Two brides are forever linked after wearing the same vintage three-piece wedding dress five decades apart, although they have never met.
Santa Ynez resident KC Thompson recently adjusted the 80-year-old wedding dress she wore 32 years ago to marry her husband, Sam Thompson, in 1989. While modeling the dress one last time before the fragile lace and satin do start to give way and tear. , Thompson was inspired to resurrect her efforts to reunite with the family of Ellen Prince, the original owner.
“I’ve been hanging on to this story for a long time,” said Thompson. “I was on a mission to find someone related to Ellen – but that was during the pre-Internet years.”
When Thompson began sifting through her treasure trove of musical collectibles to spare, the desire to fully renew the search for Prince’s family ignited when she stumbled upon the carefully packed wedding dress at the ‘a spring cleaning episode caused by a pandemic in his attic.
“I couldn’t forget it,” Thompson recalls. “One day out for a walk, I said to myself, ‘I’m calling the Alpena newspaper.’ “
Prince was born in Alpena, Michigan in the early 1900s before moving to Los Angeles County with her family as a young woman.
Thanks to the local town newspaper, Thompson was able to issue opinions that reached amateur genealogist Jayna Huotari of Alpena. Thompson assigns Huotari the key person to locate George Light, Prince’s grandnephew, who currently resides in Illinois.
“A number of people helped,” Thompson said, “but Jayna was the one who found the phone numbers.”
With just one phone call, Light was not only receptive to the news, Thompson said, but he was moved by his efforts to reunite his great-aunt’s belongings – including the 80-year-old wedding dress – with his ancestors.
“George is a hilarious guy and knew a lot about his family,” she said. “I hope to meet him.
Two worlds collide
In the 1980s, when Thompson was living in the San Fernando Valley and working in the music industry, his cousin Richard Payton came across a house where people were emptying piles of boxes and putting them on the sidewalk. Payton stopped and asked if the items were take out, and was allowed to take a load.
“Everything was going in the trash,” Thompson recalls.
Come find out, the house had been Prince’s and was being cleaned up for sale after his death. Some of the items taken away, according to Payton, once belonged to Prince.
No less a time capsule that Payton gifted his cousin, Thompson became the new owner of Prince’s wedding chest. Inside was the three-piece wedding dress consisting of a creamy white satin underlay, a V-neck, V-back lace sweater set, completed with a sleeved coat. old-fashioned tan lace long sleeves that buttoned the wrist and flowed in a 3-foot train, swirling around the bride’s feet.
Thompson tried on the dress and found it fit like a bespoke masterpiece.
“I was kind of like ‘this thing suits me’,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t even dating back then, so I had a wedding dress long before I had a boyfriend.”
Other content found in the wedding chest included love letters from Prince’s husband, family photos, a Bible, and a pair of beige pumps to accompany the wedding dress that Thompson also said would fit her as a glove.
Remembering Ellen Prince
After more than 30 years of sporadically trying to find Prince’s family to get her things home safely, Thompson said she has finally solved the mystery.
Due to Light’s insistence, Thompson still remains the owner of the wedding dress and shoes.
“We had agreed that there was no reason to send her the wedding dress,” Thompson said. “Besides, no one could wear it because it’s starting to come apart. It’s almost 100 years old, it’s very fragile.”
Prince’s other heirlooms have since been returned to Light, “who was very happy to receive them.”
“It was really nice to return the articles to someone who had a deep connection to their family,” said Thompson.
Drawing even more parallels between the two wives, Thompson also learned from Light that Prince was a graduate of UCSB, located in the same area where Thompson and her husband married 32 years ago and have resided for several years.
“I’ve felt her with me the whole time,” Thompson said of Prince. “I feel like we are soul mates.”
Lisa André covers lifestyles and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record.