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Cancer ends famed Mall of America marriage

David Weinlick 28, married Elizabeth Runze, 28, Saturday, June 13, 1998 at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. The bride was chosen by sixty friends of Weinlick's , who cast ballots and chose Runze from some 20 candidates who hoped to wed. Scott Takushi / St. Paul Pioneer Press1 / 2
David and Elizabeth Weinlick walk down the aisle at their marriage renewal ceremony at the Mall of America in Bloomington on Friday, August 18, 2017. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press2 / 2

WOODBURY, Minn.—David Weinlick, the man who 20 years ago threw an untraditional wedding at the Mall of America in which he barely knew his bride, died Sunday at age 48 after a battle with cancer, his wife, Elizabeth Runze, confirmed Tuesday.

"He was a great husband and family man. He had a great love for life and people," Runze said. "He was always finding the fun in any situation. We laughed a lot. We still did, right up until the end."

The Woodbury couple made headlines when Weinlick entrusted 55 of his family members and friends to choose a bride from a group of 23 women in a "democratic wedding" process. Runze won in a landslide, winning the hearts of Weinlick's friends and family with her commitment to working on a relationship.

The couple have said they hit it off from their first meeting.

"I thought it would be a lot more difficult. We fell into it more easily than I anticipated," David Weinlick said shortly before the couple's one-year anniversary.

Their future together was cut short last spring when Weinlick was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. This past August, the two — wearing the same tuxedo and dress, before the same officiant and at the very same spot at the Mall of America where they married June 13, 1998 — renewed their vows.

Their four children, ages 9 to 16, were part of the ceremony in Bloomington. The event was also a fundraiser for the Angel Foundation, a local nonprofit organization providing services to those with cancer.

Beth quit her job as a nurse soon after David's cancer diagnosis, while he had left his work for the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party years earlier.

"It turned out to be a beautiful love story," said Annette Runze, David's mother-in-law. "He was a marvelous man. He was everything that I could have thought of to pick for my daughter — his devotion to Beth and the children. His sense of humor. He was just a lovely man."

In addition to his wife, Weinlick is survived by four children, Emily, Charlie, Zoey and Zed; father Herman Weinlick (Susan), mother Sylvia Weinlick and sisters Nerissa Moore and Nona Wilms.

A service for Weinlick will be held at 2 p.m. June 16 at O'Halloran & Murphy funeral home in Woodbury.