It Was ‘A Real Nice Ceremony’

He didn’t actually say “Golleeee!” but his soft Alabama drawl had a definite Gomer-esque tone last Thursday when Jim Nabors exclaimed over the phone: “This was the No. 1 story all over the news yesterday! Can you believe that?”

The story, of course, is that Jim and longtime partner Stan Cadwallader, a former Honolulu firefighter, were quietly married the previous week in a civil ceremony in Seattle.

“The reaction has been pretty amazing. But there’s not much to it, really.”

While their relationship of 38 years wasn’t news to many people in Hawaii and elsewhere, the marriage of the former star of the hit TV series Gomer Pyle, USMC, not to mention one of America’s most beloved singers, to another man did make news across the country. At MidWeek we were well aware of how big the story was because it turns out the only media photo of the couple was taken by our own Yu Shing Ting in 2010. Publisher Ron Nagasawa fielded calls from Inside Edition, KOMO 4 News Seattle, Washington Current TV, Say Anything with Joy Behar, ABC News with Diane Sawyer, even The London Daily Mail, and gladly shared the photo. So if you saw a picture of Jim and Stan last week, it was likely Yu Shing’s. (See Jade Moon’s column on Page 20.)

“It wasn’t supposed to get out,” Jim said of the private wedding. “The reaction has been pretty amazing. But there’s not much to it, really.”

He chuckled. “So there I was, an 82-year-old man going off to his wedding. I’ll tell ya, I was feeling kind of like an idiot.”

A pause. “It’s just something I never anticipated happening.”

And of course he couldn’t until a few years ago, and still couldn’t in Hawaii. That’s why they went to Washington state, with a neighboring couple at Diamond Head who know a judge in Seattle.

“He did a real nice ceremony,” Jim said. I’ve known Jim and Stan for 33 years, going back to my Advertiser column days, and he is absolutely correct when he says, “I just try to live my life as well as I can and not hurt anyone.”

I wondered if there has been any negative fallout from the news, especially because of his long relationship with the Marine Corps.

“Naw, Bud (the name he’s called me for all those years), I haven’t heard a word. I know a lot of the Marine bigwigs and not so bigwigs, and this has never been an issue. It’s never been a secret.”

But what about the good Midwestern folks at the Indianapolis 500, where Jim’s singing Back Home In Indiana is a longtime part of the pre-race tradition.

“As a matter of fact, they just sent us a nice bunch of flowers today,” Jim said. “Real nice.”

Another pause. “Awww, Bud, nobody really cares about this anymore.”

Not an activist by any means, for Jim, marrying his companion of 38 years was “just a personal thing, that’s all.”

It also means they each have certain legal rights he would not have had otherwise, including hospital visitations and potential end-of-life decisions.

We returned to the topic of Marines: “I sang with the Marine Corps Band and Choir in D.C., and I told ’em if they were ever in Hawaii to stop by. Well, last year I got a call that they were coming through Hawaii, so we had 175 Marines over to the house for dinner. Let me tell you, Bud, if you ever shake hands with 175 young, fit Marines, because I greeted each one as they came through the front door, dang, by the end I was ready to cry ‘Uncle!’ and shove my hand in a bucket of ice. They’re strong.”

And ready to defend the right of all Americans to pledge forever and marry the one they love.