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The Lights Must Go On! Neighbors Carry Out COVID Survivor’s Favorite Tradition.

house of dale marks and julie marks at night with their christmas lights on

With the holiday season comes countless holiday traditions, many of which have been around since we were children. For Bob Coffey, that includes stopping by Dale Marks’ house to admire his spectacular Christmas light display.

This popular tradition in Dale’s neighborhood has brought in thousands of visitors from all across Des Moines, Iowa, but when Dale’s health quickly deteriorated, it seemed as though there was no way he could decorate his house this year.

His health problems all began when he and his wife, Julie Marks, got COVID-19 in September. She recovered in about two weeks, but Dale hasn’t been the same since. One night, he was rushed to the hospital after collapsing. He had strokes on each side of his brain. Later, he had a heart attack while being treated for blockages of his carotid arteries

“He got COVID and it just didn’t go away,” Julie said. “The side effects were horrendous.”

The couple tried figuring out a way to carry on their holiday tradition, but with all of Dale’s health problems, it just didn’t seem likely.

“Dale decorates and puts all the lights up – I do the small things, he does the big things – and I knew there was no way that I could do it,” she said. “He started talking about it and I was pretty sure it was impossible.”

Impossible alone? Yes. But when Bob, who is a local contractor, heard what Dale and Julie were going through, they suddenly had a whole team of helpers.

“It makes me feel good that we can do it for him, but it makes me feel sad that he’s in that condition,” Bob said.

Along with four of his employees, Bob happily worked on decorating Dale’s yard exactly like he would do it. In fact, Dale was even able to sit on the sidelines and direct them.

“You could just tell that he wanted to be there,” Bob said. “So he would just say, ‘Hey, come here, I need this over here. I need this over here.’ He knew to a T where everything went.”

In addition to providing a beautiful lights display for all to enjoy, last year, Dale and Julie also collected food and donations for the Food Bank of Iowa. They managed to bring in 1,500 pounds of food and more than $7,500, something they hope to do again this year, even though Dale will have to help out from inside their home.

“Nothing we have, we believe, is ours,” Julie said. “So if we can love on other people and raise money and food for the food bank, that’s what we’re gonna do every year until we can’t.”

Christmas this year will be different for Dale and Julie, but they couldn’t be more grateful for all of the support they’ve received. Plus, they can’t wait to see all of the lovely visitors who will be driving past to admire their home from Thanksgiving night all the way until New Year’s Day.

“He thanked me, he cried a little bit, I got teary,” Bob said. “You could tell how much he appreciated it, and that’s what makes it worth it.”

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