice — her maiden name is Hickson — entered a Port Huron Times Herald contest for a free wedding ceremony on a twin-engine plane during an air show near Harbor Beach.
Leroy Hartman said the pilot that day was his best man and the preacher married them when they were in the air.
The couple have seven children, and whenever the pair fly to visit them, Hartman said he thinks about that day.
“I got to be married to the best woman in the world,” he said. “We’re still together after all these years but, then again, you can’t find a better wife than I’ve got.”
Friday’s plane ride was a surprise gift from their daughter, Julie Loeding, of Lexington. She said she called her parents yesterday and told them to be ready for a trip, but they didn’t know what it was for.
“It was unplanned,” Bernice Hartman said. “I suppose we’ll go get something to eat now.”
Loeding said her father was always a lot of fun, and her mother made sure the house ran smoothly.
Pilot Scott McKeand, of Jeddo, said he took the plane to Port Austin as they searched for the site where the Hartmans landed as husband and wife.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t find it. It’s probably farmland now,” McKeand said. “But it was a beautiful day, you could see to the bottom of Lake Huron, and they had a great time.”
Leroy Hartman said he’s been blessed to spend his life with Bernice. He said that when he was in the Navy during WWII he had a few close calls and afterward he thanked God for allowing him to return.
Leroy and Bernice were married on Memorial Day in 1948.
“We’ve struggled through our life, but the Lord’s been good to us,” Leroy Hartman said.