(KMSP) - David Weinlick, who captured hearts worldwide when he married Elizabeth Runze in an arranged marriage in front of thousands of shoppers at the Mall of America in 1998, has passed away.
Friends and family picked Elizabeth (Bethy) out of hundreds of women who inquired about opportunity to wed David. The two met just five minutes before the ceremony, but were married for nearly 20 years and had four children.
"I don't know if it could be duplicated. There was magic that day," Elizabeth said.
In March 2017, David was diagnosed with terminal and inoperable stage IV colon cancer. His wife said he died in hospice Sunday night surrounded by family.
The pair renewed their vows in a ceremony at the Mall of America last summer.
"I know there are going to be hard days. It probably hasn't hit me yet. I'm a little numb right now, but in general I'm just at peace," Elizabeth said.
"He was sad he was going to be missing things in the future - grandkids and graduations. He never ever talked about 'why me or why us, why do I have to die,'" David's friend Steve Fletcher said. "There's no upside. We should've gotten 30 to 40 more years with him and it's really sad. But he was an amazing person to have the chance to spend time with, and I'm grateful to have known him."
Elizabeth Runze said that despite the loss, David will always have a hold on her heart.
"I'm going to grieve him...and I don't know what I am going to look like when I come out the other end, but I still hope it has a lot of Dave in it," Elizabeth said.
The Mall of America plans to permanently honor David and released the following statement on Tuesday:
For 20 years, David + Bethy Weinlick have been a constant reminder for us of what true love really means, as well as the definition of strength + perseverance. We now grieve the loss of Dave after a brave battle with cancer. Our thoughts are forever with the Weinlick family.