Almost 50 years to the day, a sweet couple from Illinois drove more than six hours to Lake of the Ozarks for their anniversary vacation. When they got to their destination, they stood in the exact same room they stood in 50 years before — for the exact same price.
On Nov. 30, 1963, Raymond and Donna Smith said 'I do' at 11 a.m. and celebrated with family and friends before leaving their reception promptly at 4 p.m. from Lebanon, Ill. Donna had no idea where her groom was planning on taking her but Raymond had a plan.
"I said, 'I'm going to take my bride to the Holiday Inn at Lake of the Ozarks,'" Raymond recalled.
Neither Donna nor Raymond had ever been to the Lake of the Ozarks before but when he heard of the area, he jumped at the chance to make it their honeymoon destination.
Just two months earlier in August 1963, The Holiday Inn opened its doors at the lake. Now, the resort is known at Port Arrowhead in Osage Beach.
The pair recalls the anxious five-hour drive.
"I couldn't wait to get here," Raymond said. "No stops — We came directly here."
The couple was given room 124 for $12.49 a night. They stayed Saturday, Sunday and Monday evenings before returning to Illinois on Tuesday.
The Smiths remember how chilly their November honeymoon was and that they did not bring enough clothes for their entire trip. During the excitement of hitting the road, Donna did not pack enough.
"We walked to the dam all cuddled up," Raymond recalled while it was snowing around them.
Even 50 years later, it is apparent that this pair is still very much in love. The two met while Raymond was working at a full-service gas station. One of Donna's friends always filled up at this particular station and she remembered seeing him while with her friend. One night, her car was hit forcing her to find a gas station immediately. Since the station she usually used was closed one night, she headed over to the one where he worked at.
Donna h-ad an infant son at the time from a previous marriage who was with her when she stopped by Raymond's station. Raymond remembers seeing the little boy and finding out from Donna that he had been in and out of the hospital.
"When it all started out, I fell in love with that baby," Raymond said.
While not working at the service station, Raymond raised milk goats. He knew goat milk would be good for the baby so he had an idea. He asked Donna if she would mind if he brought milk to the baby and that's what he did every night after that.
Page 2 of 2 - Raymond would call daily and even though Donna had plenty, she would always have him bring more. One night he called and knowing she had enough, she told him he did not need to make a milk run. That did not stop Raymond, he showed up anyway.
"He would always linger at the door and one night, he kissed me," Donna recalled. "From then on, he kept lingering and I got kissed every night."
The couple dated for 11 months before saying 'I do.' Each had children from previous marriages and had three children together.
Now, the pair — Raymond, 80, and Donna, 72 — live in Goreville, Ill. They celebrated their 35th anniversary at Port Arrowhead as well. When they called recently to ask if the resort would honor their original rate since they had the receipt, the managers agreed.
"It's so romantic. They are such a sweet couple," Pat West with Port Arrowhead Resort said. "We are all for romantics."
The couple is staying in Room 224 which is the same room from their honeymoon since room numbers changed throughout the years. The resort added the suite next door for no cost. The pair was surprised with a dozen of roses and a balloon along with a goody basket. Donna was most excited about the cups inside the basket since she collects cups from places she visits.
"These people are very good," the couple said.
The pair celebrated their anniversary on Saturday with family and friends. The party began at 11 a.m. — the exact time of their wedding 50 years ago. They do not have specific plans for their lake vacation — shopping and eating out tops their list of things to do.
The couple may even get snow just like they did 50 years ago.
The two still walk hand-in-hand and Raymond refuses to let Donna open her own door.
"I love her 50 times more than I loved her 50 years ago," Raymond said of his blushing bride.