Before being shipped off to Europe to fight in World War II, Royce and Frankie King wanted to be married. It didn’t matter that he was in two-day leave. The couple rushed to the church without a wedding dress, a fancy suit, or even a photographer.
Thankfully, Royce King made it home safely, and the couple went on to have a family together. Their 77 years together have been happy, but there was always slight sadness at the thought that they never had photos of their special day to cherish.
However, on September 16– their 77th anniversary wedding— now 98 year-old Royce and 97 year-old Frankie King finally had that dream fulfilled. The caring staff who cares for the couple at St. Croix Hospice gave them the wedding ceremony they always wanted.
Royce and Frankie King. Credit: Hilary Michelson
“I had the honor of snapping some photos for their 77th wedding anniversary,” Hilary Michelson, the staff member who took their photos, wrote on Facebook. “Absolutely no shame in the fact that I had a hard time keeping it together behind the lens.”
The staff worked together to make the day something special. They put together the ceremony in the couple’s back yard. They turned patio flowers into a bouquet. They found a vintage gown from the 1940s for Frankie to wear, and had Royce wore his Air Force uniform. A music therapist from St. Croix played 1940s standards as Frankie walked down the aisle.
Impromptu events such as these are the best way to present events such as these for those in the Kings’ stage of life. The fact that the couple’s daughter, Sue Bilodeau, was already on her way to Iowa from California to visit made the day even more special.
“It was very emotional, very heartwarming,” Bilodeau says. “I couldn’t stop smiling, and I couldn’t stop being so happy for both of them, especially mom in her wedding gown looking so beautiful.”
The ceremony was short and sweet. They covered Royce’s eyes with a handkerchief to do a “first look” and reveal his dolled-up wife. Upon spotting her, he had the “biggest smile the rest of the day,” his daughter says. They had a sweet, long kiss when permitted to “kiss the bride.”
The staff even made a wedding cake with a pair of 7s on top so the couples could cut the cake together like they should have 77 years prior.
Credit: Sue Bilodeu.
Frankie King walking down the aisle. Credit: Hilary Michaelson.
While many might see the additional work as daunting, the staff were happy to create new, positive memories for their patients.
“How can you not have a sense of overwhelming emotion?” St. Croix Hospice CEO Heath Bartness says. “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.”
Thanks to the kindness of St. Croix, the Kings finally have the wedding photos they’ve always wanted. Thanks to Hilary Michelson’s stunning work, Sue Bilodeau was able to create a physical photo album for her parents. Now, the couple finally has a visual reminder of their love in the form of wedding photos.
Credit: Hilary Michelson.
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