It could have been 50 years to the day, except for the lunar calendar date falling on Shabbat. On June 22, 1969, in Detroit, Mich., young June said “I do” to Gerald Neumark. Herald in this past June 23, 2019, when their vows were renewed at the Grand Teton mountain range. Gerry said, “We still wanted to show the world how wonderful it is to keep marriage alive.”
Having visited the Tetons almost a dozen times, the Neumarks knew the natural beauty there to be “beyond words.” June continued, “The pictures just don’t do it justice.”
Gerry had his mind set on his favorite spot, Jackson Lake Lodge with its huge veranda. He recalled, “Alan Greenspan, former chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, was known for using the veranda for making his famous speeches from that very location. To Greenspan’s dismay, once the TV crew was gathered all around him, [they] got distracted and wandered off to see a nearby moose.” This is especially relevant considering that Neumark is a professor of urban political science and public policy at Georgia State University.
The Teton Range spans 40 miles from North to South and is 12 miles wide. Tetons, literally for the three “nipples,” because of their pointed shapes, is from the Shoshone Indian “teewinot,” meaning “many pinnacles.” Gerry said, “Even though the Tetons are 12 miles south of Yellowstone, they are worlds apart.” Locally the Neumarks are into urban hiking and biking on the Atlanta BeltLine and visiting Anna Ruby Falls.
Back in December the Neumarks mulled flying in an Atlanta rabbi for the vow renewal, but that didn’t seem very practical. Then, like everything else we find on the web, they googled “rabbis in the Jackson, Wyoming area.” Gerry said, “Up popped a very observant choice and another nondenominational rabbi whose ‘other job was science teacher.’” Enter the latter, Josh Kleyman, who the couple got to know through a series of FaceTime sessions.
June, a retired public school teacher, arranged for their son’s bar mitzvah tallis to be the flowing chuppah, with son Jay, daughter-in-law Alison, and grandchildren Ella and Hudson supporting the four corners. “Actually, the kids were very conscientious about holding up their corners for the entire time,” June said. “The sky looked a little threatening during the ceremony. … Thankfully the weather held up just fine.”
Gerry added, “The kids, being just 5 and 8, took their jobs very seriously since it was 40 degrees and windy.” June confirmed, “I didn’t know whether to wear a winter coat or a summer dress and ultimately ended up with a silk shawl.”
The service lasted about 30 minutes and Gerry stomped on the traditional wedding glass (light bulb, in this case).
“Truthfully it was one of the best events of our lives,” June said. “Everyone had something to say, … from heartfelt speeches to poems. This was all captured in a memory book to look back on.”
A side benefit was escorting the grandchildren from St. Augustine, Fla., who had never seen snow nor mountains. On this trip they gleefully visited the Teton Pass (from Victor, Idaho, to Wilson, Wyo.) and Craters of the Moon, between Boise and Yellowstone National Park, which formed from a vast ocean of lava flow.
Alison Neumark, who is a photographer in Florida, captured many of the scenes and committed a special devotion to details such as creating wooden clothespin figures with identical ceremony clothing to top the vanilla and chocolate wedding cake, even matching the black and white flowers on June’s dress.
The celebration dinner was held in the lodge’s famous Mural Room. Gerry concluded, “Wouldn’t you know it, a mama moose with her baby came to the outskirts of the veranda just before the meal, and once again, Mother Nature captured everyone’s attention.”
Here’s to decades more visits to the Tetons – moose or no moose.