Iowa couple married in 1944 get wedding photos for 77th anniversary

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When Royce and Frankie King celebrated 77 years of marriage on Sept. 16, St. Croix Hospice staff asked where the couple’s wedding photos were.

“Mom had mentioned, ‘We got married on a two-day notice while Dad was just on a short leave … before he went overseas in World War II. And we didn’t have time to plan a big wedding and we didn’t have a photographer,” their daughter, Sue Bilodeau, said.

The Kings receive care from St. Croix Hospice at their Oelwein home. A couple of weeks ago, St. Croix staff transformed their backyard into a site for a 1940s-style celebration — complete with a photographer to document the special day.

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Bilodeau helped Frankie, 97, put on a vintage wedding dress St. Croix staff bought, while a health aide helped Royce, 98, with his Air Force uniform.

“They escorted my dad outside, sat him down and we put a little handkerchief around his eyes,” Bilodeau said. “We walked Mom down the back steps and across the yard, and then she stood in front of Dad, and then I was able to take off his handkerchief. I said, ‘Are you ready to see your bride?'”

When Royce saw Frankie, he had “the biggest smile in the world.”

“And he didn’t stop smiling,” Bilodeau said.

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The couple’s music therapist played 1940s-era hits on his saxophone and guitar throughout the celebration, where Frankie and Royce took photos embracing and kissing in front of an archway decorated by St. Croix staff.

According to the Oelwein Daily Register, Royce attended Iowa State University and Frankie went to Cornell College in Mount Vernon and the University of Iowa. Royce retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in 1972, co-owned the Oelwein Implement Company until 1980 and later worked for Oelwein schools. Frankie was a homemaker and a dental assistant, as well as a florist at MaryLou’s Flowers and The Flower Chalet.

The Kings have two children, four grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

Bilodeau said a local reporter at the celebration asked the couple what the best thing was about being married for 77 years.

“Dad said, ‘Having Frankie by my side … and mom said, ‘As my dad used to say, I always think about this little saying, ‘Lord, give me patience and give it to me now,”” Bilodeau laughed.

Thousands of people have shared St. Croix’s Facebook post about the Kings, who Bilodeau said were “wonderful parents” to her and her brother.

“This is just an honor that people would be so touched by their story,” Bilodeau said.

Isabella Rosario is a public safety reporter for the Ames Tribune. She can be reached by email at irosario@gannett.com or on Twitter at @irosarioc.