During her long battle with cancer, Linda Schug was a fighter.
And she was a matchmaker.
Long before her death last fall, she paved the way for Tim Schug, her husband of 39 years, to enter into a new life without her.
In February, Tim married Betty Fried, a bride chosen by Linda.
The Billings pastor who performed the ceremony described their wedding as an “arranged marriage.”
The bride, who had never been married, was one of Linda’s close friends.
“When you’ve had a really good relationship, you want the best for your mate, and I think Linda felt that way,” Tim said. “She wanted me to be happy and not waste time.”
During the wedding ceremony, the Rev. Paul Jones at Emmanuel Baptist Church, told how the courtship came about.
“He explained it to the congregation, so we could all rejoice together,” Tim said.
Long before they had any inkling of Linda’s illness, the couple discussed the need for a surviving spouse to go about the business of living.
A decade ago, Linda, a deeply religious woman, confided to her daughter that she had picked out a woman who, if Linda were to die, would make a good wife for her husband.
When she became ill eight years ago, Linda confided her plan to others.
She spoke to her daughter’s mother-in-law and consulted a close family friend who was a pastor. She even mentioned casually to her husband that she had picked out a match for him.
“I never took it seriously at the time,” Tim said.
Shortly before she died in mid-October, Linda brought up the subject with a close friend, saying, “He needs to pursue this gal. That’s who I picked out for him.”
“She never wavered from that concept during the years,” Tim said. “It was very evident that Linda had put this all together, and I felt completely free to be able to pursue it.”
After Linda’s death, Tim checked that there were no Biblically based injunctions against courting soon after the loss of a spouse.
Then, during hunting season, he put together a plan for approaching Betty.
He invited her to dinner as a way of thanking her for taking care of the house while he and Linda had traveled during the four years Linda’s cancer was in remission. Tim, who is 63, worked for Exxon for 32 years before retiring in 2002.
During that first dinner date, Tim told Betty that he intended to court her.
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“What!” She blurted the word out so loudly it seemed as if the whole restaurant had overheard her.
“I’d been single all my life and couldn’t believe he’d asked me that,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it because, actually, I had been praying that I would have total peace about being single because I’d been single all my life.
“And I did have total peace about it. And then this comes along, and I say, ‘OK God, what are you trying to do here, rattle my cage?’ ”
For 33 years, Betty had worked as a church secretary, retiring from that job in 2003 to work as a caretaker for two different women.
She met the Schugs in 1972, through Billings Bible Church. For more than 20 years, she had been part of a care group of about 15 members that started under the church’s auspices and was led by Tim. She had baby-sat for Tim and Linda’s children occasionally and taken care of their home when they traveled.
Linda never mentioned matrimony to Betty. But, at one point, Linda somewhat cryptically broached the subject of taking care of Tim after her death.
Betty assumed Linda wanted the whole care group to look after him.
“She had mentioned it to a number of people,” Betty said. “We’ve counted, five or six, but nothing was ever mentioned to me. Only that comment.”
Soon after their restaurant date, Betty’s relationship to Tim became quite serious. During the courtship, they each had a confidant.
“All along the way, we were waiting for the red flags to come up on either side,” Tim said.
“We knew this was a very unusual circumstance.”
At first, they were concerned their families might not be supportive. Tim has three grown children and five grandchildren. Betty, who grew up on a farm between Baker and Plevna, has four brothers and a sister.
By the time Tim visited his grandchildren in Arizona over the Christmas holiday, the couple was talking to each other every night by phone.
On the Sunday after Christmas, Tim proposed to her by cell phone while he was playing golf with the grandkids. He had tried to reach her earlier that day, but couldn’t get through.
“Time was wasting,” Tim said.
They were married on Feb. 27.
The bride, who is 71, wore a white satin gown and jacket with a three-quarter sleeve. After they were pronounced man and wife, the 200 or so guests at the ceremony stood up and applauded.
They spent their honeymoon on a cruise along the Mexican Riviera.
Contact Donna Healy at email@example.com or at 657-1292.