Willie Shelton has fought some battles in his life, but cancer would prove to be his toughest.
The United States Army veteran has also wished for many things over the years. At the top of that wishlist, one thing remained unfulfilled. But Willie was running short on time.
Willie had a wish to walk all seven of his daughters down the aisle.
It’s a wish that many fathers share—walking their daughters down the aisle at their wedding. As the father of seven girls, Willie has always looked forward to that moment.
But just a few weeks ago, he had already resigned himself to the fact that he may not be there for all of his daughters’ weddings. He had terminal cancer, and his health was declining rapidly.
Willie’s family did not want to see that wish go unfulfilled, so they devised a secret plan to make his wish come true.
His family decided to make his wish come true.
In just a matter of days, and with some last minute help from hospice and some Tiffin, Ohio, local businesses—Taylor Elchert Photography, David’s Bridal, and a hair studio as well as others—a plan was put into place.
It involved all seven of his daughters dressed up in bridal attire.
“We had this idea we put together in three days,” explained Cheryl Shelton, Willie’s wife, in an interview with Fox 8 News. “We got all the wedding gowns for the girls and hospice helped us out a great deal with some of the planning.”
“What girl doesn’t want to get in a wedding dress and her hair and makeup done? So I was all in but more so for the reasoning behind it,” said Candice Talbot.
His married daughter planned a ceremony to renew her vows — but there was a twist!
Willie’s daughter, Emily Flinn, the only one of his daughters who had already married, arranged to have a ceremony to renew her vows. Since Emily and her husband were married in a courthouse and never had an official wedding ceremony, Willie never had the chance to walk her down the aisle before.
They told Willie about Emily’s ceremony—and that she was planning to have a “bunch” of bridesmaids as a part of the ceremony as well.
Willie was happy to be able to finally walk one of his daughter’s down the aisle, but he had no idea what else was about to take place.
“He had no clue that this was going on, and everybody got dressed, so I said, ‘She is going to have all the girls be the bridesmaids and everything for her,'” said Cheryl.
“Little did he know that they were all going to be brides.”
The ceremony was held in the family’s backyard. Willie looked as proud as could be dressed in his Army uniform.
As each of his daughters walked out from the house, each adorned in their own beautiful wedding gown, Willie was helped out of his wheelchair so he could stand with them, one by one.
“He looked a little confused, and then it was just great to see everybody,” said Flinn.
Pastor Wes McElravy from Millersburg Christian Church presided over the ceremony.
And although six of Willie’s daughters were not actually getting married or renewing their vows, they did get to see their father glow with satisfaction as he gazed at the sight of each of them in a wedding gown.
“I always assumed that my dad would be there to walk me down the aisle,” said daughter Lindsey Shelton. “When the possibility was there that he wasn’t going to be able to — this was everything.”
“A father’s love never ends.”
On October 16, 2017, just under two weeks after the ceremony, Willie Shelton, proudest dad in the world, passed away.
Each of the girls now has a locket with the above pictures of their dad and them in a wedding dress inside, which they plan to have with them as a part of their future weddings.
Engraved on the back of each one are the words: “A father’s love never ends.”