They say true love stands the test of time. And for 28 elderly couples at the John Knox Village retirement community in Pompano Beach, Fla., Thursday, that was certainly affirmed as they all gathered in their Sunday best, some with walkers in tow, to renew their vows.
And although it wasn’t the couples’ first time saying “I do” to each other, somehow now, at least 45 years later for each pair of them, it was that much sweeter.
“To them, this is thrilling. And you feel that,” Mark Olson, John Knox Village retirement community’s director of sales and marketing, told GoodMorningAmerica.com.
Every five years, the retirement community holds a special vow-renewal ceremony, performed by the facility’s spiritual life director, for all their residents who have been married 45 years or longer.
This year, the 28 couples who participated had a combined 1,500 years of marriage.
All the couples gathered in the auditorium awaiting their individual turn to walk down the aisle, each holding a copy of their original wedding photo.
“Many of them now have progressed to a point where they have walkers, and have been for quite a bit of time,” Olson said. “Whoever is the healthiest gets to go first, because they have to stand the longest. It’s kind of fun because our last ones turned out to be the couple married the longest, the 75th anniversary couple.”
Because that couple, Irwin and Paula Woolf, was celebrating 75 years of matrimony, the longest-running marriage of the bunch, they received the special honor of cutting the cake for the all guests. But don’t let their ages confuse you.
Paula Woolf surprised everyone when she dipped her finger in the icing and smeared it onto her beloved husband’s nose, before indulging in the sweet treat herself.
And the fun didn’t end there.
“They all get out there on the floor and do the first dance together,” Olson said. “Some of them are dancing in walkers. And we have cake and champagne, but most of them are just drinking apple juice.”
The party-going men also use the memorable occasion as an excuse to dust off their old military uniforms from former wars, adorned with their medals of honor.
“They all get dressed up,” Olson said. “They haven’t been in their suit unless they’ve gone to a funeral or a ceremony for their grandchildren. They all get dressed up and cleaned up. They get haircuts and get boutonnières and corsages.
“They all have beautiful stories to tell. These are the last people from the greatest generation. These people go back to World War II. Ten years ago, that could have been quite a few people. And now, that number is just so small.”
But for the couples whose love has lasted all these years, Thursday’s ceremony exemplified one thing in particular.
“A lifetime of demonstrating to all of us the great result of a healthy marriage,” Olson said.