A Wrexham couple were forced to celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary apart due to the coronavirus crisis.
It’s the first anniversary Barbara and Donald Roberts, both 86, have been separated for since they were married at Gresford church in 1956.
Donald, who is living with dementia, has moved into Pendine Park’s Hillbury Care Home in Wrexham while Barbara, who visited her beloved husband every day without fail until the pandemic took hold, lives in the bungalow Donald built in 1966.
According to Barbara, she understands that due to contamination fears she couldn’t visit Donald but thanks to Hillbury manager Cindy Clutton, she was at least able to tell Donald how much she loves him over the phone.
She said: “Our daughter Pamela went to visit Donald and take him some gifts from me, including photographs and chocolates. She was able to see him in his room through the window but when she got there Cindy Clutton, the manager, and other staff members were there with him.
“Cindy had a phone to Donald’s ear so he could hear me. I was able to tell him how much I loved and missed him. It left Pamela in tears, the compassion and care that Donald receives is just outstanding.”
Barbara says being apart on their wedding anniversary was difficult but she knows it was necessary to protect everyone at the care home.
She said: “Donald was my first boyfriend and we’ve never really been apart since we were 16. We were actually born a day apart. I was born on October 10, 1933, and Donald the following day, October 11.
“I met him in Wrexham we going to the pictures with my and he was there with his friends. We just got talking. Then we went for walks to Erddig. He asked me whether I’d go out with him and of course I said yes. No one else in the world mattered, the sun was shining and we only wanted each other.
“Even then every weekend Donald used to volunteer with the St John’s Ambulance. He was doing a builders apprenticeship with a building firm run by a John Hughes.
“One day the Queen, or other member of the Royal Family, came to Wrexham to open a building. Donald had the day off to volunteer with St John’s.
“But when he got his pay packet at the end of the week and gave it to his mother she made him take it back as he’d been paid for the full week but only worked four days!
“The building firm boss said he could keep his full wage and to give it back to his mother, that’s how things were then.”
Barbara says that she and her mum hid behind the door when Donald plucked up courage to ask her dad for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
She said: “That’s what you did then, dad said yes, as I knew he would. He got on with Donald really well. In fact my dad suffered really badly from arthritis and would never have lived as long as he did without Donald’s help. They got on really well.
“We were married at Gresford on April 2 in 1956 and moved into a little house Donald bought in Springfield Terrace. He paid £175 for it which was a fortune back then. We stayed there until Donald finished the bungalow I still live in. We moved here in 1966.
“Donald worked for most of his life as a plumber. We had two daughters, Pamela, who works as a probation service officer and Elaine.
She added: “I was disappointed I couldn’t see Donald on our anniversary. But Cindy Clutton and her staff did everything they could so I could at least tell Donald how much I loved him over the phone. And he saw Pamela at the window which was something.
“I understand why I couldn’t see Donald, the staff at Hillbury are dedicated and wonderfully caring and what they are doing is protecting everyone from this horrible virus.
“Lots of the staff have families and children to look after too but they are doing everything to protect the residents. They are sacrificing their own family time to protect residents. They are angels as far as I am concerned.
“From the moment Donald went to live at Hillbury I have been so impressed, the level of care he receives and the way they treat me is just amazing.
“I want everyone to know how wonderful they are and that they are putting their lives at peril from this virus so they can care for my Donald.”
Daughter Pamela Roberts, 60, said: “Of course I couldn’t go in and had to make do with going to his window. When I got there, and there was no way they knew I was going so it wasn’t staged, but there was Cindy sat beside dad holding a phone to his ear while mum spoke to him.
“Other staff were there holding his hand. It brought tears to my eyes, I couldn’t help welling-up.
“This is the first anniversary they have spent apart. They have had some wonderful cruises to celebrate past anniversaries and have always been totally dedicated to each other.
“Dada has been a resident of Hillbury for a little over a year now. For their last anniversary Cindy arranged a party at the home with a buffet and a special celebration cake. Hopefully, once this pandemic is over mum can get back into seeing dad on a daily basis.”
Cindy said: “We made sure we did what we could so Barbara could at least speak to Donald and tell him how much she loved him. Lets hope once the crisis is over they can hold each other again.
“The Coronavirus pandemic has been horrendous but I have to pay tribute to all the Hillbury staff who have been truly amazing.
“We have to do everything we can to protect residents and keep the virus out. The have been wonderful and self-isolating when not in work in an effort to protect residents.
“All departments have worked together, for example we have had laundry staff helping out with care duties alongside care practitioners. It’s been one huge team effort and while the whole team has risen to the challenge they have done so with a smile on their faces.”