By Darrell Todd Maurina
Skip Haneline and Guyla Keefe had never been to Fort Sumner before Tuesday. But it seemed the natural place for the couple from Nebraska to get married.
Both of their parents had been married in the DeBaca County community. Besides, the residents of Fort Sumner were quite inviting.
“When Mr. Haneline called me and said that they wanted to get married in Fort Sumner but didn’t know where to start, I said, ‘I can probably help you because my son is the judge,’” said Sandy Paul, executive director of the Fort Sumner Chamber of Commerce. “One thing kind of led to another. I was talking to some of my friends and one said, ‘We can make a cake,’ one said, ‘We can furnish punch,’ and we said, ‘We can turn this into a real wedding.’”
By the time the chamber of commerce finished its work, the couple received everything from flowers to groceries to candy baskets to hotel rooms to meals from local restaurants.
All of that work was unexpected by the couple.
“We sort of thought we might see the judge, walk around town a little bit and leave, but Sandy has made a very special event of this,” Haneline said. “The whole town has turned out to be behind our wedding, it’s a nice thing.”
Haneline said both his parents and his wife’s parents knew each other when they were stationed years ago at Fort Sumner.
“My father was in the service at the time when there was a POW camp there for German prisoners,” Haneline said. “My grandmother drove down there to take my mother to Fort Sumner to be married, because they were engaged before he entered the service. He knew a gentleman who worked at the same base and he introduced this guy to my soon-to-be wife’s mother. They both got married there.”
After the war, both Haneline’s parents and Keefe’s parents moved back to Nebraska. The two were both born in the same hospital nine days apart, but drifted apart after they graduated from high school. The two met again at the funeral of a family member three years ago.
“We rekindled old relationships and we decided that the place we should be married was Fort Sumner, New Mexico, because that’s where our parents were married,” said Haneline.
Haneline said they appreciated what they have seen since arriving in Fort Sumner.
“I’m just surprised at all the work these folks went through to make this wedding as fantastic as it’s been,” Haneline said.
Wedding planning isn’t something the local chamber of commerce usually does, but Paul said she was glad to be able to help.
“We don’t want a tourist to feel like a tourist; we want a tourist to feel like they are at home and to be treated like home people,” Paul said.