Three generations cherish same wedding dress

Angela Major/The Janesville Gazette via AP
Jessi Balsamo, left, Jean Spaulding, center, and Sue Kotwitz, right, stand together Monday, March 13, 2017 in Janesville, Wis. The women shared a wedding dress for three generations.

Angela Major/The Janesville Gazette via AP Jessi Balsamo, left, Jean Spaulding, center, and Sue Kotwitz, right, stand together Monday, March 13, 2017 in Janesville, Wis. The women shared a wedding dress for three generations.

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) — Even now, you can see the glow in Jessi Balsamo’s eyes when she talks about her wedding dress.

“I could not stop looking at it when I got married,” Jessi told the Janesville Gazette (http://bit.ly/2o8SuHf ).

Her mother, Sue Kotwitz, and her grandmother Jean Spaulding know how she feels.

The Janesville women wore the same satin gown on their wedding days.

Jessi will celebrate her fifth wedding anniversary March 31.

She enjoys sharing the story of her dress, “which is all about tradition,” Jessi explained. “I knew I wanted to wear the dress before I even knew who I would marry. My grandmother and I have always been close.”

Jessi teaches kindergarten at Janesville’s Monroe Elementary School and keeps photos of herself, her mom and her grandmother — all in the same gown on their wedding days — on her desk.

“Our family is all about family,” Jessi said.

She remembers when three generations gathered at her grandparents’ house every Sunday to share a meal.

But long before Jessi admired the dress, her mother dreamed of wearing it.

As a child, Sue stared long and hard at Jean’s wedding portrait.

“I saw this queen,” Sue said. “I saw my mother wearing this beautiful satiny dress and holding red roses. I thought to myself: I want to wear that dress.”

When Sue married Kevin Kotwitz on April 15, 1978, she fulfilled her dream.

Sue looked lovely in the classic gown with lace around the waist, shoulders and chest. The ivory dress also has buttons down the back and sleeves that come to a triangle at the hands.

The only alteration Sue needed was to shorten the dress.

She will never forget how the long train somehow got caught on the church door.

Fortunately, it was not damaged.

When Jessi married Dave Balsamo, she did not need to alter the dress.

“It fit perfectly,” Jessi said.

Seeing Jessi in the dress brought Sue to tears.

Each of Sue’s four daughters selected a different style wedding gown, from flouncy to elegant to traditional.

“They chose what was perfect for them,” Sue said.

Jean, 87, had no idea the gown she bought more than 60 years ago would be such a hit.

“I had only $100 to spend on the dress,” Jean recalled. “It was the only dress I put on, and it fit like a glove. It also was my price.”

On April 11, 1953, she married Raymond Spaulding in the classic dress.

Her brother walked her down the aisle and later suggested they should have put roller skates on her because she walked so slowly.

Later, when Jean saw her daughter in the dress, she was proud that Sue wanted to wear it.

Jean was proud all over again when her granddaughter put it on.

“You see yourself,” Jean said. “You think back to your own wedding day.”

The vintage dress has been clean and pressed after each marriage.

“We’ve had it professionally packed every time we wore it,” Jessi said.

Jessi has no children but wants the dress to be ready if another family member decides to wear it.

Jessi’s grandmother is a little amazed at it all.

“Looking back, I was pleased when I bought it,” Jean said. “Now I am more pleased that it went so far. It was the best $100 I ever spent.”

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