Couple married for 70 years tearfully reunite after coronavirus separation

The coronavirus separated them, but after 70 years of marriage, not even a pandemic could keep them apart.

New Yorkers Walter Willard, 91, and Jean Willard, 89, were nearly inseparable for seven decades until COVID-19 swept through the United States, forcing them apart for months.

They were finally reunited at a nursing home this week in a tearful reunion with plenty of kissing, after officials made an exception under coronavirus rules.

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They’d both been in near-perfect health for their entire marriage until Jean fell and broke her pelvis last year and began showing signs of dementia, their daughters Wendy Willard and Wanda Glenn told CBS affiliate WRGB-TV.

Before lockdown procedures were implemented, Walter never missed a day of visiting his wife in her nursing home just around the corner from their house.

“My dad would go over there every day and spend most of every day,” Wendy told the station. “In the beginning, he was there all day from the morning until night when she went to bed.”

But when he couldn’t visit her anymore, “he went downhill so quickly,” she added. So did Jean, who Wendy says would cry and ask for her husband.

Walter then suffered a brain bleed after a fall and needed surgery during the pandemic. Of course, after the surgery, he wanted to move into the Eddy Memorial Geriatric Center where his wife lives, but protocols wouldn’t allow it.

The facility’s director reconsidered when he received a heartfelt letter from Wendy.

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“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 told CBS News.

“He immediately called me and said, ‘Absolutely, we want to do this for you.'”

Staff members caught the moment Walter and Jean were reunited on camera. In the footage, they can’t stop embracing and kissing.

“Oh, honey, I’m so happy to see you,” Jean says. Walter then asks if she’s OK, to which she responds: “No, I missed you.”

The couple are now sharing a room at the nursing home, WKRB-TV reports.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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