Love Story From Bend Inspiring Thousands
Updated On: Apr 26 2012 08:32:54 AM CDT
It's a story that had 400,000 thousand views before it even aired on NBC's Today Show on Wednesday morning, and it has an amazing local connection.
Bethany Schmidt and Ryan Smith met seven years ago as freshmen at the University of Oregon. They spent their college years basically inseparable, traveling from Eugene to Europe and back again.
After graduating, the two settled in a one-bedroom apartment a few blocks from campus.
Then, the unexpected.
A colonoscopy last January revealed Ryan had a large tumor in his colon. It turned out to be Stage 4 testicular cancer.
Everything seemed to stop. Bethany took time off work to help between doctors visits and surgeries.
Then, something special.
On July 1st of last year, while visiting their parents in Bend, Ryan made Bethany pull over in Drake Park -- and right along the water, he dropped to one knee and proposed.
But amid the magic, wedding planning was put on the back burner, as Ryan's health quickly took a turn for the worse.
Doctors delivered the bad news -- he had only six months to live.
That's where the owners of Bend's Ariana Restaurant come in.
"Initially, Bethany asked us if they could have the wedding here in January so we were just starting to talk about it," said Co-Owner Ariana Fernandez. "But then she told me they needed to move up the date quite a bit."
Ryan soon found out he didn't have months -- he had only a few weeks left.
So they planned their entire wedding in three days.
"I think the pressure was on, and we just wanted to do whatever we could to make it as wonderful as we could for them because it was just even that much more special," Fernandez said.
Local florists and photographers cancelled previous plans to help. The dining room turned into an aisle -- the fireplace an altar. And on Dec. 11, they became Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
"The night of the event was a very sacred feeling to their wedding," Fernandez recalled. "It was very special, and the family was so close. And I feel honored to even be a part of it."
Not even two months after they said "I do," Ryan was gone, at the age of 24.
Ariana and Andres keep a picture of Ryan and Bethany's wedding in their restaurant to remind them of the couple who changed their lives and inspired so many others.
"Their story has touched me so much, I think about them all the time. I think we always say, 'Live like it's your last day,' and we don't. But these two did."
More than 300 people attended Ryan's funeral in January. He donated his body to science. Bethany has returned to her graphic design job with the University of Oregon.
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