Renewed beginnings -- at the end

Valley View Manor hosts couple's recommitment to each other even as the facility faces closure, an uncertain future

The melodies of the Cedar Mountain Strings band floated over the Valley View Manor lawn as residents and guests gathered to enjoy the upcoming nuptials of Robin Victoria Willis, a former employee of Valley View Manor, and her husband, Talmage Earl Willis III.

The couple renewed their vows Saturday at the facility, which will be closing on July 8.

"I hope it will get them through one more day," said Robin Willis of the re-dedication ceremony being held at the nursing home. "If we can give them any joy out of this mess ... "

The ceremony, which had been planned six months ago when word of the closure had not been announced, lasted about half an hour and was followed by a reception. The groom and bride, who have been married for 10 years, already had decided to have a re-dedication ceremony early in their marriage and decided to hold it at the nursing home because a wedding had never been held there.

"I just wish all of them (the residents of Valley View Manor) could have been here -- all that I promised," Willis said.

The couple knew each other growing up in Seattle and then lost touch when Talmage Willis joined the army at 17. His sister eventually re-introduced them at the restaurant where she worked.

"My sister wanted me to meet her so I go down there and out comes Robin, I don't think my sister has ever forgiven me for already knowing her," Willis said.

The couple kept in touch for years after that. Finally, ten years ago, both were single and then they got married.

"We used to kid each other that when we were 90 and our spouses had both died that we would get married," said Talmage Willis, a long-haul truck driver for Gordon trucking.

The couple moved to Craig in the summer of 1999 for a climate change and because they had family in the city.

A year and a half ago, Robin Willis got a job at the nursing home.

"My father-in-law went here and I didn't know very much about nursing homes so I got a job here and I stayed on after he died," said Willis, who was the assistant activities director.

"I fell in love with the people here," she said.

"We wanted to be able to go out with a celebration," said Tracey Behrman, recreation director at Valley View Manor regarding the ceremony that was held so near to the closing date.

"Today is a day for joy because there has been so much grieving," Behrman said, her eyes filling with tears.

One of the eight residents' in attendance, Grace Klayko, who is being relocated to Doak Walker in Steamboat Springs said, "I don't want to leave and if they re-open it, we will be right back."

The main reason the couple held the ceremony at Valley View Manor was for the residents, said Talmage Willis.

The city of Craig, Moffat County and The Memorial Hospital have all expressed interest in trying to keep the nursing home open. But officials, who have called the facility critical to the community, have expressed frustration at dealing with Mariner Health Care, which owns Valley View Manor. They have said Mariner has been difficult in returning telephone calls and turning over financial documents regarding the feasibility in taking over the nursing home. Randy Phelps, administrator for TMH, has said the situation may not be resolved until 2005.

Liz King is an intern with the Craig Daily Press. She can be reached at 824-7031 or eking@craigdailypress.com

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