Four times Retired Navy Chief William “Wild Bill” Allen asked his sweetheart to marry him before she said yes.
Allen, 91, and Jamie Simpson Shubert, 76, exchanged their wedding vows with smiles and laughter Sunday evening before a standing-room-only crowd. They were wed in the chapel at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, where Allen lives.
“She has a radiant personality,” said Allen, a World War II veteran who served for 22 years.
“I know how to pick ‘em.”
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They had met in January during karaoke night in a club at the Retirement Home.
“I’d never been to karaoke, and I don’t know why I went that night,” Allen said.
“She was sitting at the bar because all the chairs and tables were taken up, so I asked if I could sit with her and she said, ‘yes.’ We later sat on the balcony and watched the full moon.”
“We started talking and we started dating and something happened. We both realized we want companionship,” Allen said.
And they would sing karaoke. He said his favorite song is “I can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” and hers is “Moonglow.”
Friendship turns to love
Allen’s bride, a Biloxi resident and former school teacher, said she didn’t feel like they knew each other well enough when he asked her to marry him the first three times.
Things changed one afternoon as they sat on a bench at a dock and watched some fishermen.
“We talked and we talked and we must have sat there three hours,” she said. “I realized I love him.”
They had dinner at Steve’s Marina, her favorite restaurant, and she agreed to marry him.
“We should be old enough to know better,” she said with a laugh, “but we don’t.”
Shubert walked down the aisle in a shimmery, off-white outfit with palazzo pants and carrying a peach-colored rose. Her daughter was her maid of honor.
Allen wore his dress blue uniform, with his white cap under an arm. His son was his best man.
Laughter shared at wedding
Chaplain Michael Gibson officiated the ceremony, extolling the virtues of love, and at times stopping for laughter.
When asked if he would take Shubert as his wife, Allen smiled broadly and emphatically said, “I do.”
Allen became speechless at one point while reciting his vows. He turned to look at the chaplain, then turned to look at the congregation, and said loudly, “I’m excited!”
Allen kissed his smiling bride’s hands after she finished her vows. And he leaned over to kiss her lips.
“Not yet, Bill,” the chaplain said, eliciting laughter.
He pronounced them man and wife and they finally shared that kiss.
Gibson told the congregation they had truly witnessed a special occasion.
“We have far more funerals here than we do weddings,” Gibson said.
Guests joined the newlyweds in a reception at The Fiddler’s Green, a lounge and karaoke bar at the Retirement Home. The Allens picked the song, “Because of You,” for their first dance. “Tony Bennett, 1951,” the bride said.
Florida honeymoon planned
Because of the holidays, the Allens will delay their honeymoon until December. Allen said they’ve booked a room with a balcony overlooking the water at the Navy Lodge in Pensacola, Florida.
They will live separately. The Retirement Home allows only retired veterans to reside there.
But the couple said they don’t mind. It will still be like dating, they said. But they will be man and wife.
It’s Allen’s fourth marriage and his bride’s second.
Allen said he’s proud to live at the Retirement Home and to have served in WWII.
He joined the Navy at age 16 in May 1942 after the USS Houston cruiser was sunk. He became a radio and radar operator who flew in blimps to scope out the enemy and escort convoys to safety.
“We escorted over 80,000 ships and not a one was sunk,” Allen said.