Family, friends and well-wishers are meeting May 5 at Brookdale Round Rock, an assisted-living facility, to honor Carl Starnes, 95, and Denise, 96, who, for decades, were fixtures in the Cedar Park community.
Unaware of the party, the couple will be sitting on a patio at 1:45 p.m. when they will be surprised by a group of well-wishers led by a mariachi band. The procession will stay 30-40 feet from the couple, according to David. Everyone is invited but must wear masks and adhere to social-distancing norms, David said.
“My parents know nothing about it,” he said.
For the couple’s semisesquicentennial, David said they had planned to throw a Cinco de Mayo-themed party at Brookdale Round Rock, but coronavirus concerns prompted strict lockdowns at senior facilities and led the Starnes family to get creative with the celebration.
After the mariachi-led procession starts at 1:45 p.m., there will be designated standing areas at a safe distance from the couple for the band, relatives and well wishers. Those who make signs are asked to place them on a table. The signs will be quarantined for a minimum of 48 hours before the couple can handle them, David said.
Denise and Carl, a longtime member of the Cedar Park Kiwanis Club and a retired U.S. Army colonel, always embraced the holiday that takes place on their anniversary, according to David. For decades, the couple celebrated their anniversary with a Mexican dinner and a margarita.
For their 75th anniversary dinner, they will both be served chicken enchiladas.
"They’ll pour a margarita for Dad,” David said.
While his father remains sharp, David said his mother is dealing with dementia. She occasionally “snaps out of it,” though.
“We’re hoping that happens May 5,” he said.
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, Korea and Vietnam before retiring in 1971. Denise was a working mother, raising three boys and working as a seamstress, David said.
A former Cedar Park Kiwanis Club president and district lieutenant governor, Carl oversaw 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 never made it to Glenn," David said, referring to LISD’s newest high school, which opened in 2016.
The couple have two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, according to David.
David said everyone, even strangers, is invited to the party outside Brookdale Round Rock, which is located at 8005 Cornerwood Drive, Austin. He has created an event on the Facebook page of his business, Cedar Park Local.