Sunday, December 27, 2009


Marines marry at judge's home
Couple's courtship has been long-distance

U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Madison Eastland, 19, (left) begins to cry as PFC Nicholas Steven Eckley, 20, of Stow reads his wedding vows to her during their wedding ceremony performed by Akron Municipal Court Judge Kathyrn Michael in Michael's Fairlawn home on Christmas. The Marines are both on leave and Eckley will be sent to Afghanistan in June. Serving as maid of honor is Eckley's sister Amanda Eckley, 23, left, and standing up with Eckley are his friends Nathan Rasor, (from left) Trevor McGuire and PFC Justin Schrantz. (Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal)

Nicholas Eckley and Madison Eastland faced a challenge.

They wanted to tie the knot on Christmas Day when both were on leave from the Marines. But where would they find a judge to marry them?

Akron Municipal Judge Kathryn Michael had the answer. She opened her Fairlawn home to the young couple and their wedding party for a brief ceremony.

Michael said she preferred to have the wedding there rather than go to Eckley's parents' home in Stow, as the couple first requested, because of her own family commitments.

''I'm a romantic and I love weddings,'' Michael said. ''It's the only time people are happy to see me coming in my black robe.''

The noon ceremony capped an 18-month love affair for Pfc. Eckley and his bride, a lance corporal from Virginia Beach, Va.

The couple met when Eckley approached Eastland at a country-western dance near Virginia Beach.

He expressed interest in the Marine tattoo on her shoulder — her tribute to family and friends in the military, she explained — and found himself captivated by the young blonde.

''She's beautiful. There's something different about her,'' Eckley, 20, said. ''The way she carries herself, her presence. It made her stand out from everyone else in the room.''

Eastland, 19, was equally smitten.

''I thought he was cool and awesome,'' she recalled.

She went on to enlist in the Marines; a long-distance courtship followed.

For the last eight months, Eckley has been touring various countries around the Pacific. Starting in January, both will be stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

In June, though, he will leave for a seven- to 10-month deployment in Afghanistan.

So Christmas seemed the best time to tie the knot if he wanted his large family, already gathered for the holidays, to be present.

The couple read their own vows as about 10 family members crowded into Michael's living room. Pop holiday music played in the background during the ceremony.

After leaving the judge's home, the happy couple celebrated at the home of Eckley's parents, Cheryl and Mark Eckley, with about 60 family members.

However, a honeymoon to the Bahamas, Jamaica or Fiji and a formal reception for the new bride's family in Virginia will have to wait: She must report back to Camp Pendleton in California on Wednesday.

By Carol Biliczky
Beacon Journal staff writer
Published on Saturday, Dec 26, 2009

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