Judge Performs Daughters Wedding On His Death Bed

WEST LONG BRANCH - As a little girl, Casey Kapalko always knew she wanted her daddy, Monmouth Superior Court Judge Paul Kapalko, to officiate at her wedding.

Growing up she watched him perform ceremonies in his official black robes and dreamed one day – maybe in their backyard – he'd preside over her own nuptials.

On April 15, 2017, her father, made that dream come true for his daughter Casey and her partner, Stephanie.

It didn't happen the way anyone planned, but the memory is one she'll cherish forever.

In 2011, Paul Kapalko was diagnosed with carcinoid, a rare form of cancer that is hard to detect. Doctors gave him four to five years to live, but he pulled through longer than anyone thought he might.

Paul Kapalko grew up in Asbury Park. Before he was appointed to the bench, he dabbled in politics. He ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for Congress against Frank Pallone in 1990.

He loved baseball and softball and his daughters said he secretly loved to sing The Eagles and Frank Sinatra on nights out for karaoke. He loved going to the beach at Asbury Park and remained a frequent visitor to the city even years later after moving to West Long Branch.

Casey and her younger sister Christina helped with his care after his diagnosis, keeping his spirits high as he went through treatment.

Christina, 23, kept him up to date with crossword puzzles in the newspaper and the latest Yankees baseball scores.

Casey, 27, debated politics with him and played cards.

And when his oldest daughter found love and got engaged in 2016, he volunteered to perform the ceremony.

"He was always well-spoken, so thoughtful in his words," Casey said. "We both wanted him to do it."

Casey and Stephanie initially planned out a November wedding, but when it became clear her father might not have that long, they sent out invitations for May.

They went ahead and got a marriage license just in case they needed it earlier.

"He'd keep telling the doctors and nurses let's make it to May 6," Christina said.

But in April he took a turn for the worse and was moved to the ICU at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.

Early the next Saturday morning, Casey thought for a little and asked Stephanie, "Do you want to get married today?"

The physicians and staff at the hospital obliged them as they gathered with their closest family and friends in Paul's room, wearing masks and gloves because his immune system was weak.

Christina served as maid of honor.

You could hear the beeping of the monitors in the room as Paul dutifully read through the script as he set upright in bed, pausing at times to ad-lib some remarks, as you can see in the video posted above this story.

Before Stephanie put the ring on Casey's finger, Paul said he wanted to point something out.

"The circle is the symbol of the eternal circle of life, because it doesn't have a beginning, it doesn't have an ending," Paul said.

"When you place that circle on Casey's finger, what you're really pledging is that you're pledging to love honor and cherish for the rest of your lives, without any end."

He then made a pronouncement for the final time in his career.

"For as much as the two of you consented to live together in matrimony and be married partners," he started. "Having borne witness to this ceremony I can now by the power invested in me by the state of New Jersey say that you are a married couple," Paul said.

"You may kiss the bride."

He died 12 days later, on April 27. He was 62.