Weakened by cancer, he could barely stand.
But Fred Klopp stood, with his arm around his wife Dolores, as they renewed their wedding vows at an Omaha church on their 40th anniversary.
That was back in May 1993.
Fred had been diagnosed the year before with cancer of the esophagus.
He knew the disease was incurable, but he pushed ahead with plans to celebrate their anniversary with their children, other family and friends.
Fred loved buying gifts for Dolores, so he mustered his strength and shopped for a special anniversary ring. The ring, engraved with the number 40, sparkled with a ruby framed by a tiny diamond on each side.
He slipped it on her finger.
Dolores and Fred met in December 1952. Dolores, 17, lived with her parents and worked at a printing company in downtown Omaha.
Her family lived in north Omaha, and every morning she’d walk six blocks to the home of a man she worked with for a ride to the shop.
One morning she stepped into the man’s living room and spotted a handsome young guy in a sailor uniform. It was the man’s son, Fred.
Fred and Dolores drank coffee and chatted. Fred, home on leave from the Navy, walked her to the car. Before she left he asked if she’d like to meet for lunch.
She said yes, and they dated until Fred returned a few weeks later to his naval base in San Diego, Calif.
They wrote each other every day. Fred got out of the Navy a few months later, in March 1953, and they continued dating.
Fred would borrow his dad’s car and they’d head downtown for a movie. One of their favorite dates was driving to Carter Lake and watching the planes take off and land at the Omaha airport.
Five months after they met, Fred and Dolores married in a small wedding at the home of a church pastor.
Fred got a job installing doors and windows for an Omaha home improvement company. He and Dolores had five kids in 10 years and eventually bought a home in the Westgate neighborhood near 76th Street and West Center Road.
Fred liked surprising Dolores with presents for her birthday, anniversary and Christmas.
One year it was a grandfather clock. Another time it was an organ. He gave her a diamond watch for their 25th wedding anniversary
He earned trips through his job and took her to Hawaii and on a Caribbean cruise.
He was known as a jokester. One Halloween when their kids were young, he turned himself into a hunchback, dragging his foot behind him.
At Christmas he would hide a present for Dolores and she’d search for it while Fred would tell her if she were hot or cold. Their kids would squeal with laughter.
Early in their marriage he talked Dolores into taking square-dancing lessons. They got hooked and went out square-dancing every week for 30 years.
Four months after they celebrated their 40th anniversary, Fred died from his cancer. He was just 62.
After his death, Dolores opened a small safe in their house to look through insurance papers.
Along with the papers was an envelope with her name on it. Inside was a card with a rose on the front and a final love note from Fred.
He wrote that he was sorry about his illness, telling her, “I am sorry I have not been able to make the last few years as happy for you as I would have liked.”
“You are the rose in my life,” he wrote. “I have loved no one since I set eyes on you.”
There was more.
The note told her to go down into their basement and look in the top right drawer of an old desk in the laundry room.
Dolores opened the drawer and found another envelope.
Inside she found a surprise — $5,000 in cash.
Fred had saved the money over the years, a little at a time.
The money, he told her in the note, was to buy gifts for herself.
He wanted to make sure she always had something to open on her birthday.
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