a milestone year
Love is in the air at Hickory Point
Couple married on September 1
By Donnette Beckett
Harold & Review, Decatur
The relationship between Hickory Point Christian Village residents Fred LaBree and Connie Claussen started as many do. They were friends at first. Then one day, he asked her out to dinner.
“That became a habit,” she said.
Friday morning, LaBree, 85, and Claussen, 77, tied the knot after a weeklong engagement. Laurie Brown, executive director of Hickory Point Christian Village, offered to host the wedding at the facility.
“They brought me the marriage license to tell me they wanted to get married,” Brown said of the announcement. “They'll tell you life's too short. You don't want to miss the moment.”
Linda Umphryes and Patti Freithe have watched the bride and groom as they found happiness after experiencing difficult times.
The couple, along with Umphryes and Freithe, are part of a Tuesday night dinner club with 14 other friends meeting every week.
“They were so cute together when they first started,” Freithe said. “You could tell when they looked at each other: They just beamed.”
“They are like two teenagers,” Umphryes said. “He is a gentlemen's gentlemen. You never see him open a door without offering it to her. You don't see a lot of that anymore.”
For several years, Claussen and LaBree were both residents of the Garden Homes in Hickory Point Christian Villages with their late spouses. Their spouses were in the skilled nursing area for nearly a year.
“And we visited with them,” LaBree said about his future wife.
The two couples would eat lunch and supper together almost every day in the same dining room.
“We were here doing the same thing, at the same time, in the same place,” the bride said.
Claussen's husband passed away Aug. 13, 2016. Fred's wife died less than three weeks later on Sept. 1, 2016.
The couple chose to honor their spouses by marrying on the anniversary of LaBree's wife's death. “This is a bitter-sweet day,” he said.
Wedding guests understood the sentimental reason behind the date. LaBree's step-daughter, Mary Hipsher, said the late spouses each gave the other their approval to marry again.
“Go out and enjoy your life,” Hipsher remembered hearing.
The wedding took place in the fireplace area of the facility, decorated with yellow rose arrangements. The reception consisted of a meal along with cupcakes for family, friends, staff and residents.
“We just put signs up to make sure the residents were aware so they could attend,” Brown said.
Both are in good health and believe it is possible to be married 50 years.
“We'll try that,” LaBree said. “Now a days that's not too old.”
a milestone year
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