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12 years wed, and rich in love; Couple's triple celebration packs in renewal of vows, 100th birthday, and honors for Scouting, UB football

The bride looked gorgeous, in a long, elegant midnight-blue dress, with matching jacket.

The groom was trim and dashing, in his black tuxedo, with gold specks.

But this wasn't your typical wedding.

After the Saturday morning ceremony -- actually a renewal of vows -- Paul and Kay Rich headed to the University at Buffalo football game, where Paul Rich was to be honored as the oldest former UB player.

And this was a dual celebration: the couple's 12th wedding anniversary -- and Paul Rich's 100th birthday, two days earlier.

About 75 people attended the ceremony at the Country Club of Buffalo, to celebrate a different kind of love story. The couple met in 1998, after both had been widowed -- she twice. They married the following year, when he was almost 88, she in her early 60s.

"Why did you marry me?" Kay Rich asked her husband, just before Saturday's ceremony.

"Because you were so beautiful," he replied.

Twelve years later, the couple have been married, to each other and to others, for a total of 126 years.

"We really say we live in paradise, in our own little treehouse, way up in the sky," she said. "That's what we sing to each other."

Kay Rich -- who never will be accused of being shy -- explained why they decided to renew their vows, just two days after her husband's big birthday.

Paul Rich didn't want any big 100th birthday shindig.

So his wife turned to him one day and made a different proposal.

"Paul, would you marry me again?" she asked.

"I'd marry you any day, noon or night," he replied.

"Paul, guess what," she added. "I want to renew our vows."

And so they did, in a brief ceremony officiated by nondenominational pastor Cassandra Butler.

"We will," the couple said in unison, sealing their vows.

From then on Saturday, the wedding turned into part ceremony and part stand-up-comedy routine, mostly from Mrs. Rich, that had the guests smiling and giggling most of the way.

Sitting next to each other facing the crowd, Rich turned to his wife at one point and asked her a simple question.

"Do you know all these people?" he said.

That got a big chuckle.

"Aren't you glad they all came?" she said later. "You don't have to know their names."

At another point, she asked her husband how much he loved her. He spread his arms as wide as possible.

"Guess what," she said. "I love him that much, too."

The extended ceremony also gave others a chance to honor Paul Rich, as both the oldest Eagle Scout in Erie County and the oldest surviving former UB player. Rich was a guard on the UB team from 1930 through 1932, once running 65 yards with a blocked kick against Harvard.

"I feel like I live with my mature Eagle Scout, football player, boyfriend and world traveler," his wife said later. "At night, I feel like I'm with my high school boyfriend."

Other comments from Kay Rich, before, during and after the ceremony:

*Her husband woke up a little bit under the weather Saturday morning.

"At least give me an hour, and I'll do my own vows," she pleaded with him.

*On the couple's loyalty to each other:

"He wouldn't look at another woman if she stripped in front of him. He's in love with his wife "

*On their marriage:

"We're Adam and Eve without the apple."

While they obviously don't go back that far, Paul Rich comes from a long, distinguished Buffalo family. He's an 11th-generation member of the family, which settled in Salem, Mass., in the 1650s.

"Dad has done the line very proud," said one of his sons, Paul Rich III. "He wasn't at Lexington, but one of us was. If he lives to 150, people will think he was."

The groom is the older brother of the late Robert E. Rich Sr. Their father, Paul J. Rich Sr., built Rich's Ice Cream Co., the largest independently owned ice cream company in Buffalo. His son Paul (the groom) ran that business for about 30 years until it was sold in 1963. He also has been involved in many civic ventures in Buffalo throughout his life.

Kay Rich, who moved here from Ohio to start a new life with her husband, talked about the lessons of the couple's love story.

"I want people to know that life is an adventure every day," she said. "You don't know what's going to happen. You have to step out [of your routine] and be willing to grow."

But Kay Rich didn't utter the last word during the ceremony.

The guests, including four generations of the Rich family, stood up and uttered, in unison, a toast that summed up the couple's union:

"To young love."

email: gwarner@buffnews.com