Lockdown forced couple to spend five months apart after 70 years together

Laura Hampson
·4 min read
Joan and Frank Howell were reunited in the same care home after five months apart (SWNS)
Joan and Frank Howell were reunited in the same care home after five months apart. (SWNS)

A couple, who have been married for seven decades, were forced to spend their first nights apart due to the pandemic.

Frank Howell, 90, and his wife Joan, 93, spent five months apart before reuniting in the same care home just in time for their 70th wedding anniversary.

The pair had been inseparable since tying the knot in 1951 and had never spent longer than a few days apart until the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Retired carpet fitter Frank was forced to move into Astley Hall Nursing Home in Stourport, Worcestershire, in September 2020 with dementia and bladder cancer.

The couple were reunited on 2 February, when Joan joined her husband following a fall at her home. It means the pair were able to celebrate Valentine's Day, as well as their 70th wedding anniversary together on 19 February.

The great-grandparents toasted the occasion with tea and cake surrounded by balloons while opening cards from well-wishers - including one from The Queen.

Joan and Frank were married on February 19, 1951 (SWNS)
Joan and Frank were married on 19 February 1951. (SWNS)

Staff say the pair now spend all day together "holding hands and having a natter" and their quality of life has improved dramatically since they were reunited.

When asked the secret to a long and happy marriage, former nurse Joan said: "Well obviously we have always gotten on.

“Like every marriage, you have your arguments and your moments but that’s what happens. You have to stay true to each other. I love Frank very much and always have."

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The pair spent their anniversary also looking over old black and white pictures from their wedding at St John's Church in Kidderminster. The big day came just months after they met in 1950 when Frank was selling carpets at a market in Halesowen.

The couple, who have two sons, four granddaughters and one great-grandson lived all their lives in Kidderminster where Frank worked for the family carpet business until retiring in 1995.

The pair celebrated their 70th anniversary in the care home (SWNS)
The pair celebrated their 70th anniversary in the care home. (SWNS)

Son Andrew, 60, said: "It was brilliant to get a telegram from the Queen. They were really pleased with that. The care home has worked really well for them.

“Dad went in for end of life care because he has severe bladder cancer and was only given a few weeks to live but he has thrived in there.

“Then mum had a series of unfortunate incidents including falling at home and breaking her hip and wrist and had to go into hospital.

"She actually ended up getting COVID but had mild symptoms for her age. After she’d been at home with carers she ended up going into Astley Hall as well.”

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The couple don’t share a room and are on different floors but they see each other every day.

“Up until COVID, and before dad went downhill, he used to drive them out for lunch two or three times a week,” Andrew added.

Maddison Bowlden, lifestyle and wellbeing lead at Astley Hall, said: “[Joan] had to isolate for 11 days and after the final day of isolation they were reunited at the end of January.

“I think with all that is going on they felt a lot of anxiety, especially for Joan being alone at home away from Frank and worrying about his condition. Being together again has given them more confidence.

“It’s absolutely lovely to see them interact together after months apart - they have both had the first jab of the Pfizer vaccine and will have the second in the coming weeks.”

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Care home manager Matthew Cox said: “It’s been really incredible to bring people back together during these difficult times.

“It has shined a light on what we have to look forward to for the future of our residents, our hardworking staff and the people that we love.”

Additional reporting by SWNS.

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