It is often said that after a long time in marriage, the romance dies, and love fades away. Some even go as far as to say that marriage becomes a routine. For some couples, these statements could not be more wrong.
One such couple is Walter and Jean Willard, a New York couple married for 70 years and whose love still blossoms to this day. Neither one could even imagine living a life without the other person. After being separated for a long time due to the coronavirus pandemic, their reunion this May was a heartfelt one in which the couple couldn’t stop holding each other.
There’s only a two year age difference between the two, Walter is 91 and Jean is 89, according to CBS News. The pair got married in their teens. Like other young couples, they had been together for quite some time and knew that they were meant to be together.
Even with so many years of marriage, they never left each other’s sides. That was until the coronavirus pandemic forced poor Walter and Jean to social distance away from each other. Their time in social distancing has been the longest the couple has been away from each other after 70 long years of marriage.
Wendy and Wanda, the couple’s daughters told CBS affiliate WRGB that their parents have always been healthy besides last year when Jean broke her pelvis due to a nasty fall. Jean was then admitted to the Eddy Memorial Geriatric Center in Troy, NY. Upon further examination, Jean was diagnosed with dementia.
Walter was by his wife’s side throughout her time there, only leaving when she fell asleep at night. He began to spend shorter hours there, and yet he still spent most of his days by Jean’s side. He was able to spend this much time with her due to the nursing home being in close proximity to their own home.
The lockdown occurred while Jean was still in the nursing home, and that changed everything for the elderly couple. Visitors were not allowed into the facility, and this included friends as well as family. This greatly saddened both of them, as they were now forced to separate for the first time in their marriage of 70 years. “He went downhill so quickly when he couldn’t see her,” Wendy told CBS in a short interview.
Adding to the frustration felt by the couple and their daughters, Walter suffered a brain injury due to a fall and this meant that he would require surgery and needed to go to rehab. It seemed likely that Walter would be admitted to the same nursing home where his wife was as the facility was the closest one to their home, yet the pandemic complicated things.
The family received this statement from the nursing home: “The admissions person said ‘we have COVID cases, we can’t let anyone in.'”
Watching the conditions of their parents broke the hearts of their daughters who felt helpless in the situation. Upon hearing their mother crying because she could not see her husband, they knew something had to be done and wrote a letter to the director of the nursing home.
After hearing this heartfelt plea, the director allowed Walter to move into the nursing home even under the strenuous circumstances because as Jean was recovering, Walter’s condition was only deteriorating.
“I told him what we were afraid of, we’re afraid we’re going to lose one of them and they’re never going to have seen each other again, and I asked ‘is there anything you can do? We’re willing to take the risk, my dad is willing to take the risk,'” Wendy stated.
She further explains that she immediately received a call from the director saying that he was willing to make an exception for Walter knowing that the family understood the risks.
The couple was soon reunited and the staff flocked around the happy couple, taking pictures and recording this joyful moment for them. Walter and Jean now share a room at the facility and are on a better path to recovery. We can all be inspired by the love still existing in the marriage of this elderly couple. We hope that they continue to inspire us as their story goes on.
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