A love for a lifetime

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 13, 2012

 Mary and Bryan Tampakes renewed their wedding vows in a ceremony held on the ice at Civic Arena Nov. 13, 2011, with family and friends.

Mary and Bryan Tampakes renewed their wedding vows in a ceremony held on the ice at Civic Arena Nov. 13, 2011, with family and friends.

Photo by Cathleen Padula


One year ago, Mary Tampakes’ world changed.

To begin with, Mary Perzyk became Mary Tampakes in a wedding ceremony Feb. 13, 2011, that meant so much more than a name change.

Three days later, she lost her father, Edward “Skip” Perzyk.

“That anniversary’s coming up too,” said 25-year-old Mary. “It doesn’t seem to be getting easier. A lot of people have said, ‘You made the right decision; he was really happy to be there.’

“I know it was for me, but I’m glad to have done it, because it was a reason for all of us to be together.”

The love story

Mary Tampakes grew up in St. Clair Shores and attended South Lake Schools until high school, when she went to Regina High School in Warren.

As classmates at South Lake Middle School, Mary and Bryan Tampakes were friends, but didn’t start dating until they were both in high school in 2004.

“We got engaged May 25, 2010. We went Up North. It was romantic,” she said. “We started making plans for Nov. 13 of 2011 as our date because the 13th had always been our anniversary for dating, so we made that plan and that’s what we told everybody.”

“Mary and Bryan’s relationship, for my husband and I, started out slow and not great,” said Mary’s mother, Joy Perzyk. “They’ve known each other quite a long time. Bryan, himself, he tended to be shy with people. Until we got to know him, which was hard when you’re shy, Mary … kind of kept” him away from the Perzyks.

That wasn’t a problem by the time they were engaged.

Mary’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009, and Joy said that crisis overcame any awkwardness.

“By the time Skip was diagnosed, that particular kind of thing draws people together, and that’s kind of when we really got to love Bryan and know Bryan,” said Joy. “By then, he was kind of all a part of the family.”

‘We all thought he was going to beat it.’

“At first, it was going really well,” said Mary. “It (the cancer) was shrinking; they were getting rid of it. He didn’t ever lose his hair.

“He was up and walking around right up until about Christmas time (2010) and that’s about when it started going downhill.”

Mary is one of four Perzyk siblings. She has an older sister and brother and a younger sister. Perzyk said Mary tends to withdraw when things aren’t going well because “she’s so sensitive.”

“She wasn’t around as much as the other kids watching her dad decline,” Joy continued. “I had to do quite a dance to grab all the personalities and get them on board with what was happening.”

Joy knew during the fall of 2010 that the end was drawing near for 57-year-old Skip, her husband of 32 years.

“I knew, but Mary wasn’t coming around,” Joy said, explaining that the bride-to-be threw herself into wedding plans to hide from her father’s declining health. “Once I was able to grab Mary into the fold more, she could see.”

“He was doing so well up until then, it was so quick that it went down, and it was scary to think that he wasn’t going to make it to November, and I had to make that a reality,” Mary said. “We all thought he was going to beat it. For a year and a half, he was doing just fine.”

But in early February 2011, it became apparent that wasn’t going to be the case. Mary began to debate whether to hold off for her dream wedding in November or whether it was more important for her dad to see her walk down the aisle.

“I didn’t even want to say it out loud that we should hurry up and get married, but it was something that I felt was important to do if I wanted him there,” she said.

A wedding at home … and one on ice

Once the decision was made, things moved fast.

Mary’s brother Paul got ordained to perform the ceremony online — that had always been the plan for the November wedding, anyway — and the intimate event was held in the home where Mary grew up. In attendance were her mother, sisters, brother, Bryan’s parents and two brothers, a photographer friend, and Mary’s father.

“He was in a hospital bed in the living room, and we just had our families,” Mary said. “It was Feb. 13 of last year. Then, three days after that was when my dad passed away.”

“It seemed like the whole world opened up, because the weather was nice, it was beautiful,” said Joy. “It culminated to the whole Mary getting married, the weather, Skip was semi-lucid and shook Bryan’s hand. He knew what was going on; he was happy.

“Right after his funeral, the day after, we got slammed with a foot of snow.”

Nine months later, Mary and Bryan Tampakes renewed their vows in the ceremony they always meant to have. Being hockey fans, they exchanged vows on the ice Nov. 13 at Civic Arena, then celebrated with about a hundred friends and family at Lakeland Manor.

“We had a slide show of our pictures from February, set to music, and … we danced to the slideshow as our first dance,” she said. “It was a tear-jerker at the wedding.”

Mary said she and Bryan have had the usual bumps over the course of the first year of marriage, but she said it’s not really so much different than their lives before — except for the void of the loss of her dad.

“You never think it’s going to happen to you or somebody you love,” she said. “I feel like I didn’t get enough time with him. I feel like my little sister didn’t get enough time with him.

“Everyone says time makes it better or heals. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better yet.”

But she finds solace and comfort in her husband of one year.

“I don’t know what I would do without Bryan. I would probably curl up and never want to get out of bed without him,” she said. “He’s my best friend, literally.”

Looking back, Joy said she can’t believe it was only three days between the wedding and her husband’s death. But so much has changed over the course of the year, she feels now that she has two sons instead of just one.

“I think that, even though we all suffered a loss, we gained so much as a family because of their union,” she said. “I think we understand the importance of memories and creating memories.

“I think that’s kind of the most profound part of all this.”