FORT GRATIOT TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A Port Huron man took a job at a nursing home so he could see his wife of 62 years after they were separated for four months by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Larry and Carol Burnett have been married for 62 years, but he was separated from her when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
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For the past two years, Carol has lived at Regency on the Lake, a care home in Fort Gratiot Township near Port Huron.
Larry has been there for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, sometimes volunteering and even organizing an appreciation drive-by parade. But most of his time was spent with his wife.
“I would rather be there than at home,” he said. “You know, after 62 years, it was almost like we were one person.”
When the pandemic hit, all visitors, including Larry, were shut out.
“It’s been absolutely terrible,” he said. “People would ask me how I am. I would say, ‘As well as I can locked up in a 1,700 square foot prison.”
Many families would visit through a window, but that wasn’t cutting it for the Burnetts.
Sandra Ball, the activities director for Regency on the Lake, had an idea involving an open part-time job.
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“I three weeks I did not get one application, so I thought I’d call Larry and see if he wants it,” Ball said.
“I said, ‘When do I start?‘” Larry said.
On his first day of work, he finally got to see his wife after nearly four months.
“It was exciting,” Larry said. “It was great. We hugged. We kissed -- probably shouldn’t have.”
“It was emotional,” Ball said. “It helped both of them. It helped all of us to see family connect with family again. There were tears.”
“There are other folks in the same boat,” Larry said. “I really feel for those folks. I can go visit my wife. They can’t, and it’s something I think about all the time.”
Larry said he plans to work at the home even after the pandemic ends. He was named volunteer of the year for 2019.