All this week the #LiveWithKelly Show will present each couple's story and then America decides who deserves this tropical honor.
Ron & I believe that Kevin & Eileen deserve this honor. We have been with Kevin since Beast Barracks at WP. Ron & Kevin played Army Basketball together and were Co-Captains of the team 86-87. Kevin stood as groomsman in our Wedding and we were there when Kevin married his childhood sweetheart, Liz. We supported and loved on Kevin & Liz, as she endured the ravages of Scleroderma and we Gripped Hands at her passing. I remember spending a weekend with Kevin & Liz during her illness and I stood with her for 2 hours at her son’s basketball game (for she could not sit in the bleachers and she didn’t want to start relying on a wheelchair yet). During that time, she shared with me her concern for Kevin’s happiness after her passing – she wanted his friends (and Kevin) to know that it was okay for him to let go and move on. Her strength and beauty moved me beyond words. And… Ron and I were there as Kevin moved forward with his life with his 3 kids…and we were never more excited to see Kevin with a sparkle in his eye – again – with the possibility of new love.
Kevin & Eileen deserve this honor.
Their story will be featured TOMORROW - Tuesday, January 17 on #LiveWithKelly (@LiveKelly). Now, the important part: Starting on Friday, January 20, at 10am, people can vote once a day for their favorite finalist up until Sunday, January 22 at 3pm. That would mean each person can vote 3 times from one log in. In order to vote, you need to go to www.livewithkelly.tv. It appears that you can vote 3 times from each separate email address, so if you have more than one.... keep voting :) VOTE EARLY! VOTE OFTEN!
Forgive me for how long this post is, but enclosed below is the letter Kevin wrote that got them to the finals. Please read and vote for my friends. I sincerely – they sincerely appreciate it.
To fall in love once and marry your best friend is an amazing feeling, a dream come true. Falling in love a second time, after all of your dreams are tragically shattered, and marrying the love of your life is even more amazing. That is the story of us, Eileen Bellew and Kevin Houston.
In January 2005, Eileen’s world was turned upside down in an instant. Her husband of 10 years, John Bellew, one of New York City’s Bravest, lost his life in a catastrophic fire, which became known as Black Sunday. Married in July 1995, Eileen and John had a life full of love, and four beautiful children who were 6, 3, 2, and 5 months at the time of John’s death. She was on maternity leave from the job she dearly loved as a science teacher in Pearl River, NY. Eileen not only raised her own children as a working mom, but she inspired and encouraged children throughout the community as a teacher, and the positive impact she left on many students is still evident today, even though she has been unable to return to the classroom. Eileen was at home on January 23, 2005, a freezing cold, snowy winter day, when her attention was drawn to a special report on TV broadcasting news of a horrific fire in the Bronx, NY, and serious injuries to firemen who responded to the blaze. She was chilled by what she was hearing, but was unable to get further information on John’s status, who she knew was at the fire. Fearing her worst nightmare, Eileen was soon on her way to St. Barnabas hospital, pictures of her four young children in hand. When she arrived, the terror and uncertainty she feared gripped and shook her to her core. A short time later, John succumbed to his injuries, and their life’s plans and dreams were immediately and irrevocably shattered. In an instant the wonderful world she had known just hours before was thrown into complete chaos. She returned home, devastated and heartbroken, but still had to face another unimaginable hurdle - telling her children that their daddy would not be coming home again. One by one she delivered the message to each of them and began to prepare for the seemingly impossible future that awaited her in that instant. Inspired by her four young children, her little angels, Eileen kept her family moving forward despite the difficulty, sadness, and emptiness that surrounded her on a daily basis. Over the last six years, she has watched her two daughters and her two sons grow and mature into wonderful, well adjusted children, all the while reminding them of John’s courage and bravery, as well as the many great traits he displayed as a father.
In January 2009, Kevin’s world was also toppled. Immediately following his graduation from the United States Military Academy in 1987, Kevin married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth. Kevin and Liz were married for 21 years, when Liz succumbed to a long term illness, a rare autoimmune disease called Scleroderma that eroded her quality of life over a five year period. Kevin and Liz also lived a charmed life, full of love and happiness, with three fantastic children who were 20, 16, and 13, when their world crumbled. Over the course of five years, prior to her death, Kevin was Liz’s primary care giver as she steadily lost her independence and her ability to do the everyday tasks we all take for granted. He was beside her throughout and offering encouragement even when various medical options failed. But he was not alone; his children were also excellent caregivers. The sacrifices each of them made over that five year period contributed to Liz maintaining a positive attitude and happy disposition despite the limitations Scleroderma placed on her and her family. Liz, too, was also a teacher and worked with children at summer camps for many years, but her illness made it impossible for her to continue doing what she loved, being around children. On January 3, 2009, the physical toll that Scleroderma took on Liz proved too much. Kevin’s worst fears had arrived. He gathered his children at the hospital, and sat on the floor before them – the task – telling them that all medical options were exhausted and the miracle they had wished for all week was not going to be realized. Their mother was dying. A short time later they gathered at her bedside to be with her as she peacefully passed away. Kevin, too, drew inspiration from his children, and collectively they have moved forward in the midst of the same difficulty, sadness, and emptiness that the Bellew family endured. In that time Kevin’s oldest daughter completed college and her master’s degree, while his son earned an athletic scholarship to college, and his youngest daughter is near finishing high school. There are everyday reminders everywhere of Liz’s courage and the great attributes she embodied as a mother.
Although Eileen and Kevin grew up in the same small town, and were only five years apart, they had not previously met. Both knew full well the tragedies each other and their children endured as a result of losing a spouse and a parent. In late 2009, Eileen and Kevin subsequently met and enjoyed each other’s company over a casual dinner, unaware something very special was happening. They soon thereafter fell in love. They have had the overwhelmingly awesome experience of finding in each other, the person they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with, despite the enormous losses each had endured. In each other they found soul mates with whom to build new dreams with, and to spend Happily Ever After with. They also found in each other that the future was once again something to embrace and look forward to with happiness and excitement, instead of something to fear. Their’s is the ultimate love story and they sealed their commitment to each other this past May when they got engaged.
Eileen and Kevin, and their families, frequently look to the skies for mindful and loving signs from John, who sends Rainbows, and Liz, who sends soaring Hawks. Those are the loving signs telling them that John and Liz are always nearby, looking out for all of them, and reminding them of happy times, past – present – and future. They often remind each other, sometimes through tears, how lucky they were to have had John and Liz in their lives, even if it was for too short a time.
Eileen and Kevin are most deserving of a Dream Wedding in Hawaii. Despite the horrible tragedies that befell them and their families, and sent them into emotional free falls, they have rallied, collected themselves, stayed positive, and risen up to dream again. Smile on them and send them soaring in the Rainbow state, Hawaii, for the Wedding of a Lifetime.