FOR air stewardess Joanne Heatley, it should have been the happiest day of her life.
But the bride’s beautiful smile hides the anguish of not having one of the most important persons in her life at her wedding last Sunday (Aug 23) on the sands of Altinkum Beach, on Turkey’s West Coast.
In fact the dream wedding between Joanne (25) and her partner, Jonathan Coyne (31), from Manchester, was in danger of being called off – despite months of intense planning and 90 guests flying in for the happy day.
On Thursday August 20, just 72 hours before the big day, her gran Mrs Patricia White suddenly passed away from a suspected heart attack in the resort – leaving her family in shock and Joanne battling emotions to carry on with the special day.
It was Pat and her husband Arthur, of Prestatyn, north Wales, who had enjoyed past family holidays in the resort and bought a holiday home there ten years ago.
It was a home from home for the couple’s extended family and a place where Joanne had spent many happy family breaks over the last decade.
As the final preparations were being made thanks to the efforts of Turkish friends in the resort, the devastating news was broken that Mrs White had passed away despite efforts to revive her.
She was brought back to life for about half-an-hour after a Turkish friend gave her the kiss of life, but she died later.
For Joanne, it was a heart-breaking, but a poignant moment. “My gran and granddad would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary next March.
“It was because of them and our family’s love of Altinkum that we to set our hearts on getting married here. For Gran, it was going to be a dream come true, a dream she never saw, but I’m sure she was with us in spirit.”
Joanne said: “She was like everyone’s gran. I called her Precious because that’s what she was to me.
“She loved coming to Altinkum for six months of the year. She was looking forward to the wedding, but she was suddenly taken from us.
“In the hours after her death, I just thought I couldn’t carry on with the wedding. It wouldn’t have been right without her.
“But thanks to my mum and dad Elaine and Phil, we decided to press on and hold it in her memory. I did it for her as she would have wanted us to do. In fact, knowing my gran, she would have insisted on getting on with it.”
She added: “She was a lovely lady and take comfort in knowing she was here on the day. In spirit.”
Joanne and Jonathan, who have a six-month-old son Jenson, pressed ahead with the wedding and enjoyed an amazing day, which also included a visit by the local mayor Deniz Atabay and local TV cameras.
“To be honest, my gran would have been mad if we hadn’t have gone through with it. It was nothing like I expected; it was an amazing day. It was perfect and better than I could’ve dreamt of,” said Joanne, who works for airline Jet2.
“All the locals and holidaymakers gathered around for the wedding and wanted pictures of us all. I felt like Beyonce and yet they never overstepped the mark. Everyone was just great.”
And yet the scenes were completely different last Thursday when she learned that her gran had died despite efforts to revive her in the apartment she was staying in on the beachfront.
The couple also reserved high praise for Ali and his family who run Ikbals Restaurant for organising the wedding, catering for the family and helping them in their time of grief.
“They are like a second family to us and they have been nothing but absolutely amazing and bent over backwards to help us over the shock of my gran’s death and then the excitement of the wedding. They have been magnificent,” Joanne said.
What has surprised the family is the fact that many of the friends attending the wedding – and visiting Turkey for the first time – have expressed their desire to return to the resort for more holidays. “There’s a great misperception about Turkey, but they have all said they will be coming back.
“We’re aware of the security issues around Turkey at the moment, but it wouldn’t stop me from coming back,” said Joanne.
Patricia’s husband Arthur said: “She just loved Altinkum and it seems ironic that she died here in the resort just as she was going to see her Joanne get married. It was the perfect if tragic ending for her.
“She was a lovely, honest woman and she was my lady in a million. She was like my right arm and the love affair between us never broke down.
“Joanne’s wedding was the best. It was like a film set and Pat would’ve have been absolutely over the moon to have witnessed it. It seems her life came full circle. I know that
If Jo had called it off; her gran would have gone bloody mad!
“Pat was special and I couldn’t have asked for a better soul mate. The wedding will always bring back bitter-sweet, but special memories. It’s just deeply sad she couldn’t see it on her favourite beach with her Jo being treated like a film star.”
The body of Mrs White is due to be expatriated back to the UK shortly.
(All pictures supplied by Brandon Lee Photography)