A heartwarming story from an island getaway

The beach wedding on North Captiva. Photo: Ellen Futterman   

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Almost as soon as we boarded a water taxi last weekend for North Captiva, we heard from the crew that there was going to be a wedding on this Florida island Saturday night. So on Saturday morning when we saw what looked like a chuppah being erected on the beach in front of our rental home, I jumped into reporter mode.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a chuppah. The couple wasn’t Jewish. But the circumstances that led them to have their wedding on this island are remarkable, and worth sharing.

On Jan. 1, 2006, Joe and Barbara Krier and their three adult children were traveling to their vacation home in North Captiva from Indianapolis. The weather conditions were extremely foggy so Joe, an experienced pilot, made an emergency landing but the plane crashed nose first just short of the runway at a small airport in Georgia. Joe and Barb, both 49 years old, died at the scene but their three children, Theresa, Andrew and Matthew, miraculously survived. 

Joe and Barbara had been high school sweethearts. In their senior year, Barb hosted the first of what would become a series of 33 annual holiday parties for a group of high school couples who were their mutual friends. Seven of the couples, including Barb and Joe, eventually married and remained married.

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On Saturday, Theresa Rose Krier, Joe and Barb’s eldest, got married shortly before sunset on the beach in North Captiva to Matthew Fleck. About 100 guests attended, including the high school couple friends of Joe and Barb’s who also helped to plan the wedding. And yes, a few uninvited gawkers, including myself, were on the sidelines, watching this storybook event unfold. 

According to one of Theresa’s aunts, North Captiva remains a magical place for this family. They still have a home on the island. I couldn’t help but think that Theresa, now 38, chose this destination to feel closer to her parents, who were known to have watched every sunset on the very beach where she was getting married. They were always looking for the elusive green flash, which Florida legend says can occur if you’re watching sunset at just the right moment. 

Theresa now splits her time between Indianapolis and New York, where about six years ago she founded Big T NYC, an organic tea company. The “Big T” part of the tea brand pays tribute to the nickname her father gave her a child.

In an interview with her alma mater, Xavier University, she explained that while her family tragedy is still hard to talk about, it helped to shape her life.

“I believe that my parents and God had something to do with that, saving their three kids, in an otherwise deadly crash,” she said. “I believe I was saved for a reason, and that it’s my responsibility to do something meaningful with my life. I don’t know exactly what that is, but I strive daily to be a good person, to positively contribute to the world, and to be a person that would make my parents proud.”

Watching Theresa and her new husband take their vows in such an idyllic setting, surrounded by family and friends, my heart ached that her parents couldn’t be there. Yet as corny as it may sound, I felt certain they were smiling from above. And while I can’t swear to it, I’m pretty sure just as the last ripple of sun sunk beneath the horizon, a green flash appeared.