DES MOINES — When Royce and Frankie King celebrated 77 years of marriage on Sept. 16, hospice staff asked where the couple’s wedding photos were.
“Mom had mentioned, ‘We got married on a two-day notice while Dad was just on a short leave… before he went overseas in World War II. We didn’t have time to plan a big wedding and we didn’t have a photographer,'” their daughter, Sue Bilodeau, said.
The Kings receive care from St. Croix Hospice at their home in Oelwein, Iowa. A couple of weeks ago, the St. Croix staff transformed their backyard into a site for a 1940s-style celebration — complete with a photographer to document the special day.
Bilodeau helped Frankie, 97, put on a vintage wedding dress St. Croix staff bought, while a health aide helped Royce, 98, with his Air Force uniform.
“They escorted my dad outside, sat him down and we put a little handkerchief around his eyes,” Bilodeau said. “We walked Mom down the back steps and across the yard, and then she stood in front of Dad, and I was able to take off his handkerchief. I said, ‘Are you ready to see your bride?'”
When Royce saw Frankie, he had “the biggest smile in the world.”
“And he didn’t stop smiling,” Bilodeau said.
The couple’s music therapist played 1940s-era hits on his saxophone and guitar throughout the celebration, where Frankie and Royce took photos embracing and kissing in front of an archway decorated by St. Croix staff.
According to the Oelwein Daily Register, Royce retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in 1972, co-owned the Oelwein Implement Company until 1980 and later worked for the city’s schools. Frankie was a homemaker and a dental assistant, as well as a florist.
The Kings have two children, four grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
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Bilodeau said a local reporter at the celebration asked the couple what the best thing was about being married for 77 years.
“Dad said, ‘Having Frankie by my side’ … And mom said, ‘As my dad used to say, I always think about this little saying, ‘Lord, give me patience and give it to me now,”” Bilodeau laughed.
Thousands of people have shared St. Croix’s Facebook post about the Kings, who Bilodeau said were “wonderful parents” to her and her brother.
“This is just an honor that people would be so touched by their story,” Bilodeau said.
Follow Isabella Rosario on Twitter at @irosarioc.