More than 40 people gathered at an Austin assisted-living facility May 5 to celebrate the 75th wedding anniversary of Carl Starnes, 95, and Denise, 96, who, for decades, were fixtures in the Cedar Park community.

Four generations of Starnes were joined by friends, politicians and even clergy as, one by one, they paraded by the surprised couple from 30 feet away as the mariachi band members played 6 feet from one another.

The Starnes’ son, David, and his wife, Linda, organized the socially distant surprise party after coronavirus concerns prompted a no-visitor policy at Brookdale Round Rock, where the Starneses reside, and other senior citizen facilities across Texas.

According to David, the couple were expecting a quiet birthday dinner on the back patio of the Austin facility. Instead, they were surprised by people they had known for decades.

The ones who drew the most attention, however, were Carl and Denise’s four great-grandchildren: Brayson, 8; Adalynn, 6; Beckett, 3; and Brynnley, 1.

After meeting on a blind date, Denise and Carl were married May 5, 1945, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Carl served in the U.S. Army during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War before retiring as a colonel in 1971. Denise was a working mother, raising three boys and working as a seamstress, David said.

For decades, David said they celebrated their anniversary Cinco de Mayo-style with Mexican dinners and a margarita or two.

For their 75th anniversary, the tradition continued as Carl and Denise ate chicken enchiladas and enjoyed a glass of wine.

A former Cedar Park Kiwanis Club president and district lieutenant governor, Carl helped oversee the formation of chapters of the Key Club—student-led groups that partner with local Kiwanis clubs—at five of Leander ISD's six high schools. He was retired when Glenn High School opened in 2016, according to David.

Before the parade, Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale and his wife, Stephanie, stopped by to give David a proclamation recognizing the 75th anniversary. David said he was bagging all the signs and the proclamation for at least 48 hours. At that point, it would be safe for the anniversary couple to handle.