Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wedding contest winners get a “second chance at love”

A couple’s deep love and close bond will help Beaumont celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Anna Flores and Jerry Johnson Jr. won the “Centennial Happy Ever After Wedding Contest” with their poignant story about a second chance at love. They grew up in the Pass, and their families knew each other. But they only got acquainted a few years ago through tragedy and misfortune.

Johnson had been engaged, but his fiancĂ© was tragically killed by a drunken driver. Meanwhile, Flores’ 15-year marriage had ended in divorce. But life kept drawing them closer together. Johnson had seen a beauty—inside and out—in Flores, and they dated and often talked on the phone for two hours at a time. Johnson began coaching her children in baseball, softball and football. On Oct. 6, 2011, Johnson got down on bended knee, handed Flores two dozen roses and asked for her hand in marriage as her children and brother looked on.

“It’s a miracle,” Flores said. “I really do thank God.”

Wedding plans

Flores and Johnson had joined several other couples in writing a story or preparing a DVD about their personal “love stories” in a wedding contest sponsored by the Beaumont-Cherry Valley Recreation and Park District. A panel of judges selected Flores and Johnson from a half-dozen couples. The contest winners will be married on Saturday, June 16 and will receive a complete, one-of-a-kind wedding package from the recreation and park district and local merchants. It will include free use of a new park district facility for their wedding, a cake, flowers, photos and a tuxedo for Johnson. Family members will bring a touch of home by catering a reception at the Noble Creek Community Center.

“It’s just a blessing this is happening,” said Flores. “Prayers are answered.”

When they pledge their love, Flores and Johnson will be the first couple married in the new Donna Franco Gardens at Noble Creek Park. It has a meandering stream overlooked by wooden walkway bridges. With Pastor Juan DelaFuente officiating for the New Creation Church, the couple will be joined by a party of more than 100 family and friends.

Giving thanks

Flores, 42, grew up in Beaumont, and now helps pre-school youngsters with special needs at Three Rings Ranch Elementary School and also works with Sundance Elementary School students in the After School Education Safety (ASES) Program. Johnson, 36, is a carpenter at work on a construction project at Los Angeles International Airport. They are both residents of Banning.

As they await their wedding, the couple thanks the park district and local merchants for helping fulfill their dream on this very special occasion. It will truly be a wedding of the century for a very deserving couple! And it is one of the many fun, informative, and otherwise meaningful centennial festivities leading up to the city’s 100th anniversary on Nov. 18.