Reunited with a kiss: Couple aged 90 who had been unable to cuddle since being split up by lockdown celebrate 66th wedding anniversary at candlelit care home dinner-for-two

  • Derek and Phyllis Mapes had been apart for the last eight months in lockdown 
  • Staff at Laurel Lodge care home in Norwich made them a special dinner 
  • Couple were finally able to kiss and hug each other after socially-distanced visits

A couple aged 90 who have not been able to cuddle since being split up by lockdown in February were treated to a candlelit dinner-for-two for their 66th wedding anniversary. 

Derek and Phyllis Mapes had been apart for the last eight months because of the coronavirus pandemic but staff at Laurel Lodge in Norwich wanted to create a special night for them.  

The couple, both 90, missed the actual date of their 66th anniversary in February this year because Phyllis was ill and had to go into hospital and was then moved into Laurel Lodge in June.

They could speak occasionally by phone and staff arranged some visits through social distancing in the garden or through the window but it was not the same – they could not hug each other.

Derek and Phyllis Mapes had been apart for the last eight months because of the coronavirus pandemic but staff at Laurel Lodge in Norwich wanted to create a special night for them

By the summer Derek needed care too, but was in a different home.

On October 15 he was transferred to Laurel Lodge and staff began planning the anniversary dinner.

Their daughter Heather helped to get Derek’s best suit and her mother’s favourite outfit.

When they arrived for the dinner, the couple were greeted with photographs of them throughout their lives together.

Fighting back tears, Derek said ‘It’s brilliant, it’s good to be back together. You realise what’s been missing.

The couple, both 90, missed the actual date of their 66th anniversary in February this year because Phyllis was ill and had to go into hospital and was then moved into Laurel Lodge in June

‘The fact I had been a little bit lonely in a bungalow, I was in there on my own.’

Staff went the extra mile by hanging love heart garlands from the chandeliers, balloons from doorways and decorative rose petals, and dishing up steak for dinner.

The meal was prepared by home manager Danielle Bullent, with staff stepping in to wait on the couple and provide music.

Danielle said ‘It felt as if we were not at Laurel Lodge but in this posh restaurant.

‘It was all about them, they had no clue. They’ve been apart for so long.’

Staff went the extra mile by hanging love heart garlands from the chandeliers, balloons from doorways and decorative rose petals, and dishing up steak for dinner

They met through the Salvation Army, where Derek was a member in Wymondham and Phyllis was in Norwich. They got to know each other by performing in youth choir.

Derek said he realised his feelings for his future wife when he needed to visit a friend in hospital in Holt, and Phyllis offered to accompany him and book his ticket.

After getting married in 1954, they had three children, and have seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Derek said he and his wife enjoyed the ‘fabulous’ meal although he revealed ‘I had steak, but Phyllis had sausages as she’s not keen on steak.

We want to thank the staff very much – it was very good, lovely.’

Asked about the secret to their 66-year-long marriage, he confided ‘It’s about doing what the other half says.’

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