There was no time to get a photographer or even a wedding dress when Royce King and his wife, Frankie, tied the knot on his two-day blitz in 1944 before going overseas to fight during the Second World War.
Seventy-seven years later, the Iowa couple finally have some beautiful wedding photos to treasure.
Royce, 98, and Frankie, 97, celebrated their 77th birthday on September 16 with staff from St. Croix Hospice helping care for the couple at the Kings’ home in Oelwein, Iowa.
They found a vintage 1940s wedding dress for Frankie, and Royce wore his Air Force uniform as they celebrated a birthday in their backyard on a bright sunny day. The patio flowers were turned into a bouquet for Frankie, and a music therapist from St. Croix performed 1940s standards as Frankie walked down the aisle.
“How can you not feel an overwhelming emotion?” Heath Bartness, CEO of St. Croix Hospice, said TODAY. “The connectivity, you almost feel like a part of that, and thinking back to what it was the first time around in WWII, and how meaningful and moving that second opportunity to do it was. It was. There is an overwhelming sense of pride not only in the company and in what the organization has done, but even more as an act of humanity. “
Hilary Michelson, a St. Croix staff member who is also a professional photographer, captured the heartwarming scenes in a series of beautiful photos that now make up the Kings wedding album.
The couple’s daughter, Sue Bilodeau, who lives in California, was in the area and was able to attend the impromptu ceremony.
“It was very moving, very heartwarming,” Bilodeau said TODAY. “I couldn’t help but smile, and I couldn’t help but be so happy for both of them, especially mom in her wedding dress which was so beautiful.”
They also did a “first look”, where they put a handkerchief over Royce’s eyes, then escorted Frankie past him.
“They said, ‘Are you ready to see your wife?’ and took off the blindfold, ”Bilodeau said. “He had the biggest smile the rest of the day. It was amazing.”
“I had the honor of taking photos for their 77th wedding anniversary,” Michelson wrote on Facebook. “Absolutely no shame in the fact that I struggled to keep it together behind the lens.”
It was long overdue for the couple, who married in a church in 1944 and couldn’t get photos of the ceremony.
“We always knew that, and we had so many other photos because they had been dating since high school, but they never had formal wedding photos,” Bilodeau said.
The couple still live in the house where they raised Bilodeau and his brother. Last month’s ceremony showed that the spark is still there for both of them after all these years.
“In fact, when they said ‘you can kiss the bride’, when he gave her a kiss, we all commented, ‘It was a pretty long kiss,'” Bilodeau said with a laugh.
Bilodeau is grateful to the staff at Sainte-Croix for organizing a day that his family will not soon forget. They also made a special wedding cake with a pair of 7’s on it so the couple could have the traditional moment when they cut the cake together.
“It was an impromptu thing, and it’s really the best way for them at this point,” Bilodeau said. “I didn’t know they had it planned until I was on my way to Iowa anyway.
“They were just very excited and honored that Holy Cross was doing this for them. They loved being in the spotlight, dad in particular, and mum was so happy to put on a dress and look good. I think they were. just overwhelmed all day. “
“With hospice care, we’re always talking about being part of someone’s trip,” Bartness said. “Sometimes you make new memories at this point, and that’s what’s really cool and special.”
Several members of the staff of Sainte-Croix were able to be present in person after having reorganized their schedules to attend this sweet moment.
“We can’t thank them enough,” Bilodeau said. “It was wonderful and long overdue. I just finished printing a photo album so it will be in the mail and now they will finally have their wedding photos.”