A New Jersey judge was able to officiate his daughter’s wedding from his hospital bed, just weeks before his death.
Casey Kapalko, 27, had seen her dad, Monmouth Superior Court Judge Paul Kapalko, officiate many weddings in her life so it was without question who would officiate her own.
“I think it was one of the things he loved most about being a judge,” Casey told InsideEdition.com. “Two of the things were adoption day and weddings. He was a cheesy guy, but when it came time to perform weddings he took it very seriously because he knew how important the moment was for the couple.”
Judge Kapalko was diagnosed with pancreatic carcinoids in 2011 and doctors told him he had four to five years to live.
When Casey got engaged to her partner, Stephanie Vazquez, in December 2016, Casey's dad excitedly accepted their request to marry them.
“We were aiming for November 2017 wedding. We had sort of talked about that, but really soon after that, we thought November would be a stretch,” Casey said.
So the couple planned a May wedding and sent out their invitations.
Their idea was to get married in Casey's mom’s backyard and have Casey's mother and father walk her down the aisle. Kapalko had even gotten a physical therapist to make sure he’d be up to it.
In April, however, Kapalko’s health took a turn for the worst and he was admitted to the ICU. He was only allowed limited visitors due to contamination.
“Stephanie and I had already applied for the marriage license,” Casey said. “When he moved to the ICU we said, 'This is really serious. Maybe we should try to make this [the wedding] happen.”
On April 15, Casey asked Vasquez if she was ready to do it 'today' and nurses at the hospital made it possible for eight people to be in Kapalko’s hospital room.
“It was surreal. We all had our masks and gloves on. I had two friends FaceTiming in,” Casey said. “My dad was as cool as a cucumber. He became the guy I had seen officiate so many weddings. He went off script and was really personal. He offered advice and said some really beautiful things. It felt unreal.”
Kapalko died on April 27, 12 days later. He was 62.
Casey said she will always cherish the fact that her dad’s name will forever be on her marriage license.
She also realizes the magnitude of the gift she received to have him present on her big day because her sister, Christina Kapalko, who served as her maid of honor, will not get that moment.
“I think everybody in there felt so much closer, like we were all sharing something really important. More special than it could have been any other way,” Casey said.
Christina will run the Damon Runyon 5K at Yankee Stadium Saturday to honor her father's memory. She and her father were both huge fans of the baseball team.
The yearly event raises funds for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation this weekend.