After a series of health challenges, longtime couple Phyllis Bush and Donna Roof decided to do something joyful: marry in a courthouse ceremony.
Little did the retired Fort Wayne teachers and public education advocates know just how bright the Dec. 11 event would be.
With less than 24 hours' notice from Judge Andrea Trevino – who had Bush for honors English at South Side High School and offered to perform the wedding – former students and colleagues filled the third-floor courtroom as a surprise.
“We were pretty choked up,” Roof said by phone Monday.
“The feeling of love and kindness and generosity and thoughtfulness was so overwhelming,” Bush added.
Bush, who has cancer, contacted Trevino two days earlier seeking guidance about how to obtain a marriage license. She preferred making the trip as short as possible because her stamina is low.
Trevino, who was appointed as a magistrate for Allen Circuit Court in August 2013 and as judge for Allen Superior Court this year, gave Bush her availability for the week.
“Too much of what we do on the bench can be sad or depressing,” Trevino said by email Tuesday. “Officiating weddings filled with joy and happiness is a nice and welcomed change of pace.”
The couple told a few close friends, while Trevino reached out to their former students and colleagues.
“Phyllis is a legend at South Side High School – a teacher truly beloved by all,” Trevino said. “She supported us not only in our academics but in our personal lives and through friendship, even after our school days had passed. She cheers on her former students through Facebook, leaving sweet and encouraging messages about their life events and struggles, and more importantly, she shows up to support who and what she cares about in real life.”
Roof also taught at South Side but retired from Snider High School.
Attending the ceremony was a no-brainer for Jenee Johnson, who had Roof as a teacher. She commended Roof and Bush for making connections with students and supporting public education in retirement.
The couple helped form a grassroots group called Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education several years ago.
“They could be sitting on a beach somewhere in Hawaii,” Johnson said, “but they're not.”
Many made a special effort to attend the wedding, Trevino said.
“People rearranged work schedules and drove from other cities and states to be there,” Trevino said. “Over a dozen students and teachers who could not attend sent lengthy emails and/or videos of support. Flowers were sent to the courthouse for the ceremony by another former student who could not attend. ... Without knowing it, Phyllis and Donna connected our Archer family yet again.”
Johnson described the ceremony as pure love.
The couple didn't lose sight of the fact that they could marry because others before them fought for marriage equality, Roof said.
The show of support at the courthouse was, Roof said, “the best gift you could ever receive.”