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A Reuther Wedding, Krishna Style, in a Palace by Fisher

This article, "A Reuther Wedding, Krishna Style, in a Palace by Fisher," was published in The New York Times, August 9, 1977, in New York, New York, U.S.A.

Special to The New York Times

DETROIT - Like Kubla Khan in Xanadu, Lawrence P. Fisher had a pleasure palace built in 1929. However, the automobile magnate's place with its gardens and fountains, its huge pseudo-Moorish rooms with painted ceilings and pillars inlaid with gold (not to mention a swimming pool, bowling alley, miniature golf course and boat dock for his 100-foot yacht) was set in East Detroit, an area that began to deteriorate after the Depression. His dream of an earthly paradise disappeared with the real estate slump. 

Mr. Fisher, who was the first president of Cadillac Motors, and a member of the Body by Fisher family, was a bachelor when he arranged for the building (he married later) and there are all sorts of legends of his playboy days: Gatsby-like parties complete with movie stars and a closet full of negligees from which his favorities could choose. 

The former Fisher mansion was full of music and flowers and dancing last weekend. Not jazz-age Charlestons, but the wailing music of the sitar and flutes and the repeated chanting of "Hare Krishna." The estate now belongs to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and the Detroit temple was celebrating one of its happiest events, a wedding. 

Fords Stay Away 

Since Detroit is synonymous with cars, even a Hare Krishna wedding doesn't get too far from the automotive industry. The bride was Lekhasravanti, who was born Elisabeth Luise Reuther, daughter of Walter Reuther, president of the United Automobile Workers, who was killed in a plane crash in 1970. The bridegroom was Bhusaya (formerly Bruce Dickmeyer of Mankato, Minn.) and the best man was also a devote, Ambarish (Alfred Ford, great grandson of the founder of the Ford Motor Company and nephew of Henry Ford 2d). 

There were no Fords visible among the guests, who left their shoes at the door and then padded barefoot up the tile staircase to be garlanded with flowers, but the bride's uncles, Ted and Victor Reuther, their wives and sons came. So did the Dickmeyers, parents and grandparents of the bridegroom, and his seven sisters and brothers, virtually all armed with cameras, who said they were enchanted with the bride. 

Victor Reuther looked around at the past splendors of the Fishers and remarked: "When I think that this building was built with the sweat of the auto workers - what if the walls have ears, what would they think about a Reuther being married in these surroundings?

Lisa Reuther and Alfred Ford met in the Krishna movement when they joined it four years ago. When the temple had the opportunity to buy the estate almost two years ago, Miss Reuther gave her inheritance and Mr. Ford lent the rest. It was his idea that this should be a splendid wedding with thousands of flowers flown in from as far as Hawaii for the garlands and decorations. 

The temple bustled with activity from dawn on Saturday. Male devotees in khurtas and dhotis (loose shirts and sarong-like garments) built the canopy for the ceremony, young women in saris covered the marriage platform with silk and cushions and arranged the gifts of fruits and flowers to Krishna, laid the ceremonial fire and arranged the herbs and spices and ghee (clarified butter) that the priest would pour on the fire. 

In the basement kitchen, more devotes prepared the lavish vegetarian feast, Krishna followers eat no animal food except milk products and are forbidden alcohol and even coffee, tea or Coco-Cola, to be arrayed on rented silver for the 200 guests. 

Sari-clad female devotees padded around on bare feet, arranging flowers for centerpieces and making garlands to decorate the mansion's former ballroom and the guests. A Hare Krishna orchestra arrived from California. 

The bride and bridegroom were the only temple members who did not work that day. Lekhasravanti, who is 30, wore A diamond nose ring, a gift from Goverdan, the temple president. 

"A married woman should wear a nose ring," she explained. "Also have red painted on the part in her hair and dotted on her forehead. It means good luck for her husband.

Her hands and feet were painted in intricate red patterns that took an Indian member of the temple four hours to do. The bridegroom changed his saffron bachelor's dhoti for a cream silk one, but had no ornamentation except the telok, the white mark made of Ganges clay painted on his nose. His hair was cropped except for the sikha, the long back lock - "so Krishna can grab you and take you to heaven.

A Goal Like Her Father's 

Both had entered the temple four years ago. "I wanted to help people," Lekhasravanti said, her blue eyes serious. The Reuther aunts and uncles had not objected. "I'm a mature woman, what we're doing in a spiritual way is what my father did. He believed in the dignity of man.

The young couple have been living in the temple, where the living quarters for the sexes are strictly segregated. They have bought a small house nearby, where they will live together. They both work in book distribution for the Krishna movement. 

When it was time for the bride to dress in the bedroom of the late Mrs. Fisher, who seems to have preferred French boiseries to Moorish tiles, four Indian ladies, their voices as soft and gentle as doves, arrived to array the bride. First, they combed her long brown hair into a series of puffs at the back and pinned roses around the puffs. Carefully, they painted the telok and dotted arches of red and white over her brows. 

The gorgeous, gold-encrusted crimson sari was pleated and draped over the long petticoat and short choli shirt. As an unmarried woman, the bride would not drape the scarf over her head unto after the ceremony. Then the bride's head, neck and arms are draped with the special jewels that belong to the temple. 

Exchange Garlands 

In the ballroom, the bare-footed guests sat in silence. The bridegroom and best man took the lotus position on the cushion. Music wailed. The bride appeared alone and sat on her cushion. 

The priest intoned, made various sacrifices of herbs to Krishna. The gueses chanted. The couple exchanged garlands and gold rings. Their hands were wrapped together with flower garlands by the best man, who tied his dhoti to her sari as a symbol of lasting marriage. 

Victor Reuther kissed his niece and, giving his new nephew a playful pinch in the arm, said, "I like this man.

It's possible that the ghost of Lawrence Fisher would have liked the lavishness of this party. And, apparently, he had his compassions. When, after Mrs. Fisher's death in 1968, Gilbert Groehn bought the house, he found two silver caskets holding dogs buried in the garden. 

Mr. Groehn, a manufacturer of burglar alarms, owned the house for two years and used it mainly to test his security devices. He called the house the Casa Alarmica.

Photo: At Hare Krishna Temple in Detroit, Lekhasravanti (Lisa Reuther, daughter of Walter Reuther) marries Bhusaya (Bruce Dickmeyer). Best man, right, is Ambarish Alfred Ford of the automotive family). Bride's uncle, Ted Reuther, is at far left.

Reference: The New York Times, Detroit, USA, 1977-08-09