The touching, handwritten notes tell a story of sweet affection and a deep, abiding love.
Velma Pace, 84, keeps them safely tucked away in a Manila envelope in a drawer and pulls them out from time to time to reminisce about her whirlwind courtship with husband Johnny, 82, and events from their marriage of 53 years.
She caresses the homemade notes scribbled out on colorful napkins and scratch pads that she’s kept for three decades, and they help rekindle memories of better times when they would go dancing, listen to music and take day trips to the country.
"I just like to keep stuff like that," she said. "Birthday cards, anniversary cards. I’ve got ’em from as far back as 1992."
The Pace family is part of the Statesman Season for Caring program, which features 12 families and helps hundreds of others through local nonprofit organizations. The Paces were nominated by Meals on Wheels Central Texas, which daily delivers three meals to the Paces.
Velma Pace speaks fondly of the time she and Johnny Pace first met in some very unusual circumstances.
She was babysitting the child of a friend whom Johnny Pace was actually dating at the time.
Velma and Johnny hit it off immediately. So much so that his girlfriend later told her that "I knew when you met him, he wouldn’t want to date me any more."
The friend was correct. The two began going out and six months later in 1967, they were married.
Velma and Johnny Pace have raised five children from their own and first marriages and dote on three grandchildren. She saves their notes, too.
Velma now cares full time for her husband, a former linguist in the Air Force who later worked for 18 years with Austin Water, and her son, Howard, who was born with intellectual disabilities and has had colorectal cancer.
Johnny has been diagnosed with dementia and entered into hospice care after injuring his hip in an August fall and having congestive heart failure.
The Paces’ house in Pflugerville needed some repairs to make it more usable for them. Their list includes a bathroom remodel, carpet replacement, replacement of rotting/damaged exterior doors, new storm doors and painting Howard’s bedroom.
CG&S Design-Build read the Paces’ story and is donating its services to do the work. It’s the fifth time CG&S has given this gift to a Season for Caring family.
Dolores Davis, president of CG&S, whose parents started the remodeling company, said in an email: "Can you be a huge fan of a community service initiative? If so, we are that! We love the work that Austin American-Statesman does in connecting the community with those in need via organizations like Meals on Wheels."
"This year the needs of the Pace family hit very close to home," Davis wrote. Davis’ father received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. "Being his caretaker is such demanding work, but what Velma is going through is something on a whole other level; caring for her husband and her son AND herself. I am hoping we can give them everything they need and more."
The work CG&S has done for Season for Caring has often been about improving accessibility. Last year, it created a full bathroom downstairs for a man in a wheelchair who had previously had to use a garden hose to shower. In 2015, it turned a bedroom into a bathroom to give a veteran in a wheelchair a full bathroom because his hallways were too narrow to reach his other bathroom and he was using a paint bucket as his toilet.
Davis says her parents also gave back in the 1970s and ’80s, working with local nonprofit organizations to widen doors, create accessible bathrooms and build ramps.
"I think we sort of come by this work honestly. It’s sort of in our roots," she wrote. "Maybe this is why we are so attracted to these type of projects because we know how important it is to the quality of life for folks like the Paces."
The Pace family still has many needs on its list including MetroAccess passes; furniture including a dinette set, living room furniture, a stove and a refrigerator; area rugs; king-size bedding; window blinds or curtains; respite care; and gift cards for groceries and clothing.
To find out more the Pace family or to give something on the wish list, contact Meals on Wheels Central Texas, 512-476-6325, mealsonwheelscentraltexas.org.