911 dispatcher gives 'wedding gown caper' a happy ending

It played out somewhere between a Keystone Kops comedy and one of those movies about a guardian angel -- and it started with a 911 call.

The bride-to-be was packing her car near her Kent, Wash., home for her wedding, went back inside for another load and came out to find her wedding dress had been stolen.

That was Sunday morning. The wedding was scheduled for Sunday evening. Sobbing and raging, she called 911 to report the theft. Candice, the dispatcher who answered at the regional call center, was a five-year veteran, who had handled people in crisis before.

She calmed the woman, and asked for details to pass to police officers for a theft report.

"I finally figured out what was going on, and asked when the ceremony was scheduled," she said. "When she said 'today,' my heart broke in two for her."

Candice first dispatched a police officer to meet the woman. As soon as she disconnected the call, she turned to her supervisor and asked a question likely never heard in a 911 center before.

"Can I offer her my dress?" she asked. "All through the call I was thinking, 'I have a dress ...'"

Candice and husband, Brandon, were married 18 months ago. Tall and lean, she had no idea if her dress would fit this bride-to-be whom she'd never met. But her supervisor said she could offer it.

"I talked to the officer responding and told him to tell her I'd offer her my dress," Candice said.

Candice called her husband, who wasn't supposed to be home. He should have been camping, but hadn't felt well. Brandon emailed him a picture of his wife wearing the dress, and Candice sent it to the responding police officer's telephone.

He showed it to the woman, who thought it might fit.

Now all they needed was the dress, which was stored somewhere in her parents' home in nearby Gig Harbor -- but her parents were out of town.

Candice sent her parents, Calvin and Patty Luce, the kind of text message no one wants to get. "It said 'Emergency! Call me.' and gave her number at the 911 center," Calvin Luce said.

"We called and the first thing Candice said was 'everything is all right. Where's my wedding dress?'"

It was in the Luce attic. Candice called her husband again and asked if he'd drive to Gig Harbor to get the dress. First, he'd have to go get a key from her brother, James. That went awry when James gave her husband the wrong key.

One extra trip later, the two got the right key and the dress, and delivered the gown to the groom's home.

A few hours later came the happy ending -- the wedding, complete with a bride in a wedding gown.

"Candice is an extraordinary person," said her call center operations manager, Vonnie Mayer. "She had something someone else needed, and she made it happen."

Candice asked not to be identified by her full name, for professional and safety reasons. She also didn't want the attention focused on her.

But her father is proud.

"She has always been very generous, always thinking of other people," Calvin Luce said. "It's not a surprise she'd do this, or believe that God put all the pieces together."

Which is exactly what she believes.

"If I hadn't taken that call, I wouldn't have heard about it," Candice said. "If she wasn't my size, it wouldn't have worked. If my husband had gone camping instead of staying home, I couldn't have gotten to the dress.

"God does awesome things, and this woman, whose wedding day might have been ruined, had her special day, after all."

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(Contact Larry LaRue at larry.larue@thenewstribune.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.)

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