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A World War II Veteran Married His Bride Near Normandy’s D-Day Beaches

He’s 100, she’s 96


spinner image harold terens, in a light blue suit, stands behind jeanne swerlin, holding flowers in a light pink dress. both are smiling during their wedding.
World War II veteran Harold Terens, 100, left, and Jeanne Swerlin, 96, arrive to celebrate their wedding at the town hall of Carentan-les-Marais, in Normandy, northwestern France, on June 8.
Jeremias Gonzalez/AP Photo

CARENTAN-LES-MARAIS, France — Together, the collective age of the bride and groom was nearly 200. But World War II veteran Harold Terens and his sweetheart, Jeanne Swerlin, proved that love is eternal as they tied the knot Saturday inland of the D-Day beaches in Normandy, France.

Their respective ages — he’s 100, she’s a youngster of just 96 — made their nuptials an almost double-century celebration.

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Terens called it “the best day of my life.”

On her way in to the nuptials, the bubbly bride-to-be said: “It’s not just for young people, love, you know? We get butterflies. And we get a little action, also.”

The location was the elegant stonework town hall of Carentan, a key initial D-Day objective that saw ferocious fighting after the June 6, 1944, Allied landings that helped rid Europe of Adolf Hitler’s tyranny.

Like other towns and villages across the Normandy coast where nearly 160,000 Allied troops came ashore under fire on five code-named beaches, it’s an effervescent hub of remembrance and celebration on the 80th anniversary of the deeds and sacrifices of young men and women that day, festooned with flags and bunting and with veterans feted like rock stars.

As the swing of Glenn Miller and other period tunes rang out on the streets, well-wishers — some in WWII-period clothes — were already lined up a good hour before the wedding, behind barriers outside the town hall, with a rousing pipe and drum band also on hand to serenade the happy couple.

After both declaring “oui” to vows read by Carentan’s mayor in English, the couple exchanged rings.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” Terens said.

She giggled and gasped, “Really?”

With champagne flutes in hand, they waved through an open window to the adoring crowds outside.

“To everybody’s good health. And to peace in the world and the preservation of democracy all over the world and the end of the war in Ukraine and Gaza,” Terens said as he and his bride then clinked glasses and drank.

The crowd yelled “la mariée!” — the bride! — to Swerlin, who wore a long, flowing dress of vibrant pink. Terens looked dapper in a light blue suit and matching pink kerchief in his breast pocket.

And they enjoyed a very special wedding-night party: They were invited to the state dinner at the Élysée Palace on Saturday night with President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Joe Biden.

“Congratulations to the newlyweds,” Macron said, prompting cheers and a standing ovation from other guests during the toast praising French-American friendship. “[The town of] Carentan was happy to host your wedding, and us, your wedding dinner,” he told the couple.

The wedding was symbolic, not binding in law. Mayor Jean-Pierre Lhonneur’s office said he wasn’t empowered to wed foreigners who aren’t residents of Carentan, and that the couple, who are both American, hadn’t requested legally binding vows. However, they could always complete those formalities back in Florida if they wished.

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Lhonneur likes to say that Normandy is practically the 51st state of the U.S., given its reverence and gratitude for Allied soldiers and the sacrifices of tens of thousands who never made it home from the Battle of Normandy.

“Love is eternal, yes, maybe,” the mayor said, referring to the newlyweds, although his comments also fittingly describe the feelings of many Normans for veterans.

“I hope for them the best happiness together.”

spinner image a photo of twenty year old harold terens in a gold frame
World War II veteran Harold Terens, 100, holds a photo of himself during the war when he was 20 years old. Terens was honored by France as part of the country's 80th anniversary celebration of D-Day. In addition, he and Jeanne Swerlin, 96, married on June 8 at a chapel near the beaches where U.S. forces landed.
Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo

Dressed in a 1940s dress that belonged to her mother, Louise, and a red beret, 73-year-old Jane Ollier was among the spectators who waited for a glimpse of the lovebirds. The couple, both widowed, grew up in New York City: she in Brooklyn, he in the Bronx.

“It’s so touching to get married at that age,” Ollier said. “If it can bring them happiness in the last years of their lives, that’s fantastic.”

The WWII veteran first visited France as a 20-year-old U.S. Army Air Forces corporal shortly after D-Day. Terens enlisted in 1942 and, after shipping to Britain, was attached to a four-pilot P-47 Thunderbolt fighter unit as their radio repair technician.

On D-Day, Terens helped repair planes returning from France so they could rejoin the battle. He said half his company’s pilots died that day. Terens himself went to France 12 days later, helping transport freshly captured Germans and just-freed American POWs to England. Following the Nazi surrender in May 1945, Terens again helped transport freed Allied prisoners to England before he shipped back to the U.S. a month later.

Swerlin made it abundantly clear that her new centenarian husband doesn’t lack for rizz.

“He’s the greatest kisser ever, you know?” she proudly declared before they embraced enthusiastically for TV cameras.

“All right ! That’s it for now !” Terens said as he came up for air.

To which she quickly quipped: “You mean there’s more later?”

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