Virus can’t stop 7-decade anniversary celebration


HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Alden Barkel put his hand up to the glass window that looks into the room his wife, Hester, spends her day at the American House Senior Living Center near Holland.

“Hi honey,” Alden said, as he puts his hand up to the window.

The hand of his 92-year-old wife presses the inside of the glass.

Alden then blows his wife a kiss.  

As we all deal with the changes in our daily lives due to the new coronavirus, the Barkel’s prove no virus can get in the way of celebrating over seven decades of marital bliss.

On a sunny Wednesday, 72 years after they tied the knot, the couple celebrated their anniversary, even though it wasn’t quite the way they planned.

Alzheimer’s necessitated Hester’s move into American House about a year ago.

“We had a real good life, all our life. Had a few problems with health once in a while, but, otherwise, it’s been a real good life,” Alden said.

Hester Barkel celebrating 72 years of marriage with her husband and family. (Courtesy)

Two weeks ago, precautions over COVID-19 prevented Alden from making his two daily visits. Once early in the day, then back for supper.

“It’s been a pretty tough year, now especially when I can’t go see her,” Alden said.

Two distinct diseases — one robbing the mind of cherished memories and the other robbing the ability to spark those memories, if only for a moment.

But not on this day.

A cell phone helped break down the glass barrier:

“It’s too bad I can’t come to see you every night anymore,” Alden said over the phone.
“Oh, I know,” Hester responded.
“You miss me, huh?” Alden asked.

Hester and Alden were neighbors in Overisel.

Friends for years, that friendship grew into love and a marriage that produced three daughters, seven grand-children and 14 great-grand-children.

All four generations were there for the makeshift anniversary celebration. 

Alden and Hester Barkel celebrating 72 years of marriage. (Courtesy)

The marriage also produced a lesson for those later generations: That love can overcome the bumps, and in this case, bugs that get in the way.

Another lesson: COVID-19 concerns may not last forever.

But what Hester and Alden have will.

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