17-year-old groom and 71-year-old bride: 'We were made for each other'

By Richard van Rensburg
24 July 2016

Gary and Almeda were wed just weeks after they first met.

The couple's first international television interview was a disaster. By the end of it the presenter himself was openly laughing at them.

But it hasn’t changed anything between Gary and his lady-love Almeda Hardwick, who have an age difference of more than half a century. He was 17 and she 71 when the pair married after a whirlwind romance.

According to Almeda, “When you truly love somebody it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.

Our love gets stronger everyday. Some people try to hurt us but nothing and no-one can come between us.”

Gary agrees. “Almeda is so young at heart that age never bothers us.”  The unusual couple from Sevierville in Texas reckon that they are first and foremost, soulmates.

The London presenters of the ITV program This Morning asked the Hardwicks to travel to Nashville for an interview via satellite. But the interview ended up being quite the spectacle.

Read more: 7 celeb couples who never made it down the aisle

There were technical problems and on top of that a female presenter couldn’t hold back her laughter at a mischievous joke made by her co-presenter.

Afterwards Gary, who’s just turned 18, responded to the backlash about their relationship on Facebook video.

“The negativity doesn't bother either one of us. It's amusing that some people are so miserable that they're set on downing other people.

“What pisses me off is when people assume things they don't know...” the youth has already released a book on the story of his life titled, This Is Who I Am.

Social media responses to their relationship ranged from, "You serious, bro?" to "My mum watched. She loved you both!"

Read more: This woman fell in love with a man she’d never met on Twitter – and now they’re married!

One commenter was appalled at the presenters' behaviour.

 PHOTO: Facebook PHOTO: Facebook

"As a member of the UK with respect for fellow human beings' right to fall in love with whomever they like, I apologise for the mockery that was shown to you."

Another fan chimed in,"You are the `most matched' couple I've ever seen. May God bless you."

But you can also understand why their relationship would leave many feeling a little bit unsettled. Almeda met Gary at her son Robert's (45) funeral. Gary was invited by his aunt – who is Robert’s widow.

Almeda was miserable and lonely. The mother-of-four had lost her husband of 43 years, Donald, in 2013 after his seven-month long fight with diabetes-related complications.

Then she lost her son Robert to an epileptic fit.

Almeda is young at heart, Gary says, so her age has never been an issue. PHOTO: Facebook Almeda is young at heart, Gary says, so her age has never been an issue. PHOTO: Facebook

Met at church 

Almeda says that through her tears she saw an, “attractive young man with the lovely smile” in the church pews opposite her. It was like the sun breaking through dark clouds, says the redhead.

At the end of the service Gary came to convey his sympathy in a fleeting moment, “but it was enough” says the confident Walmart shop assistant.

And Gary tells of how her “striking blue eyes” drew him to her and later how he loved her “personality and maturity”.

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They were only properly introduced much later at Gary’s cousin’s birthday party.

They were both too nervous to eat and Gary even fell over his own chair. But their romance blossomed after that.

They started chatting and realised how much they had in common, like a love for country music and Italian food, says Gary.

After that they saw each other every evening, and Almeda wanted to know immediately:  “Look, I'm 71 and you're 17. Am I too old for you?”

“Age is just a number,” responded Gary. Their first kiss on a garden bench in the moonlight made Almeda “feel like a teenager again.”

Two weeks after they’d met Gary popped the question and six days later they tied the knot. According to Gary their relationship is, "wonderful, beyond my wildest dreams. She really is my dream woman.”

“I'd never had a connection like it before,” she says. And her much-younger significant other isn’t concerned about a future without kids, and says that until now he had never wanted kids.

But the most of their family members accept the strange relationship, including Gary’s mother Tammy (48) and grandmother Carolyn (also 71).

Read more: ‘My husband was a drug addict – and I had no idea’

Almeda’s eldest son hasn't come around yet, but she reckons that he will come to terms with her choice soon.

In the meantime, Gary has no doubts that he’s made the right decisions and has gotten Almeda’s name tattooed on his chest. “God answered my prayers that day she walked into my life,” he says.

Sources: Facebook, metro.co.uk, mamamia.co.au, express.co.uk, mirror.co.uk, entertainmentdaily.co.uk

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