There wasn’t even time to get a wedding dress, let alone a photographer, when Frankie King married her high school sweetheart, Royce, in 1944. The couple had just days to plan their wedding because Royce had only a two-day leave before rushing off overseas for his military deployment.
“He was stationed as a lieutenant in the Air Force… he just got his pilot wings,” their daughter, Sue Bilodeau, told CBS News
Once Royce got his two-day leave, he returned to their small town of Oelwein, Iowa, and married the love of his life before going off to fight in World War II. Over the next seven decades, the couple went on to raise two children and shared 77 happy years married to each other.
Today, Frankie and Royce are still living in Oelwein and are being taken care of by a hospice nurse, working for St. Croix Hospice. On the day of their 77th wedding anniversary on September 16, the nurse asked 97-year-old Frankie if she had any photographs from their wedding day.
“And mom said, ‘Well, we don’t have a picture because we actually didn’t have a photographer that day,’” Sue said.
The nurse then took matters into her own hands and worked with the other staff members at the St. Croix Hospice to recreate Frankie and Royce’s wedding day. This time, they made sure Frankie was dressed in a beautiful wedding gown.
As their wedding day was recreated, Frankie was dressed in a vintage 1940s gown while 98-year-old Royce donned on his Air Force uniform, the very same one he wore when he married his wife seven decades back.
Sue helped her mother put on the wedding dress and said, “…It was really sweet and touching, how she looked at herself in the gown. She said, ‘Should I wear my glasses or not? I didn’t have glasses that day.’ And I said, ‘Wear your glasses, you’re beautiful this way.’”
Outside in the backyard on that sunny day, Royce was waiting for his bride and had a handkerchief held over his eyes for the “first look.”
“They said, ‘Are you ready to see your bride?’ and took the blindfold off,” Sue told TODAY. “He had just the biggest smile the rest of the day. It was amazing.”
Staff members at the hospice were also delighted to put together something so touching for the elderly couple. “How can you not have a sense of overwhelming emotion?” said St. Croix Hospice CEO, Heath Bartness. “The connectivity you almost feel that you were a part of this, and thinking back to what it was like in World War II the first time, and how meaningful and how emotional this second opportunity to do this was. There’s an overwhelming sense of pride in not just the company and what the organization did, but more so just as an act of humanity.”
Immensely grateful to see her parents’ wedding day recreated, Sue told CBS News, “Something to take away [from this story] would be, they’ve been through a lot—as anybody does—year after year. And through struggles and good times, they’ve managed to find a way to put their love and devotion above everything else to make it work.”
Cover image source: St. Croix Hospice/Facebook