How Bill swept Jackie off her feet #
Tall, elegant and patrician, today Jackie Waldren is a much-loved figure around Deía.
Freshly graduated from UCLA, this young American was making her way across Europe and, following the recommendation of a fellow student from anthropology class, she planned to stay in Deía for a couple of days. As the once a day ‘47 Dodge bus wended its way slowly along the mountain roads, little did she know that she was about to meet her destiny. The year was 1959 and Jackie is still in the village almost sixty years later!
Jackie describes the beauty of the landscape, the sea views and the wildness of the mountains of her first journey across the island as if it were yesterday. Sitting behind a beautiful young couple who kissed and kissed throughout the trip, Jackie thought how beautiful Love is.
Arriving in Deía around lunchtime, the shutters were down, the village asleep and there was no one on the street but she found her way to the Pension Coll, which is now Sa Fonda, a local bar frequented by one and all.
Greeted by a lovely heavyset woman called Marguerita, she was shown to her room on the ground floor, where the farmácia now is. The room held a four-poster bed with a white crocheted bedspread and a canopy. In the corner stood an enamel basin on a wooden stand with a pitcher below, for in those days there was no running water and only a couple of hours of electricity each evening.
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An American Called Bill #
After a walk up to the church, on return to the pension, Jackie was invited to join the painter George Sheridan and his friends for dinner. With only one spare seat at the table, she sat down next to an American called Bill. While playing wonderful music on a battery-operated tape recorder, he began to tell Jackie his life story.
Brought up in the depression, he had experienced many tragedies such as losing his last ten cents in the snow on the way to buy bread. Later he became a figure skating champion and went on to study at the Art Students League in New York. Having been drafted into the ski troops, he was about to leave for Japan when the war ended.
On first leaving the army, Bill joined Holiday on Ice, a famous ice follies starring the Norwegian skater Sonja Henie which brought him to Paris where he ended both his skating career and his first marriage. Having been in the military he was entitled to the GI Bill, an initiative that provided veterans with education and allowed him to study at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
In the summer of 1953 when everyone got out of Paris, Bill first came to Mallorca and settled in a house outside Deía. Over the next few years, he travelled between Paris, Deía and occasionally the USA. That is how he came to be having dinner at Pension Coll on the day of Jackie’s arrival.
After dinner, everyone walked to Can Quet to dance and drink. By the time they got there, Jackie knew Bill’s life story. The music on the wind-up vitrola was a pasa doble. At 6’1” and used to dancing on skates, Bill quite literally swept Jackie off her feet!
When everyone strolled back to the village and disbanded for the night, Bill and Jackie kept walking. Outside Robert Graves’ house he grabbed Jackie and kissed her.
Stepping back, Jackie said, “I don’t do that on first meeting.”
They walked on for a while before Jackie asked, “Would you like to do that again?”
The day was August 17th 1959. They married on January 25th 1960.
How Jackie Became a Wedding Celebrant #
Since that first journey up to the village, Jackie has believed that Deía is a place of love but getting married on Mallorca can be a complicated business for foreigners. Many choose to deal with the legalities of marriage through a registry office at home or on the island, while keeping the wedding celebration separate.
Returning to live in the village full time a few years ago, a friend of her daughter’s with an events planning agency approached her. She had British clients who wanted a wedding in English. Given Jackie’s extensive public speaking experience, would she be interested in being the wedding celebrant? Always up for an adventure, the answer was of course yes.
“Most of these couples have been together for a long time already. What’s wonderful is how they describe each other. Much deeper than she’s sexy, they say things like she’s funny and she picks up my spirit.”
Over the years and across the Island, Jackie has officiated for people from around the globe in a myriad of situations from extravaganzas at the fabulous (albeit for many quite unaffordable) Belmond La Residencia with hundreds of guests to the reaffirming of a couple’s vows with only their three-year-old and their two mothers under a palm tree in a beautiful garden.
May they be happy ever after!
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By Rosalinda Much
26 July, 2019