With crushing disabilities, despite everything you will read below, and maybe because of it, Denise and Julius have finally decided to get married. They were going to get a license across the river in Washington State ($30 dollars cheaper than Oregon) and get married in a civil ceremony, alone and without even a friend as a witness because that’s all they could afford.
When we found out about their plans we objected. We were not about to let them get married without their friends. We asked what their dream wedding would be. They said they would like to get married in a church, so that’s what we are going to do for them. This campaign is how we are going to give their friends, and anyone else, the opportunity to contribute to making it happen. We would like to make this the very best day of their lives because they deserve it.
Here is the rest of their story:
In love and completely devoted to one another, Denise and Julius’ story is a true fairy tale, but one filled with all the monsters and dragons that make up the lives of the disadvantaged and homeless.
Denise Williams, 62, and Julius Brown, 59, have been together for 16 years since they met at Potluck in the Park, a free meal program in Downtown Portland. Their lives have been troubled since the beginning. Thrown in foster care at age 11, Denise has serious learning disabilities. Julius is dyslexic. Disabled with crushed vertebrae from work, Julius had been on the streets for years and in 2003 he went to Potluck in the Park, hungry and alone. That is when he saw Denise. He said it took many Sundays just to get her to smile, but after a year of meeting each Sunday at Potluck, they began their life together.
Potluck was always a focus in their lives. Each Sunday Julius would be waiting for David Utzinger when he arrived at O’Bryant Square at noon so he could help with the set-up for the meal. Denise became the “Ticket Lady”, handing out meal tickets to early arrivals and through the meal. David could count on her to be present. If she couldn’t be there, she found someone to take her place. Over the years David could always count on both of them.
Currently, any time they are physically able, you can find them in Potluck’s kitchen on Saturday afternoons helping prepare meals for the next day. Denise is still the Ticket Lady on Sundays.
For many years now Denise and Julius have been housed with the help of the non-profit JOIN ; and it all started with Potluck. Years ago, a worker from JOIN came to the Potluck meal one Sunday looking to help people find a way off the street. JOIN helped them find housing and in return, they volunteered in any way possible. Denise has won several awards for her work with JOIN and Julius spent years helping people understand what it is like to be homeless, even taking groups to campsites under the Ross Island Bridge to show them where he and Denise slept back in the early 2000s.
Julius has served on JOIN’s Board of Directors and both Denise and Julius have served on Potluck’s Board since 2010. If that wasn’t enough Denise spends her spare time knitting scarves and caps to be given away to others in need at Potluck’s Christmas Dinner. She knits over 100 every year.
MORE MEDICAL ISSUES
A nightmarish way of life returned in 2017. Denise had a heart attack and then a stroke. Arthritis gripped her. With bone on bone in one knee, she needed a walker, then a wheelchair. Last year she was also diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. That is better now, but it’s still hard for her to smile and keep her left eye open.
Last year, also, Julius began having trouble swallowing. It was throat cancer. A day-long operation and treatment has left him cancer free for now. Pain in his shoulder recently made his doctors suspect the cancer may have moved there. Fortunately, a recent MRI was negative.
Denise and Julius’ wedding is scheduled for First Congregational Church in Downtown Portland on November 23rd. (They didn’t want to wait long). The church, a long-time supporter of Potluck, is doing this for half price. We are seeking all the other donated services and discounts we can get, but there will still be other expenses. We are not going to do this halfway. We need to get them formal wear. We want to bring in family from out of state.
We would also like to give them a honeymoon. Any funds leftover after that will be given directly to them for everyday living expenses. They can certainly use it.
Thank you for helping make this a very special day for two people very much in need who are very dear to our hearts.
- Peggy Reuler
- Diane Messinger
- Kimberlee Lomas
- Colleen Lowry
- Nick Fish
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