Lock operator ties the knot at Cannelton

Published Jan. 31, 2013
Lock Operator Janet Merritt weds Elvin Barks in a first-of-its-kind ceremony at Cannelton Locks and Dam, Cannelton, Ind., Dec. 12, 2012.

Lock Operator Janet Merritt weds Elvin Barks in a first-of-its-kind ceremony at Cannelton Locks and Dam, Cannelton, Ind., Dec. 12, 2012.

When planning a wedding, most brides wouldn’t think of sharing the day with their co-workers, but long-time Corps employee and bride-to-be Janet Merritt thought sharing the special ceremony with her Corps family was the perfect idea.

Merritt, a 20-year employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District, who has spent the last decade at Cannelton Locks and Dam tied the knot with her groom, Elvin Barks, during the annual office holiday party on Dec. 12.

"It was just instant how it all came together," said Merritt. "We had talked about getting married on Dec. 12, 2012, but it was a Wednesday. While we were planning the holiday party, co-workers suggested just having the ceremony here during the party." Immediately, the coordination began.

"I was concerned about having the ceremony at the employee get-together, but everybody was very receptive to the idea and has been so wonderful," said Merritt.

"The fact that Janet wants to get married here just solidifies the fact that we are a family," said Navigation Assistant Pennie Cason. "Everybody loves to come to work here every day."

The groom echoed those sentiments and said he supported the bride’s idea for a non-traditional wedding from the start. "She spends so much time here that this finally gave me a chance to steal her from the river for a while," said Barks.

"My job and these people mean so much to me that it was special to have it here," said Merritt.

On the big day the locks operated as normal as the Leonard L. Whittington tow, loaded with coal, moved down the Ohio River. Inside the lock office everybody pitched in and gave a hand to prepare for the holiday feast and nuptials—even the maintenance men scurried around to find straight pins for the bride while others offered up decorations for the cake table.

"It was all hands on deck," said Merritt.

The atmosphere was much like a family reunion with lots of joking and a warm welcome for Corps retirees who gathered for the event. "She said she just wanted a simple ceremony with her friends, so here we are," said Janice Alexander, lock and dam operator.

The ceremony, which took place on 12-12-12 at precisely 12:12 p.m. marked history for the Louisville District as the first employee to be wed on the lock wall. Between the two lock chambers at Cannelton, Tell City Clerk-Treasurer Jenny Richter officiated the wedding ceremony of Mr. and Mrs. Barks.

Among the 30 employees and retirees, the bride’s sister, Elaine Bell, and Cannelton Lockmaster Kenny Schaefer stood as witnesses.

Merritt and Barks’ love story began seven years ago when they were best friends, but somewhere along the way it turned into more. "He was my best friend," said Merritt. "I never ever thought there would be a romance."

The newlyweds reside in Corydon, Ind., on Barks’ farm and celebrated their honeymoon in Kona, Hawaii.

"We were pleased that Janet and Elvin chose to share their special day at Cannelton Locks and Dam," said Schaefer. "It was the perfect day for all as it signified a new beginning for them, and an end to Janet’s successful career with the Corps. Janet plans to retire within the next few months, and she will be missed. What a glorious historical time for all of us to share with our extended Corps family."

Editor’s Note: Janet Merritt was on annual leave the day of her wedding.