Frank Phillips receives a visit from wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary March 31. Social distancing prevented the two from being any closer that day. (Submitted photo)

Couple celebrates 61st anniversary through Vancouver Island seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

Neither social distancing, nor the COVID-19 pandemic could keep a couple on Vancouver Island from celebrating their 61st wedding anniversary this week.

Frank Phillips, former managing editor of the Nanaimo Daily Free Press and Vancouver Island Real Estate Board president, currently resides at Nanaimo Seniors Village, in Nanaimo, B.C., due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and vascular dementia, according to daughter Linda Roden. Because of measures aimed at preventing spread of coronavirus, wife Rena and he weren’t able to celebrate their March 31 anniversary together, but did visit with a window and wall providing separation.

The couple met in Scotland in 1958 and emigrated to Canada in 1978, also on March 31, and while Rena said celebrating their anniversary with social distancing was difficult, it was nice to see her husband on their special day. The two have shared so much together, she said.

“Frank likes to touch and hug me and I like the same … it was just that connection, that smile. I felt completely connected to him and I’ve always felt that way,” Rena told the News Bulletin. “He tells me and tells everybody, the minute he saw me, he fell in love and that was it.”

With B.C. health officials recommending people stay home, Roden said it has been difficult on her parents, as her mother is used to visiting her father daily. Her mother does call daily to check in on her father, however, as he doesn’t know how to operate a phone any longer, or use mobile phone apps such as FaceTime.

Rena said she isn’t sure when her next visit will take place.

“I can’t go again unless I can get in to be with him,” said Rena. “It’s too painful.”

Despite the fact her parents aren’t visiting on a regular basis, Roden said she is pleased with the care her father is receiving at Nanaimo Seniors Village.

“They’re wonderful with him, said Roden. “They’re being very kind to him and very caring. We don’t have a concern that way at all. I know there’s been a lot of bad publicity over the [past] year with Nanaimo Seniors [Village] and we’ve seen changes, but the staff that work there are exceptional, so that’s not an issue.”

RELATED: Measures taken at care homes in light of COVID-19

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