'Corn Crop Dress' to make its eighth trip down the aisle

'Corn Crop Dress' to make its eighth trip down the aisle

PAWTUCKET - When Beth Ann Coakley gets married this summer, she will be wearing her "something borrowed" with pride.

Because while it is Coakley's first walk down the aisle when she weds Pawtucket resident Robert Michael Bedard, it will be trip number eight for her dress. The gown was purchased in 1948, Coakley said, with the profits from that year's corn crop.

Affectionately known as the "Corn Crop Dress" ever since, it cost $300, "a considerable sum of money," Coakley said, that would equal about $3,000 today.

But with the dress having been worn by three generations over seven decades, "no one can say we didn't get our money's worth," she said with a laugh.

Mary Gertrude Gantz, Coakley's great-aunt, first wore the dress in June 1949 when she wed Keith Bader in Troy, Ohio. She then held onto it through the years, lending it out for those who asked, rather than passing it down.

Gantz's sister, Dorothy Alice Gantz, also of Troy, Ohio, was next, wearing it in January 1951 to marry Victor Tigerman.

The Gantz sisters' nieces wore the dress next. Janet (Gantz) Falcone, who has possession of the dress today, was married in 1962. Coakley's mother, Susan (Gantz) Coakley, wore the dress in 1970 to wed James Coakley. Two years later in 1972, S. Barbara (Gantz) Frizzell walked down the aisle.

The original bride lent the dress out to her great-neice Barbara (Falcone) Smith, daughter of the third bride, in 1987, and then to her own daughter Beverly (Bader) Buckley in 1990.

"I grew up seeing pictures and hearing stories," said Coakley, a native of Hanover, N.H. who has been living in Beverly, Mass., and teaching algebra and calculus at the Landmark School.

While she was only at one of the weddings where the dress was worn - her cousin's when Coakley was 12 years old - she said she always had an idea that she might wear the dress someday.That chance came this March when Bedard proposed.

The pair met in 2008 when Coakley was a new teacher at Slater Junior High School, where Bedard worked as a custodian. They will wed this August, almost exactly five years to the day they met.

The wedding in Falmouth, Mass., will have a 1940's theme with big band music. A former mechanic who worked for 25 years at Paul Goudreaus' Auto Service and In n Out Automotive on Newport Avenue and Benefit Street, Bedard fixed up a 1941 Ford Business Coupe last summer that will be a focal point of the affair and used in the wedding photos.

Bedard, son of Vivian Beaudette of Pawtucket and Robert Bedard of North Attleboro, Mass., is also planning to wear an older-style tuxedo, Coakley said.

Coakley, of course, has her outfit planned out, but it was cause for a bit of anxiety as she was waiting for it to be shipped to her. Each bride had to vow not to permanently alter the dress in any way, so Coakley said she was relieved when she finally tried on the dress and it fit her six-foot-tall frame.

"I'm actually the tallest woman that's going to wear it," she said.

Its classic styling certainly helped the dress stand the test of time, even though Coakley said the dress looked different in each wedding.

The long-sleeved cream-colored gown has a satin bodice with buttons down the front, a full skirt and a cathedral train.

"Maybe it might not have made it this far if it weren't so classic," Coakley said, acknowledging that unless a second cousin steps forward, this may be the gown's last appearance.

So she said she is happy to have the chance, especially because it was worn by her mother.

"It's really exciting just to think about how many happy memories are in that dress, how many romantic dances were in that dress," she said. "It's really special to me."