Friends and neighbors celebrate a West Tisbury love story

Cynthia Riggs of West Tisbury and Dr. Howard Attebery of San Diego, reconnected after 60 years. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

It is a love story that has caught the attention of Islanders and romantics around the world. Why not Hallmark TV, which has signed on to tell the story of how 82-year-old mystery writer Cynthia Riggs of West Tisbury and 91-year-old Dr. Howard Attebery, a former dentist from San Diego, reconnected after 60 years.

In March, Ms. Riggs and Mr. Attebery married in a Buddhist ceremony. There was a church wedding in May.

On Saturday, they held a garden party potluck and invited the Vineyard community to a belated wedding ceremony at the Cleaveland House, a B&B that has been in Ms. Riggs’s family for two and half centuries.

It rained in March; it rained in May; and rain came again Saturday midway through the party, forcing the large crowd of guests to seek shelter inside the historic B&B. Food, guests, even a ten-piece brass band squeezed into the cozy converted farmhouse, but the sudden downpour didn’t put a damper on the festivities.

The event was the final celebration of a storybook romance that has captured the hearts of people all over the country. The couple, who met when the bride was only 19 years old, reconnected last fall.

Ms. Riggs recounted the story as part of a Moth Radio Hour event NPR hosted at Oak Bluffs Union Chapel last August, and again at a Moth event at New York City’s famed Cooper Union in February. Prior to the Vineyard event, Ms. Riggs had yet to meet her husband-to-be in person. By the time of the New York event, they had reconnected in California and were engaged.

The story has delighted Islanders. Dr. Attebery said that people are constantly approaching them at the bank, the post office, and elsewhere to wish them well. And the story has spread far beyond the Vineyard. The groom reported that the couple receives letters from points all over the country.

Ms. Riggs said that after turning down offers by four movie producers, she and Dr. Attebery have finally agreed to allow the Hallmark Hall of Fame to dramatize their love story. Right now a proposal is in the hands of six-time Emmy award winner Betty White, the producers’ first choice for the role of Ms. Riggs.

At Saturday’s party, Ms. Riggs was beaming. “I was married once a long time ago and I swore never, never, never, never again,” she said, then added, “Howie won me.”

Speculating on the couple’s newly found fame, Dr. Attebery said of their love story, “It gives so much hope. People are so fed up with the state of the world. They want to hear a peaceful story that offers hope.”

Dr. Attebery carried a torch for Ms. Riggs for six decades, and through a previous marriage, before he sought to find his true love again. When asked if she was the same as he remembers her when they worked together at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in 1950, he said, “She’s better.”

“I’m so fortunate to have come together with her again,” said Dr. Attebery, who has relocated from San Diego to Ms. Riggs’s B&B where he has set up a small lab to study the local pond water, “We have a beautiful life together. We have candlelight every night.”