After months of separation during lockdown in New York, Jean and Walter Willard are finally together again.
Over the course of their 70-year marriage, the couple had rarely been separated. Jean, 89, and Walter, 91, were married before either one of them celebrated their 20th birthday.
Walter and Jean have been married for 70 years.— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) May 22, 2020
“I Love You, Darling.”
Jean is 89 years old and lives in a nursing home. Walter is 91.
Because of the lockdown, they couldn't see each other. Jean cried every day.
They just reunited.🌎❤️pic.twitter.com/vPHAq1JKAz
CBS 6 reports that according to the couple’s daughters, Wendy Willard and Wanda Glenn, both their parents were in good health until last year, when Jean took a fall that broke her pelvis. She had also begun to show signs of dementia.
Since her fall, Jean has been living in the Eddy Memorial Geriatric Center, just around the corner from where she and Walter live in Troy, NY. Wendy Willard told CBS 6 her father would visit the nursing home every day.
“My dad would go over there every day and spend most of every day, in the beginning, he was there all day from the morning until night when she went to bed,” she said.
But when the pandemic began and nursing facilities all over the country were placed under strict quarantine protocol, Walter was no longer able to visit his wife.
According to their daughters, Jean and Walter were devastated. Jean would cry and ask her nurses for Walter, and Walter, “…went downhill so quickly when he couldn’t see her,” Wendy added.
During their time apart, Walter suffered a fall that caused internal bleeding in his brain. After surgery and rehabilitation at Albany Medical Center, his daughters knew it was critical their parents be reunited.
Lockdown measures initially barred the family from moving Walter to Jean’s nursing home. “The admissions person said ‘we have COVID cases, we can’t let anyone in,’” the sisters recounted.
But they wrote a letter to the facilities director who was able to make an exception.
“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 said.
“He immediately called me and said absolutely we want to do this for you!”
Staff at Eddy Memorial sent the family a video of Jean and Walter’s emotional reunion last Thursday. The couple held each other close in their wheelchairs, crying, kissing, and holding hands.
Jean asked Walter if he was alright, and he answered, “I’m feeling better now.” Jean was overwhelmed with joy. “Oh, honey I’m so happy to see you see you,” she said.
Jean and Walter now share a room at the home.
Wanda and Wendy are extremely grateful to the nursing home staff and look forward to visiting their parents as soon they are cleared to do so.