War bride, 96, reunited with husband, 103, as restrictions on long-term care lift in B.C.

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Hilda and Lew Duddridge of Victoria pictured on their 75th wedding anniversary on March 24, 2020. (Submitted by Allan Duddridge - image credit)
Hilda and Lew Duddridge of Victoria pictured on their 75th wedding anniversary on March 24, 2020. (Submitted by Allan Duddridge - image credit)

Victoria's Hilda Duddridge, 96, has a lot more to smile about now that restrictions at B.C.'s long-term care facilities — like the one her husband Lew is at — have been relaxed.

Starting Monday, residents in B.C.'s long-term care facilities have been able to visit with friends and family members with fewer restrictions.

Visitors no longer need to schedule visits in advance. There will also no longer be a limit on the number of visitors each resident can have.

"I can go and stay as long as I want now," Duddridge said. "So that's going to be great."

Submitted by Allan Duddridge
Submitted by Allan Duddridge

Lew Duddridge, 103, has lived at Selkirk Seniors Village for three years. At the start of the pandemic, Hilda Duddridge said they were able to see each other through a window pane.

"I'd walk up the stairs and tap through the window of the dining room where they wheeled him to the window, gave him a cellphone and then I used my cellphone and talked to him through the window," said Hilda Duddridge.

"He was so excited when he could see me ... I went almost every day to see him for quite a few months."

Then greater restrictions came in — momentarily pausing their window meetings. Hilda Duddridge was allowed to see her husband only during specifically scheduled times.

"I had wear a mask all the time and they'd take my temperature at the door so that I was checked over."

Hilda Duddridge, originally from Wales, was one of the approximately 48,000 women who married Canadian servicemen overseas.

She remembers meeting Lew Duddridge, who was serving as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, at a train station during a holiday.

"He could see that I was going to get on the same train that he was and he asked if he could carry my suitcase for me," she said, laughing.

"He looked very dashing in his uniform and everything. He completely swept me off my feet."

After their first date and a six-month courtship, they were married. They celebrated their 76th anniversary this year.

"That's pretty fast I know, but there was a war on and things like that were happening then, I guess," she said.

Watch this archival tape of the arrival of war brides in Canada:

Hilda Duddridge says that the COVID-19 pandemic has some echoes of the war.

"You can't visit. You can't travel. It was much like war," she said, noting that for the Second World War, those restrictions lasted six years.

"Everything was rationed. No one drove a car during the war because you couldn't get gasoline, but I still had the car here so I was able to go and visit Lew anytime that I wanted, when it was legal to do so."

Submitted by Allan Duddridge
Submitted by Allan Duddridge

She says she's most excited to take her husband on drives to Beacon Hill Park like she did before the pandemic and get him his favourite treat — a chocolate ice cream sundae.

Though Lew Duddridge is suffering from dementia, Hilda says he still remembers his family.

"His face just lights up and that was worth the whole trip going there to see him ... He always wants to give me a kiss, you know, through the mask," she said.

"It's nice to know that he likes to see me and he still loves me, anyway. Which I do to him, too, of course."

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