Skype allows woman to witness family wedding

MIDDLEBURY — Though they are separated by many miles, the Counter family remains a tight-knit bunch. So when Betty Counter, 87, had a medical issue that was going to prevent her from attending her granddaughter Cara’s Oct. 29 wedding in San Francisco, she was devastated.
“I wanted to go so bad, but it’s such a long way,” Betty, a longtime Middlebury resident, said on Monday as she convalesced at Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation.
She was resigned to having to experience the event vicariously through family accounts and photos.
Not so fast.
Betty’s great niece, Emily Dorezas of Los Angeles, had an epiphany on how Betty could witness the wedding without leaving the Porter campus using technology that wasn’t even a pipe-dream when her great aunt was a child: Skype, a service that allows people to communicate — and see each other — in real time over the computer.
“Both Betty and Cara had mentioned a couple of times they wished they could be together for that day,” Dorezas said during a phone interview. “Skype has been such a wonderful invention.”
The Skype plan gave Betty hope that she would not miss the big event thousands of miles away.
“(Emily) told me that Cara would like me to see the wedding, and she was going to set it up,” Betty recalled.
And set it up she did, thanks to nursing home officials, including Susan Bruce, director of education and community outreach.
“Emily called me and told me what they wanted to do — they wanted to Skype in the wedding,” Bruce said.
She explained that the nursing home has had a Skype station for quite a while, to enable residents to communicate with family. But most Porter residents have been reluctant — and perhaps a little too intimidated by the technology — to use it. So when the Counter family pitched their Skype plan, Bruce immediately jumped on board.
“We were pretty excited they wanted to do this,” Bruce said. “It would be our first time setting it up.”
Betty and some friends and family gathered around the computer screen in the nursing home’s community room during the early evening of Saturday, Oct. 29. They dressed appropriately for the occasion, and had cake and punch ready.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Dorezas and her helpers made their preparations. They propped a computer, outfitted with a camera, on a seat in the front row overlooking the outdoor altar, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Betty got to chat with her granddaughter Cara and others in the wedding party. She also saw the bride and groom exchange vows.
“This Skype made it feel like everyone was together,” Dorezas said.
Betty was thrilled.
“It was very exciting to be able to see her,” Betty said. “Cara looked so pretty. She said, ‘Hi Grammy, love you Grammy!’”
Bruce was pleased with the success of the wedding show, and hopes it will prompt other nursing home residents to take advantage of the new technology at their disposal.
“It was a great way for them to see what could happen,” Bruce said. “We have tried to line up other families.”
Cara Counter Fuller and her husband were still on their honeymoon this week, undoubtedly pleased that technology helped guarantee that all their loved ones could witness the big event. The couple will settle in Oakland, Calif.
Meanwhile, a smiling Betty hopes to be back home in a couple of days.
“I’ve got a great family,” she said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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