Are you looking for a place to organize a wedding? A building with lots of space, tables and chairs, a sound system? A kitchen? An informal but organized, pleasant atmosphere? An unusual place for a wedding? What about the Oneita Wagnon senior center?
Carolyn Johnson and Royce Turner knew each other before working at the center, Carolyn as a manager and Royce as a member and chairman of the board. Carolyn’s husband Buck passed away in 2017; Royce’s wife, Sandy, passed away in 2020, and the two have been lovingly cared for, for better or for worse, in disease and health, by their spouses. The center has become a place of refuge and healing for both, their involvement helping them cope with their losses.
Time passed and as they worked together at the center for about four years and got to know each other more, a romantic bond developed and at that point the idea of getting married became an unspoken possibility. for both.
When I visited them before the wedding I thought Royce was rather traditional and was the one to propose, so I asked when he proposed. He laughed and teased, saying, “After she knelt down and begged me to do it!” It made Carolyn and I laugh.
The rest of the story, however, played out like this. Carolyn called him on the Saturday before Father’s Day and asked him what he was doing for Father’s Day. Nothing, he said, and she corrected it, saying tomorrow you don’t do anything, we go to Salt Grass early [in Lubbock] and have a good meal. They spread out the meal for three hours and had such a great time that Sundays at Salt Grass became their Sunday afternoon activity. They liked being together and eating good meals and having a good time, and both of them thought about spending more time together, and at this point Carolyn said, “You know, if you have any ideas, remember that I married a guy twenty years older; I don’t want to do this again.
And Royce replied, “We’re only fifteen years apart!”
Then, after Carolyn’s fight with COVID, Royce suggested they needed to start making plans, to which Carolyn replied, “Just ask me.”
So he did. “Would you like to live with an old man?”
And of course the answer was yes.
Which brings us to the first wedding to be held at the senior center. The Oneita Wagnon Seniors Center is home to a variety of activities, but this is the first time anyone has recognized the facility as a good place for a wedding. Carolyn said many people come to the center after losing a spouse to cope with the loss and fill in the gaps, and sometimes new relationships formed there lead to marriage, just like with Carolyn and Royce. But no one thought about closing the deal and getting married in the same building that brought them together.
Carolyn and Royce did it. So the date was set for September 18, 2021, the details worked out, the invitations sent out, and the big day arrived with everything and everyone ready.
The decoration committee of the center installed decorative screens to unify the space of the ceremony, set the tables with tablecloths, paths and flower centers, set up a beautiful floral arch as a backdrop to take the place of ‘altar, loaded with two tables of the bride’s cake, the groom’s cake, appetizers, fruit punch and a champagne fountain, all in the color palette chosen by the bride in black and white with touches of yellow and white. Other tables were set up with a book for guest registration and a place for cards and souvenirs brought by guests. The large area with a good dance floor had been cleared of all furniture and a DJ table had been set up for music and dancing after the service. Faith Free was there with her harp to play the wedding march.
An aisle leading to the wedding arch had been left open between the tables for Carolyn to be escorted down the aisle by Julius Briscoe, Carolyn’s longtime good friend and her first husband Buck. Reverend Stacy Conner of First Baptist Church opened the ceremony with a few heartfelt thoughts and a joke about wondering how many pastors it takes to have a wedding because there would be three of them attending this one! Reverend Curtis Shelburne of the 16th and D Church of Christ sang a few songs, then Reverend Jeff Coffman of Calvary Baptist Church led the service and delivered them husband and wife.
After the ceremony, Royce thanked everyone for coming and asked for patience while photos were taken and encouraged everyone to have a piece of cake. As you can see, the newlyweds were having a blast, and that also rippled through the crowd of guests.
The reception continued until everyone was ready to go home and the newlyweds called it one night. After a trip to see friends and family in Glen Rose, Victoria, Kingsville and Yantis where Carolyn plans to teach Royce how to fish (!), The honeymoon will then take them to Big Bend.
After returning to Muleshoe, the couple plan to gradually step down from their roles at the center and give others a chance to get involved, although they will always be there to help when the need arises.
So this is it. The senior center is certainly aimed at the elderly, but also for anyone who wants to participate in their many activities and offerings – or who just needs a large facility for something like a wedding.
Thanks to Royce and Carolyn Turner and Helen Cook for their help with this article.
To learn more about the center, type “Need a domino game?” Try the Senior Center ”in this blog’s search line, then click on the title when it appears.
If you haven’t been to the center, I encourage you to visit it, have lunch there, play a game of dominoes, learn about the history of Muleshoe and County Bailey lining the walls, look at the Wall of Honor, participate in exercise classes, artistic projects; just see what they have to offer. Donations are always accepted to help keep their doors open and provide their services. Donations, memorials, grant proposals and the centre’s trust fund ensure the funding and operation of the center.
To see more photos from the wedding, visit www.aliceliles.com. Note from Alice: This story first appeared on my blog The Bright Lights of Muleshoe on September 19, 2021.