Relatives said the decision to marry was made in the early morning, and by 11 a.m. the couple had traveled by Puckett EMS from Austell to the Cobb County Magistrate Court.
Carl Peyton Williams III, 62, lay on the gurney, while he repeated vows to Ruth Ann Terry, 67, in the ambulance parked on the corner of Waddell and Roswell streets.
Christina Williams, Carl Williams’ older sister, said it was “so beautiful” to see how the entire day was orchestrated with the help of strangers.
One stranger integral to the success of the wedding day was Chaplin Ron Daniel, who met Williams and his wife Monday, a day before officiating the ceremony.
“Everything just went beautifully,” Daniel said. “We just made it as quick and easy as we could for them.”
Terry said she met her husband online almost seven years ago and, after a month of talking, decided to move from Arkansas to Atlanta to stay with her son. After another month, Terry moved in with Williams.
“I told my son, I just have to take this chance,” Terry said.
Terry said she and Williams had intended to marry for a while, but could no longer wait after his diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer Oct. 4.
Williams, who has worked full-time as a real estate appraiser with Bank of America for the past 10 years, told Terry he was feeling weak and short of breath earlier this month.
Terry said she knew Williams had been keeping a secret about how ill he was feeling, so she suspected he could be suffering from something serious. At the hospital, Williams was also diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia.
“He has a tumor completely blocking his right lung,” said Terry’s daughter-in-law, Helena Jacobson of Marietta.
Jacobson attended the ceremony, but her husband Keith Jacobson, could not witness his mother marry Williams. After serving 16 years in the Air Force, Keith Jacobson is bedridden with multiple sclerosis.
Williams, who was a hostage negotiator in Cordova, Alaska, in the 1980s and a police officer in Phoenix for 20 years, is being treated by WellStar Tranquility Hospice at his home.
Williams’ daughter, Tracy Hazen, who was at the ceremony, said she flew in from Alaska to be with her father in his last days.
“This is a miracle,” Hazen said. “He went downhill so fast. It’s nice for him to know he can leave with a sense of humanity, it isn’t all bad. That there are still good people out there.”
For a man who had seen so much of the dark side of humanity after retiring from law enforcement, being bathed in love from his new spouse and the care of strangers willing to go the extra mile for him signaled the completion of life’s circle.
Christina Williams said transporting her brother to Marietta was a risk because he is fighting for every breath and has been in 24-hour hospice care for the past week. But it was a chance Carl Williams was willing to take, his sister said.
“Moving him around at this late stage could mean the end of things,” Christina Williams said.