A special party for the young at heart

FORT WORTH -- Les and Connie St. John sat at a table decorated in bright pink and ate sandwiches cut into the shape of hearts.

They've been married 50 years, but the romance isn't gone.

"We're sweethearts," Connie said, patting Les' hand.

You're never too old to have a valentine. The St. Johns and about 60 other seniors celebrated the holiday a day early Monday at the Salvation Army Evangeline Booth Friendship House in south Fort Worth.

The party was thrown by the Salvation Army's Women's Auxiliary of Fort Worth, whose 90 or so members support the organization and its clients.

Cut-out paper hearts hung from the ceilings. Floating balloons and fancy centerpieces adorned the tables. Guests dressed in pink and red sweaters and blouses lined up outside the room waiting for the doors to open. Some men wore jackets. Some moved slowly with walkers.

The St. Johns moved into the friendship house about two years ago, but they couldn't come last year.

"We probably had doctor appointments," Connie said, laughing. "We have a lot of those."

Partygoers might not celebrate the same way they did when they were younger -- dancing has given way to bingo. But the Valentine's Day party is one they all enjoy, said Laurie Andersen, an auxiliary member. Everyone who attends gets a gift bag.

The auxiliary raises money for the Salvation Army and handles other activities such as filling backpacks with school supplies for children, said Barbi Blair Stoudt, the group's membership chairwoman. Not all of the 90 people in the group are active, and new members are always being sought.

Guest Ida Campbell, 70, said the party lifts residents' spirits. She moved into the friendship house almost four years ago and hasn't missed the bash yet.

"It's nice to feel a little special," she said.

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1