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How honesty gets you everything

Now, talk about an up-front and honest profile: He described himself honestly as a smoker with 11 children (ages 8 to 29) from two previous marriages. And he hadn’t cut his hair in 13 years.  And he STILL got the girl.

Elopement wraps up romance with a bow
By Joe Blundo

BERLIN, Ohio—Keeping marriage plans secret isn’t easy when the bride and groom have 15 inquisitive offspring between them.

Arlene Essinger and Kenny Link, both 49, got it done by eloping this month to a cabin in Amish country.

She wore a cranberry-colored dress and a wreath of roses in her hair. He wore his “dress sneakers.” A minister they’d met just minutes before pronounced them husband and wife, they kissed, and that was that.

It was a relief, the new Mrs. Link said.

“I don’t have to dance around questions my family keeps asking me.”

Their trip to Berlin, about 90 miles northeast of Columbus in Holmes County, had raised plenty of suspicions among relatives.

The Links confirmed them when they broke the news of their marriage to about 30 gathered for a cookout the weekend after the elopement.

“They thought it was an engagement party,” Mrs. Link said. “A couple of family thought it was going to be a wedding.

“So, after a while, everybody got over the initial shock, and I think we all had a good time.”

The couple’s elopement marked the culmination of a three-year romance that began online.

Mr. Link, a Mechanicsburg factory worker who believes in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach, ran a Yahoo! personal ad that softened no edges: He described himself honestly as a smoker with 11 children (ages 8 to 29) from two previous marriages.

The ad included a photo showing his hair, which hadn’t been cut in 13 years.

A mother of four (ages 16 to 30) who was living in Marysville, Essinger had recently divorced after 27 years of marriage. She initially considered Mr. Link more of an adviser than a romantic interest.

They chatted online for three months, with him schooling her on the Internet dating scene. His savvy and helpfulness impressed her.

“He’s a very intelligent man,” she said.

They met in person and began dating. Eventually, he cut his hair, although whose idea that was remains a he-said/she-said issue.

Mr. Link, an Air Force veteran, calls himself a “radical conservative”; he’s both anti-war and anti-tax. His new wife said she doesn’t agree with all of his views but she’s learning a lot.

She isn’t a person with strong political opinions or a penchant for speaking out.

They have other things in common, though.

Mr. Link had adopted four children; Essinger, two. He plays the piano; she’s a part-time music director at Hoge Memorial Presbyterian Church in Columbus. She wanted the freedom to pursue her goals; he encouraged her.

Mr. Link isn’t big on formality: He once wore a cardboard tie to a relative’s wedding. So an elopement suited him, although he insisted that the religious ceremony be preceded by a private commitment at which no one else would be present.

“There’s a plethora of symbols in our lives that mean nothing,” he said. “I don’t require a ceremony, but I will acquiesce if that’s what Arlene wants.”

He not only acquiesced but also made her a headpiece of roses and pipe cleaners for the service. And he hummed Wedding March as she made her bridal walk from the side door of their rented cabin to a patio where the minister waited.

The Rev. David Stutzman of Sugarcreek conducted a simple service in which he compared marriage to wine:

“My prayer for both of you is: Just like good wine that’s been sealed and tastes better with age, so will your marriage be.”

They exchanged rings, and the union became official.

“I’m not singing the recessional,” Mr. Link joked afterward.

The couple have different goals: Mr. Link, a Cleveland native, wants to retire from his job in two years and spend one baseball season as an usher at Indians games; then he wants to do service work, perhaps in a hospital. Mrs. Link, who recently completed a vocal-music degree at Capital University in Bexley with a minor in journalism, would like to work as a copy editor.

They’ve promised each other that in marriage they will continue the approach Mr. Link took in his personal ad: Be honest and speak plainly.

Which explains his cleanshaven face.

She asked him to remove a few days’ worth of stubble before the wedding.

“And I believe I said it plainly.”



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