Remembering Loved Ones: Ben and Ali Nunery

Ben, Olivia, and Ali Nunery

Ben, Olivia, and Ali Nunery

Photographs are powerful tools for remembering loved ones. When Ben Nunery’s wife, Ali, passed away of lung cancer only two years after they married, he had their wedding day photos recreated in her memory. Their little daughter, Olivia, took Ali’s place to tell a story about love through the photos. The result is a series of poignant images that capture the family memories they shared in their home together with Ali.

When Ben and Ali married in 2009, they had photos taken in their new Ohio home by Ali’s sister Melanie Pace. Ben explains on his blog that they thought having wedding photos in the empty house would be a memorable way to commemorate such a huge step in their lives.

“As wedding days go, it all happened in a blur, but those images represent some of the happiest moments in my life. It was the beginning of what we planned on being a long and happy life together.” – Ben Nunery

In March of 2011, Ali found out she had a rare form of lung cancer known as Sarcomatoid Carcinoma. Nine months after the original diagnosis, at the age of 31, Ali passed away due to inoperable tumors. It had only been two-and-a-half years since their wedding and one year after their daughter, Olivia, was born.

In 2013, Ben and Olivia prepared for the next chapter of their lives in a new home. When it was time to call the movers, Ben realized that he “struggled with the thought of saying goodbye and walking away without something to commemorate such a big step in [his] and Olivia’s life.”

As a way to remember Ali and create their final family memories in their home, Ben asked Ali’s sister to recreate the old photos she had taken of them on their wedding day. The photo series shows how recreating images can be a touching way of remembering loved ones. Ben explained on his blog that the photo shoot wasn’t about grief, loss, or hurt. He wanted people to know the photo shoot was meant to be seen as a story about love.

“The pain is nothing compared to the love that I feel for Ali and Olivia and that’s the story I want these pictures to tell to Olivia in the years to come and anyone else that sees them. The pain will subside little by little but the love never will, no matter where we live.” – Ben Nunery

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Olivia, at three years old, took her mother’s place in the new photos. When put side by side with the old photos, the images are not only touching as father-daughter moments, but also as family memories of Ali and their home. In one image, Olivia pretends to curl her hair with her mom’s curling iron, recreating one of the old photos of Ali getting her hair curled on the big day. “It was fun and strange and sad and comforting and just about every other emotion you can think of,” Ben wrote. In another image, Ben plays with his daughter on the staircase of their home, the same staircase that Ali stood at the top of for the “grand reveal” on their wedding day.

“Our lives will continue down a curvy and uncertain path, but Olivia and I will be able to look at these photos and know that for a short time there was a place where I was the luckiest man in the world, even if just for a little while.” – Ben Nunery


At Everlasting Footprint, we celebrate and honor the life of Ali and her family. Though the photos of Ben and his daughter were taken two years ago in 2013, this story about love is still as touching today. It’s a great reminder of how special photographs can be for keeping family memories alive and for remembering loved ones.

About Catherine Powell

Catherine Powell, BA, loves to write and edit, especially with a cup of espresso on hand. Her English degree with a psych minor means she studies the rapidly-changing digital world and the workings of the human mind. Born in Germany, Catherine is inspired by the language, the culture, and her travels. She and her husband live in Tallahassee, Florida, with their Labrador-mix dog.

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