All the Western Horizons Living Center’s (WHLC) residents gathered in their activity hall this week to watch Debby Christman crown Opal Goplin and Pastor Bob Boxrud as their Valentine’s Day queen and King.
The living center was thoroughly decorated for the occasion with red streamers hanging from the ceilings, paper hearts adorning the walls, and roses placed at every table. Beth Klingenstein also filled the room with piano music to complete the festivity.
Although royalty is normally inherited, the WHLC always lets the residents decide who is crowned king and queen. Every year, the WHLC residents democratically elect their monarchy by filling out ballets.
“We wanted to make it about the residents,” said Activities Director Debby Christman. “It’s something they look forward to. Every year I have to walk away, go in the kitchen and dry my tears because it melts my heart. It’s something that has kept me here for over 20 years.”
The Valentines Day queen and king ceremony is a longstanding tradition at WHLC. It originated 20 years ago when Christman started working at WHLC as the activities director.
“I started the ceremony my first year as activity director,” said Christman. “I thought Valentines Day is, of course, a day of love. The resident’s live in a world that is much smaller than ours and I thought it was something that would make the day special for them.”
Both the king and queen had family supporting them throughout the ceremony.
Pastor Bob Boxrud’s wife and daughter, Jean Boxrud and LeeAnn Lutz, were by Pastor Boxrud’s side as he was crowned this year’s king.
Opal Goplin’s three daughters, Joni Schmaltz, Sandi Hofland, and Carla Ecker attended the ceremony to support their mother’s crowning achievement. Opal also has a son, Jim Goplin, who was unable to attend the event.
Joni Schmaltz said, “My mom and Pastor Boxrud actually worked together many years ago. Pastor Boxrud used to run the clinic and [Opal] worked at the front desk.”
According to Schmaltz, Opal was also both a Sunday school teacher and parishioner in Pastor Boxrud’s church.
“[My siblings and I] were all confirmed by Pastor Boxrud,” said Schmaltz.
According to the families, both Boxrud and Goplin have been cornerstones of the Hettinger community.
“Opal and Pastor Boxrud have been in Hettinger forever,” said Schmaltz.
When Opal received her crown and rose she smiled and said, “Thank you everyone. I love you all.”