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Couple finally gets married after 55 years

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COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Barbara Chovan is dying.

So on Thursday, she got married to her partner of 55 years, Clyde Heck. And yes, she still has her sense of humor.

Her eyes opened wide and a frown crossed her face when Heck answered "I don't know," to a question about how it felt to finally be a married man.

"What?" she said out loud, which caused the 10 people in the room to roar with laughter.

"Where's the knife he cut the cake with?" Chovan asked, as still more laughs filled the air.

Heck, sitting next to his bride lying in bed in a cozy room at Legends Park Assisted Living, grinned and raised his eyebrows. "She's the comedian," he said.

She is now, after all these years, his wife, too.

Mary Beth Hassell, Legends executive director, said Clyde, 80, and Barbara, 84, have been together more than five decades. Yet, they never traded vows.

In the past weeks, as terminally ill Barbara battled for breath, Clyde questioned their decision to never stroll down the aisle.

"He'd say to me all the time, 'I don't know why I never married her. I don't know why,'" Hassell said.

"I just thought I'd wait a little while," he explained.

But with Barbara diagnosed with only days to live, Clyde, himself fighting dementia, said no more waiting. It's time to make it official.

That was fine by his wife-to-be. She would become Barbara Heck.

"It was a good idea," she agreed.

The staff at Legends, where the couple have lived two years, quickly arranged a ceremony on a sunny Thursday afternoon, complete with pastor, witnesses, champagne and cake.

George Forgacs with River City Hospice performed a short service. He read from the Bible, quoting from Ecclesiastes and 2nd Corinthians. God is love, he said, and as Barbara faces the end of her life, God continues working in it.

"(Clyde) is convicted strongly that he needed to marry her, and that can only come from one place," Forgacs said.

"He knows that she's going and he loves her deeply. He loves her truly. To see that, is just a joy," Forgacs said. "There's no other words you can say."

Clyde and Barbara met at the Palladium in Los Angeles. They fell in love and remained at each other's sides through five decades. He worked for many years at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel as a bellman.

"That was good work," Clyde said, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together. "You get into a good place, you're going to make it."

So, the $64,000 question is, why didn't they ever get married? Neither was really sure Thursday. Barbara shrugged.

"I don't know," Clyde offered.

With the knot officially tied, Clyde said it won't change their lifestyle. Well, maybe it will.

"I'm going to get most of her money now," he said, smiling as more laughs filled the room.

"You are so bad," someone shouted from the back.

Wait. What about a honeymoon? Will there be one?

Barbara, weak, wearing a wig, glanced at her husband, then reached out and touched his hand.

"It depends on him," she said.

At that, Clyde paused, collected his thoughts for a few seconds, then slapped at his knee.

"Something's biting my leg," he said.

And again, everyone laughed.