A husband and wife who've been married for 70 years and are nearly inseparable were kept apart for months due to coronavirus restrictions, CBS affiliate WRGB reports. 91-year-old Walter Willard and his 89-year-old wife, Jean Willard, were finally reunited this week — and they could not stop kissing each other.
The couple had always been in good health until last year, when Jean fell and broke her pelvis, their daughters, Wendy Willard and Wanda Glenn, told the station. She also showed signs of dementia.
After that, Jean moved into the Eddy Memorial Geriatric Center in Troy, New York, which was just around the corner from the couple's house. So Walter would visit her every day — until recently.
"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," Willard told WRGB. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, the nursing home had impose restrictions again visiting to prevent the spread of the virus, which can be especially deadly for senior residents.
When he stopped visiting, Jean started to cry and ask for her husband, the daughters said. The situation wasn't easy for Walter, either. "He went downhill so quickly when he couldn't see her," Wendy Willard said.
Walter also suffered a health setback. He fell, which caused a brain bleed and led to surgery and rehab. During this difficult time, their daughters knew they had to find a way to get him back to Jean.
Wendy Willard wrote a letter to the director of Eddy Memorial Geriatric Center. The safety restrictions originally prevented Walter from moving into the facility during this time — but the director had a change of heart.
"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,'" Willard said. "He immediately called me and said absolutely we want to do this for you!"
Willard was relieved and her sister said she cried all afternoon when she got the news. Both Willard and Glenn said they are very grateful to the staff at the nursing home.
Not only were their parents able to see each other again, but their emotional reunion was captured on video by staff members. Walter and Jean held hands, cried, hugged and kissed. "Oh honey I'm so happy to see you!" Jean said.
When she continued to cry, Walter asked his wife if she was OK. "No, I missed you," she said. The couple could not stop embracing.
"After 70 years!" Walter said — Jean couldn't believe they had been married that long.
Now, Walter and Jean are sharing a room at the nursing home, and their children can't wait to visit them, WRGB reports.
First published on May 26, 2020 / 4:15 PM
© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.