Two great-grandparents who had a whirlwind wedding because the groom was fighting in World War II finally had their dream big day – 75 years later.
Dick Lee, 94, was serving his country as a coast guard in the Second World War when he proposed to his high-school sweetheart, Helen Lee, 93, in a love letter.
While he was on 10 days’ leave in 1943, the pair tied the knot in quiet civil ceremony in Indianapolis, US – though they later regretted never having an official church wedding.
“When I went home and told my dad that I had got married he was very upset. At first he was quiet, and then he just walked away,” Helen said.
Three quarters of a century later the staff at Elmcroft Nursing Home in Fort Harrison, Indiana, granted the couple’s longstanding wish and threw them a surprise wedding.
Holly Coulter, 47, the home’s Healthy Lifestyle Director and the mastermind behind the big day, said: “It was all organized without them knowing what was going on.”
Guests dined on a first-class meal of prime rib, asparagus wrapped in bacon, and mashed potatoes. Dessert was a wedding cake that had been iced with anchors to symbolize Dick’s naval past.
The lucky couple enjoyed a ride around Fort Harrison State Park in a 1924 Model-A Ford, and even got their electric scooters decked out with ‘Just Married… again’ signs.
Holly said: “We invited friends and family, church people and the new friends that they have made since moving into the nursing home.
“The whole thing was yellow and blue themed, because those are their favorite colors.
“It was the whole spiel.”
It was an emotional day for everyone involved – including the groom.
He said: “I had never had the occasion to wear a tux before. It was quite an experience to wear one, complete with a yellow bow tie.
“I can’t put it into words, it was just wonderful.”
“There were a lot of tears,” Holly added.
For Helen, it was hard to believe her lifelong dream had come true: “I couldn’t believe everything that was going on. I was awestruck.
“It was beyond my wildest dreams.”
Their love story began back in high-school, when Dick had a part-time job in a drugstore across the road from Helen’s school bus-stop.
“When we went in there to get a soda, I knew exactly what I wanted. I’m not talking about the sodas – I liked the guy!
“After that I went there every day,” Helen remembered.
Dick used to cycle over to Helen’s house after work and bring her her favorite sundae – vanilla ice-cream with extra chocolate and butterscotch.
On their first date, it was clear that the adoring couple – who have two children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren between them – were meant for one another.
Helen, a retired bank-teller, said: “We had more than one kiss on our first date. I dated nobody but him.
“When I found him I knew what I wanted.”
But they have faced their hurdles as a couple, the most significant of which being Dick’s time spent at war.
“I missed him constantly, we wrote constantly, and I had him always in my prayers” Helen said.
Dick added: “It was terrible leaving her.”
Love letters got them through the time spent apart, which they marked with numbers so they could be read in sequence.
“I felt wonderful when he came home, because then we got to start our own home,” the bride said.
Two weddings and many offspring later, what is their secret to such a long and happy marriage?
“We’ve never gone to bed at night upset with each other,” Dick said.
For Helen, their long-term happiness is down to the fact that “we always tell each other we love each other. We sometimes say it three times a day.”
Newly married for a second time, the silver-haired couple are just as loved-up as ever.
“My favorite thing about Dick is that he loves me, and I love him,” Helen said.
Dick added: “She puts up with a lot. I know that we’ve always been in love with each other, and that will continue as long as we live.
“When we go, we’re going together.”