Frankie King did not have a extravagant wedding day. It was 1944 — at the height of World War II — when her high school sweetheart, Royce, became her fiancé. But like many young men at the time, Royce joined the military and was moved to a base in another state.
“He was stationed as a lieutenant in the Air Force … he just got his pilot wings,” their daughter, Sue Bilodeau, told CBS News. “He got a short leave. They had been engaged about six months, so they decided to have a wedding before he was deployed overseas.”
Royce returned to Oelwein, Iowa, to marry his bride. It’s a small town, Bilodeau said, so her mom didn’t have anywhere to buy a wedding gown. “They only had a couple of days notice,” she said.
The couple quickly tied the knot, but what their wedding planning lacked in length, their marriage more than made up for. Over their next 77 years together, they had two children and welcomed four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
They still live in Oelwein, and at 97 and 98, a hospice nurse now cares for them at their home.
On September 16, their 77th anniversary, their nurse asked Frankie if she could see a photo from their wedding day. “And mom said, ‘Well, we don’t have a picture because we actually didn’t have a photographer that day,'” Bilodeau said.
The nurse, who works for St. Croix Hospice, was inspired to help the couple get some long-awaited wedding photos. The hospice care group started arranging a photoshoot, with an employee donating a wedding dress to Frankie and the St. Croix music therapist agreeing to play some music for the event.
Bilodeau, who now lives in California, happened to be in town visiting her parents when their wedding redo took place. “I helped her get dressed in her bedroom, helped her put on the gown. And it was really sweet and touching, how she looked at herself in the gown,” Bilodeau said. “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.'”
Bilodeau said her mom was honored to wear a wedding dress and felt special. Royce agreed. He stood outside, in his original Air Force uniform that he married Frankie in, with a handkerchief covering his eyes. “He was really excited to be able to dress up for mom,” their daughter said.
When it was time for his “first look” at his bride, Royce took off his blindfold as she crossed the yard in her white gown. “He just gazed at her and just beamed. They both did. It was very sweet,” Bilodeau said.
They may not have photos of their original wedding, but they still had memories of that day tucked away in their hearts.
“I could just tell by dad’s reaction of how he was touched to see mom in such a beautiful gown standing in front of him,” Bilodeau said. “I think, they just went back to their time. There was music being played … it was such a lovely setting outside, it was such a beautiful day, and I think it didn’t take much for them to be transported back. And I think they were very moved by that.”
Bilodeau said Frankie was asked what her secret to a long marriage was. “Patience,” she said.
“This is a couple that grew up together in the same small town. They met before high school even … and they got married pretty shortly after,” Bilodeau said. “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.”