Jay Gwaldis and Louise Largiadèr are really into motorcycles. The two met in June 2007 on their way to a BMW motorcycle rally at the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. Louise, 46, was on her very first solo ride, accompanied by her brother Anton, a BMW motorcycle technician, and his girlfriend.
Jay Gwaldis and Louise Largiadèr
One night during their trek to Asheville, the threesome checked into a hotel in Mt. Airy, North Carolina where they met up with Jay, who happened to be a friend of Anton’s. The four to them went out for dinner and at one point during the meal, Jay and Louise looked at each other and there was a definite “thing” in the air. “I thought, ‘Hmmm, what was that?” says Louise. “And then promptly forgot all about it.” The next morning, everyone went their separate ways, and Louise saw Jay only briefly at the rally.
After coming home from the trip, Louise kept thinking about that man she met at the hotel in Mt. Airy. She wrote a story about the trip that she planned to e-mail to all of her fellow riders. She asked her brother for Jay’s e-mail address so she could include him in the mailing. When Jay, who had been trying to come up with an excuse to contact Louise on his own, received her e-mail, he took it as a sign that the door was open.
Correspondence ensued, then phone calls, and finally the budding couple met for lunch and a slow courtship began. Jay lost his wife to cancer the previous fall and was cautiously getting back into socializing. Louise was preparing to move and wasn’t looking to date anyone.
On their days off, the new couple went on long motorcycle rides. Jay outfitted Louise’s helmet with an intercom so they could talk to each other and listen to music while cruising tandem on Jay’s big blue bike.
One of their first official dates happened when Louise was house sitting for a friend. Jay came over and made Louise dinner while she painted her toenails. Afterward they watched “Buckaroo Bonzai” while sitting side by side on the couch, nervous as teenagers. “It was really just like high school,” she says. “I thought, ‘Where do I put my arm?’ ‘Is he going to kiss me?’”
Soon after Louise moved in with Jay in the fall of 2007, Jay was diagnosed with oral cancer. He spent that winter undergoing grueling radiation treatments. Then in the fall of 2008, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At one point, Jay told Louise that now was her chance to back out before things became too serious.
“I thought about it for perhaps two seconds before telling him he was stuck with me, no matter the outcome,” she says. “Which turned out to be good—all follow-up checks have been clean!”
Two days before Jay was set to go in for surgery, he and Louise were discussing Anton’s recent engagement to his girlfriend. “I’m really ticked off about Anton,” said Jay. “He stole my thunder.” Whatever do you mean? asked Louise. “They’re getting married before we are,” Jay responded. Louise asked, “Are we getting married?” Jay smiled, “When are you going to ask me?”
Louise looked Jay in the eye and asked him to marry her. Jay said yes.
Louise had never been married, and she really wanted a big church wedding. Jay did not, but he went along with it anyway because that’s what his bride wanted.
However, the day of the wedding, held October 18 at Keswick Hall (where Louise is, coincidentally, employed as a private events captain), Jay had a change of heart (not about his bride, but his resistance to a church wedding). When he stood at the altar, and the church doors opened to reveal Louise standing there next to her father and wearing a dress so big “it practically had it’s own zip code,” she says, Jay got it. “I was so grateful that we ended up having a church wedding because the ritual and solemnity made it so special,” he says.
For gifts, the couple, who love music, asked guests for a couple of their favorite CDs and a note explaining what made the music special. “We received the most amazing array from all over the world,” says Louise. “Every genre, accompanied by stories that make the gifts even more personal.”
“We are so fortunate to have found each other later in life, after loss and through adversity,” says Louise. “We consider ourselves lucky and try to make each day special and not take it for granted. And we highly recommend seeing life on a motorcycle. It’s a great way to experience the beauty of the world around us and live in the moment.”