This past February, Penn-Mar resident Jon Nuffer along with Residential Supervisor Theresa Hopple attended the destination wedding of Jon’s younger brother Robby and new sister-in-law Heather. The setting for the newlywed’s nuptial – Key West, Florida.
Combining family, friends, food, fun and a marvelous destination, the Nuffer wedding in Key West, was made even more memorable by the fact that everything went off without a single hitch.
Although Jon had flown with his family before, he’d never flown by himself, and Theresa, who was asked if she could accompany Jon on the trip, said she panicked a little when she realized she’d never been on a commercial jetliner in her life.
“I was all kinds of jittery,” laughed Theresa, “But Emily Long [Penn-Mar Program Manager] talked me off the ledge, helping me so much with my little anxieties. Jon helped me keep my sanity.”
Jon and Kathi Nuffer (pronounced Noo-fer), Jon’s parents and Howard County residents, were concerned at first, but knowing Jon was up for anything, and Theresa was now up for the challenge of flying for the first time, they were able to relax. Giving the Nuffers that extra bit of confidence were their good friends Cindy and John Mohler. The Mohlers hosted Jon and Theresa the night before their departure and flew out with them the next day from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to join the wedding party, who had arrived days earlier to make all the arrangements.
“Despite the big undertaking, it just couldn’t have worked out any better,” said Mr. Nuffer.
A Tight-knit Family
“Jon is very close with his family,” said Theresa, who has worked with Jon and his three housemates since last September. “He talks with them and sees them regularly. He was very excited about his brother’s wedding – all he talked about was being his best man.”
Jon was born a healthy baby in 1981, and his brother Robby was born 11-and-a-half months later; as their father says, “They were Irish Twins.” At the age of three-and-a-half, Jon inexplicably began having uncontrollable seizures that changed his and the Nuffers’ lives forever.
Complicating matters worse, at the age of eight while in grade three, Jon contracted a bad case of chickenpox. A few days later, his mother Kathi noticed he was having a hard time talking. They rushed him down to Hopkins and learned that his seizure disorder caused him to have an infection, which in turn caused a blood clot resulting in a stroke that affected his right side and his ability to walk.
Later research by their pediatric neurologist determined that kids with seizure disorders are more susceptible to chicken pox. “Today, with the vaccine, which we didn’t have then, it’s taken care of right away,” said Mr. Nuffer. “You wouldn’t believe what Jon’s been through. At one point they told us that he might not be able to ever walk again.”
Mr. Nuffer has made several attempts to write a book detailing Jon’s and the family’s experience over the years, a book that would help other parents raising children with disabilities, and who may also be trying to provide stability for their other children, but, he said, reliving the experience is overwhelmingly emotional and stops him in his tracks.
La Te Da
Key West is the southernmost city in the continental United States, known for its Caribbean-style pastel-colored homes, sunsets that draw tourists from all over the U.S. and beyond, and as the stomping grounds of famous writers like Ernest Hemmingway, Robert Frost and Tennessee Williams. Not to mention, the chickens that freely strut through the island city’s streets.
“It’s absolutely beautiful there,” said Theresa, who with the wedding party stayed at the La Te Da Hotel, on Key West’s most famous Duval Street – the mile-long main drag that runs north and south from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.
“Jon took the whole experience in stride, and was very happy,” said Theresa. “He particularly enjoyed the people watching and the colorful nightlife on Duval Street.”
“I had a great time at the wedding and so did Theresa,” said Jon, whose brother Robby gave him a cap that read Best Man, and which he rarely took off during their stay. “The food was good and I’d go back.”
“Jon loves new adventures,” said Mr. Nuffer, “and when he wants to do something he’s all in.”
Case in point: Although walking can be difficult for any length for Jon, one evening after he and Theresa did the Ghosts and Gravestone Tour (Jon’s an ardent horror movie fan, whose favorite holiday is Halloween), they met up with the rest of the party and Jon insisted on walking the 20 blocks back to the hotel up Duval Street. “He hung in there the whole time,” said Mr. Nuffer.
“We’re so grateful to Theresa, Emily and Penn-Mar for helping us make Robby and Heather’s wedding a truly memorable day for our family. It was a great experience for everyone,” said Mr. Nuffer.