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Oaths and VowsTown Hall
June 13, 1969
"The first thing you need to do is fill out this worksheet," Said town clerk Sally Sawyer, handing a blank form across the counter "After completing it, you give it back to me and I'll type up your marriage license."
Twenty-one-year-old Richard "Skip" Hayward coolly wrote his biographical information under the column labeled "Groom." Looking over his arm, seventeen-year-old fiancee Aline Champoux twirled one of her pigtails. Her long strands of brunette hair dangled over the front of her shoulders and sprawled over her chest. Her thin, nicely shaped legs beneath her miniskirt showed off her early summer tan, her sleeveless halter top drawing attention to her youthful, 108-pound figure.
"You are Aline's mother?" Sawyer asked, turning to fifty-year-old Betty Charnpoux, who stood behind Aline wearing a conservative redand-white-checked summer blouse.
"Yes," said Mrs. Champoux, her mind preoccupied. Days earlier her husband, Leo, a lifelong smoker, had been admitted to a Veterans Hospital in Rhode Island where he was diagnosed with lung cancer. His life expectancy was less than one year.
"When they're finished filling out their portion of the form," Sawyer continued, struggling to make eye contact with Betty, "you'll need to sign the back, granting your permission for your daughter to marry as a minor."
Betty affirmatively nodded her head in silence. Both she and Leo had complained to Aline that she was too young and Hayward too financially undisciplined for marriage. But the onset of terminal cancer had sapped any strength theypossessed to fight Aline over her choice for a husband. Nor would it have done any good. She had fallen hard for Hayward the moment she met him, while on a blind date during her sophomore year.
It was early in 1967 when Champoux, then fifteen, told her parents that she and her best friend, Debbie Sherwood, were going to the Friday night basketball game at their high school in Coventry Rhode Island. Instead, they sneaked off to Ledyard, Connecticut, nearly a forty-fiveminute drive away, to meet Sher-wood's boyfriend, Fran Pyle. When they arrived at Fran's house, he introduced Sherwood and Champoux to his best friend, Skip Hayward, a strapping, six-foot two-inch nineteen-yearold with broad shoulders. Aline immediately noticed his brown eyes and wavy black hair that hung over the collar of his button-down red shirt with yellow polka dots. His blue jeans were held up by a black leather belt, the buckle situated off to the side of his thin waist. Aline thought he looked like Jim Morrison,
When Pyle and Hayward invited the girls dancing, they eagerly accepted. By the end of the night, Champoux had agreed to be Hayward's girlfriend. For a young Champoux, he had the qualities she responded to. He was a great dancer. He loved rock and roll, although his favorite singer was Johnny Cash. He owned a Honda motorcycle and his own horse.
"Here, Aline," Hayward said, handing her the worksheet. "You need to complete your half"
Smirking, Champoux filled in the column under the word "Bride" and handed it back to Sawyer, who reviewed it for completeness.
Groom's Name: Richard Arthur Hayward. Date of Birth: 11-28-47.
Race: White. Occupation: Pipefitter.
Birthplace: New London, Conn.
Residence: North Stonington, Conn.
"Everything looks good there," Sawyer said, reading on.
Bride's Name: Aline Aurore Champoux.
Date of Birth: 11-22-51.
Age: 17. Race: White.
"Oh, Ms. Champoux, you forgot to fill in line 14," Sawyer said, pointing to the heading "occupation."
"I don't work yet," she said sheepishly. "I just graduated from high school yesterday."
"Oh, well, I'll just put 'student' there," Sawyer said. "Now if you'll wait just a minute, I'll be back with your license."
Hayward reached for Champoux's right hand, smiling confidently as he clenched it tightly while waiting for Sawyer to return. Resting her head against his arm, Aline stared down at the engagement ring on her other hand. Hayward had never formally asked her to marry him. Instead, one day he took her on the back of his motorcycle to Zales, a department store that sold jewelry and paid $100 for a tiny diamond. It was all that he could afford on his meager salary as an apprentice at the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics. He had not attended college and had no career plans. To cut down on wedding costs, Aline sewed her own dress by hand. No wedding announcements were ordered. Instead of a reception, they planned a breakfast with their immediate family.
"Look over the license and make sure that everything is correct as typed," Sawyer said, handing it to Hayward.
Saying nothing, he scanned it, then gave it back.
"Everything is correct?" Sawyer asked.
"OK. Each of you raise your right hand," Sawyer instructed.
Tentative, Aline looked up at Skip, whose eyes were focused on Sawyer's. Wide-eyed, Aline faintly raised her hand, her fingertips barely reaching Skip's shoulder.
"Do you both solemnly swear that the information contained in this license is true and correct to the best of your knowledge, so help you God?"
"Yes," Skip said, his raspy voice drowning out Aline's soft whisper.
"Now, you both need to sign the license right here," said Sawyer, pointing to blank lines beneath their typed names.
Betty looked on in stone silence as Aline signed her name below Skip's. She was too numb to cry. She was losing her husband to a disease with no cure and her teenage daughter to a man with seemingly no future.
Sawyer signed the license and stamped it with the town seal. Folding it, she placed it into a white self-addressed envelope and handed it to Skip. "You give this to the person who is going to be performing the ceremony And it is that person's responsibility to return the license to us after the wedding."