100-year-old US veteran marries his 96-year-old wife at D-Day event in France

Harold Terens first visited Normandy about 80 years ago, the day after D-Day, as a corporal in the United States Air Force. Many of his friends had died storming the beaches of Normandy about two weeks earlier, and Terens was assigned to help send German prisoners and free American prisoners of war in England.

This year, Terens was in the region for a much happier reason: his wedding. After participating in the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Terens and his 96-year-old fiancée, Jeanne Swerlin, arrived Saturday at a stone building in Carentan-les-Marais for what he called the happiest day of his life. life. .

The ceremony was symbolic – not legally binding – according to the Associated Press. Regardless, Terens told The Washington Post that he considers the marriage official and has no plans to take legally binding vows in the United States.

The couple kissed and exchanged rings, drank champagne and said they felt like king and queen as they waved goodbye from a second-story window after the ceremony. Later, Terens and Swerlin were flown to Paris, where the country’s president, Emmanuel Macron, congratulated them during a speech at a state dinner with President Biden.


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“There has never been a love story, fictional or otherwise, better than ours,” Terens told The Post on Sunday.

Terens and Swerlin both grew up in New York but didn’t meet until about three years ago. In 1942, during World War II, Terens enlisted in the United States Air Force and served as a radio repair technician. On D-Day in 1944, Terens said he was stationed in Britain, where he helped repair planes destined to join the battle in France.

Swerlin, meanwhile, was friends with some American servicemen who gave her memorabilia from the war, like dog tags. After the war, they both started families and eventually moved to Florida.

But Terens said his wife of 70 years, Thelma, died in 2018 from breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. The following year, Swerlin said, her fiancé, Sol, died while in the shower after 24 years together. Neither of them thought they would find love again.

In 2021, Terens and Swerlin’s friends arranged to meet them at Seasons 52 in Boca Raton, Florida. Terens said that after their thighs were accidentally touched under the table, he became enamored and even lost his appetite.

They started dating and kissed on their next date; Swerlin said Terens was the best kisser she had ever met. They loved to dance, especially to Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”

“It took 96 years to discover what love is,” Swerlin told the Post.

After they returned from a dinner last summer, Terens got down on one knee in Swerlin’s garage and asked her to marry him. Swerlin agreed – then joked that she didn’t know how to help Terens up.

Last week was the fourth time Terens visited Normandy for the D-Day commemorations, but this time he had another reason to be there. Terens said he wanted the more than 4,000 Allied troops who died on nearby beaches eight decades earlier to attend his wedding in spirit.

On Saturday morning, dozens of people stood in front of the Carentan-les-Marais town hall when Terens, in a light blue suit, and Swerlin, wearing a pink dress and holding a bouquet of flowers, arrived. Terens smiled as he passed dozens of people clapping and playing bagpipes. About 40 members of the couple’s family were present at the wedding, he said.

Terens said her granddaughter sang Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” as Jeanne walked down the aisle. The mayor of the city, Jean-Pierre Lhonor, was the celebrant. After reading the vows, Terens and Swerlin, who were sitting at a table, were asked if they wanted to get married.

“Yes,” they each replied. Then Swerlin threw a bouquet which landed on the ground.

Holding flutes of Champagne near the open window on the second floor of the building, Terens toasted: “To the good health of all.” And to world peace, to the preservation of democracy everywhere and to an end to the war in Ukraine and Gaza.”

Terens and Swerlin took a car to Paris for Saturday’s state dinner at the Élysée. Terens joked that he was jealous when Swerlin hugged Biden for a few seconds.

Terens said they were both exhausted on Sunday but once recovered they would celebrate their honeymoon this week in Paris.

“We hope to live a long and happy life together,” he said.

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