Nappanee's Bryan and Diane Carter had 'fairy tale romance,' daughter says


From the moment Bryan Carter saw Diane Smeltzer at a drive-in restaurant, he knew they would get married.

Carter was out with a friend when he saw Smeltzer with a friend. Carter told his friend he was taking first picks on the two girls, said Shelley Bond/Finefrock, their daughter. 

“He said ‘You see that little dark-haired girl over there? I’m going to marry her,’” Bond/Finefrock said.

And he did. The Nappanee couple were married for almost 56 years before they died together June 4, 2015.

Bond/Finefrock said Bryan died first in their Jacuzzi in the garage; when Diane came out and saw him, she jumped in to try to save him.

When Bond/Finefrock and her son, Branston Finefrock, found them, they were embracing — something she said didn’t surprise her at all.

“She would have never left him. She just dove in to help him because that’s what she would have done,” Bond/Finefrock said. “She wouldn’t have thought about calling 911 or anything. If her husband was in need, she would have simply helped him.”

Knowing they died together has been comforting for Bond/Finefrock and her family, who knew that one of their parents living without the other would have been incredibly hard. The family even buried them in the same oversized casket.

“I feel like in some ways, God has blessed us and spared us because we don’t have to watch one of them in agonizing hurt and heartache for the other one,” she said. “Knowing that your parents are together in heaven, there’s nothing that tops that.”

She described their love as something found in a fairy tale, or the story “The Notebook.”

“There’s a lot of things you can talk about with my parents … but the real story is their love story,” Bond/Finefrock said. “It’s truly just an amazing love story with the ending that couldn’t be more perfect.”

Even when Bond/Finefrock was growing up, she knew her parents’ relationship was special. She always wanted her dad to tell her she was No. 1, but he refused, always saying Diane was his No. 1.

“I couldn’t beat out Mom; he wouldn’t even give me a day of being No. 1,” she said. “Without my mom my dad would not have been my dad. She was the light of everything beneath him.”

Diane died trying to save Bryan’s life and be his hero, Bond/Finefrock said, but Bryan always considered Diane his hero.

“They would have done whatever it took for each other and not thought anything about it,” she said. “They had this amazing, fairy tale love.”

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