BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — As a member of the Whitehouse American Legion’s color guard, Wayne King is accustomed to leading the Cherry Fest Parade each year.
When the annual parade steps off at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 11, Wayne will have a different spot – in a convertible alongside his wife, Becky, as the couple was selected for the role of grand marshals this year.
“Me, too?” exclaimed Becky, as members of the Anthony Wayne Regional Chamber of Commerce – bearing flowers and a certificate – stood on their porch last week.
“We’re very fortunate to have you both in the community,” said chamber president Zak Weimer. “It was a unanimous decision.”
Becky had suspected that Wayne might be named grand marshal but didn’t dream that she would be, too. It’s fitting, though, considering how involved the couple has been in the Whitehouse community they’ve called home since 1980.
Both are Bluffton-area natives. Shortly after graduating from Bluffton High School in 1966, Wayne launched a 47-year career with AT&T. That was interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Army, serving as a military police officer in Vietnam.
Becky graduated from Cory-Rawson and married her first husband before he left for Vietnam. With a nursing degree from the Toledo School of Nursing, Becky was working in a Bluffton doctor’s office when she met Wayne. She had a 2-year-old son, Jeff, and was in the middle of getting a divorce.
“I was not thinking of getting married again or dating. I didn’t want to be bothered,” she said. “But I thought, ‘If I were looking … Wayne would be a good choice.’ I knew his mom and his brother.”
Wayne talked to Becky as he came in for weekly shots for a persistent case of poison ivy. When Becky’s divorce was final, he called her, and they saw Gone With the Wind at the Bluffton Music House.
On July 2, 1977, they married, taking a honeymoon that met both of their wishes: a NASCAR race in Daytona and time by the ocean.
Becky never expected to move away from the Bluffton area; they had just settled into the “perfect” home for the family, which had grown to include Stan King, when Wayne an-nounced that he’d gotten a promotion.
“I almost cried,” Becky said, recalling how she drove around the Whitehouse area looking for a home, and got lost. “Somehow, I ended up in front of the Whitehouse Inn. They say that all roads lead to Whitehouse.”
In December 1980, the family moved to their home on South Street. Becky got involved with the Parent Teacher Association, helped out the middle school nurse with yearly screenings and assisted in the early years of the Whitehouse Library. Wayne coached soccer, started a side business mowing lawns and joined the American Legion.
In 2000, Becky became a licensed massage therapist and continued to take clients until 2013, when Wayne retired. It’s been in retirement that both have given even more of their time.
Becky leads the ladies’ Bible study group at Community of Christ Lutheran Church, helps the Whitehouse Historical Society with events and plants flowers at public spaces in Waterville with the Countryside Garden Club.
Wayne has served as commander of the Legion and now is second vice commander and chaplain. He’s a member of the honor guard, which presents the flags at funerals and during the Memorial Day ceremony, and the color guard, which bears the flags during parades and other events. He also heads up the monthly steak fries and cleans the hall, which is available for rent, even to nonmembers. Through the American Legion, he’s also working with Scout Pack 384, which utilizes the hall for meetings. Legion members also provide training, such as how to properly fold or dispose of a flag.
As grandparents to four – Shelby and Gavin Beach and Aiden and Amelia King – the couple keeps busy. Shelby and Gavin show cows in the Hancock County Fair, and Wayne and Becky bought a heifer, Maggie, who has birthed several blue-ribbon bulls. Watching Aiden play hockey has also become a favorite pastime. Aiden turns 15 on the day of the parade and will be among the grandchildren in attendance for the festivities.
Over the years, both have loved Cherry Fest and volunteered often: Becky in the cherry pie tent and Wayne at the make-it and take-it booth and through the Legion.
“We’ve been blessed with good health and all the good people who work their tails off to put on the Cherry Fest,” Wayne said.