In 1944, when Frankie King married her high school sweetheart, Royce, there wasn’t a wedding dress, let alone a photographer.
The couple had only days to plan their wedding because Royce only had a two-day leave before rushing off overseas for his military deployment.
Royce returned to their small town of Oelwein, Iowa, on his two day leave and married the love of his life before heading to fight in World War II.
“He was stationed as a lieutenant in the Air Force… he just got his pilot wings,” their daughter, Sue Bilodeau, explained. “He got a short leave. They had been engaged about six months, so they decided to have a wedding before he was deployed overseas.”
The couple raised two children over the years and remain happily married to each other.
Frankie and Royce still live in Oelwein while being looked after by a hospice nurse, working for St. Croix Hospice.
On 16 September which was their 77th wedding anniversary the nurse asked Frankie to see 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 working with the other staff members at the St. Croix Hospice to recreate Frankie and Royce’s wedding day. They dressed Frankie in a beautiful wedding gown.
While their wedding day was recreated, Frankie wore a 1940s vintage gown while 98-year-old Royce donned on his Air Force uniform, which is what he also wore when he married his wife seventy years ago.
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.’”
While the sun was shining Royce stood outside in the backyard 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 explained. “He had just the biggest smile the rest of the day. It was amazing.”
Staff from the hospice put something touching together 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.”
Sue was extremely grateful seeing her parents’ wedding day recreated, “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.”