Between selections from a string quartet Saturday evening, Jonathan Hooker and Scarlett Parsley exchanged wedding vows in front of 250 friends and family in a beautiful outdoor ceremony. They danced and celebrated for hours before being chauffeured away in a white 1958 Bentley to get a little sleep before a 6 a.m. flight to California for their honeymoon.
But on that flight, they died, after less than 12 hours as husband and wife.
Of all the loss and heartache from the crash of Flight 5191, the tragedy of the newlyweds killed at the dawn of their life together struck many people as particularly awful.
“It’s just a very very painful, tragic situation,” said Keith Madison, who coached Jon Hooker when he pitched for the University of Kentucky baseball team as a student from 1997 to 2001. “It really hit hard.”
The two “held all the promise that youth and love carry,” UK President Lee Todd said in a statement, “which makes their loss to us even more tragic.”
Scarlett Parsley Hooker, whose family owns a well-known tire business in London, was a 2004 graduate of Centre College in Danville, where she majored in anthropology and sociology and was a cheerleader and a sorority member.
She was attending UK to pursue a master’s degree in communication disorders, according to a wedding announcement published last week in the Sentinel-Echo, the newspaper in London.
She was very smart, quiet and kindhearted, with a particular soft spot for older people, said people who knew her.
“If anybody wanted a perfect daughter, they would want a Scarlett,” said Shirley “Sweetie” Smith of London, a friend of the Parsley family. “It breaks all our hearts.”
“She was just a great kid, a great spirit. She was smart and had just an interest in things,” said Endre Nyerges, who teaches anthropology at Centre. “I can’t imagine what her family is feeling.”
Jonathan Hooker’s father died in a car crash when he was about 12, said people who knew him. Madison said he admired Hooker’s mother, Kim, for raising Jonathan and his siblings alone.
Jonathan Hooker played professional minor-league baseball after leaving UK and later received a degree from Eastern Kentucky University, according to his wedding announcement.
He had worked the last few months as a substance-abuse counselor in the Manchester office of Cumberland River Comprehensive Care, said officials with the agency.
Bill Thompson, a social worker in the office, said Hooker was easygoing and did a good job and liked to play golf. He also worked with youth baseball in London, said Danny Jones, head of Cumberland River comp care.
Thursday was Hooker’s last day at the agency because he planned to find work in Lexington while his wife attended school.
“Everyone at the office loved him,” Thompson said. “If you had a kid and it was like Jonathan, you couldn’t do much better.”
Thompson said he talked to Hooker on Thursday as he packed his things at the office. One of the last things he packed was his Bible.
Harlan Avera Jr., pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in London, said Parsley had been a member there, but moved her membership to Freedom United Baptist, where Jonathan Hooker was a member.
On Saturday evening, the bride arrived by horse-drawn carriage for the wedding on the manicured grounds of the Headley-Whitney Museum in Lexington. The couple exchanged traditional vows, said Smith, who attended. A friend read from 1st Corinthians 13:1-8, a description of love that bears, believes, hopes and endures all things.
It was a “storybook wedding,” Smith said, beautiful and flawless, “perfect for two perfect children.” The ceremony started at 6:30 p.m., and the newlyweds stayed until about 11 p.m.
They were going to honeymoon in Southern California and visit Disneyland and other attractions, Smith said.
“They were so happy and life was so good,” she said.