Reunion Article Featured

A Long-Awaited Reunion

Posted on August 05, 2020

After 61 years of marriage, Elizabeth and Jerry Hankins had spent no more than two weeks apart. 

The Hankins moved to Northfield Retirement Community in June 2019. Within a few months, Jerry needed more care, especially after having a surgery, and was moved to the Northfield Care Center. Even though they couldn’t live in the same space, they were able to visit.

But in early 2020, when COVID-19 swept through the world and, in response, NRC implemented strict quarantine measures to prevent infections and spread, the two were separated based on their care needs. They wouldn’t see each other again for four months.

“It was hard to be separated like that,” Elizabeth said, adding she was more concerned with Jerry’s health than her own Jerry was at higher risk.

Weeks passed, and the two FaceTimed every night. Elizabeth called the video chat option a “saving grace.”

Since March, NRC has been practicing proactive infection control measures, screening procedures and visitor restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jerry has been spending his days playing the Appalachian dulcimer, a plucked string instrument. He also reads everything he can get his hands on, Elizabeth said, from biographies, to scientific readings to the Old Testament. Having studied geology in college, science and history are big interests of his.

The two met in the mid-1950s along Minnesota’s North Shore while Elizabeth was volunteering for her church. While Jerry served in the army in South Korea, Elizabeth finished her studies at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. The couple wed as soon as Jerry came home from serving overseas, and Jerry followed in his father’s footsteps in becoming a minister, and Elizabeth became a teacher. 

“What attracted me to Jerry was that he was a very interesting individual ... I was just amazed when I first met him,” said Elizabeth, who lives in ParkView West independent living. “He was (and still is) very knowledgeable about so many things, and had a really nice, warm personality.”

After having two children and going on several ministry trips, the couple never spent more than a few days apart, which made their first reunion after months in quarantine even more special.

In early summer, NRC told them both that they would be able to see each other for the first time on July 8, 2020, through plexiglass outdoors on the NRC campus, a few feet apart. 

“We were so very excited,” Elizabeth said. “I thought it would be so very freeing to at least see each other, and to sit and talk.”

On the day of the in-person visit, Jerry waited in a nearby hallway teary-eyed, Elizabeth said. 

“It was a lot for him,” she added.

During their visit, they talked about books and their daily activities.

Elizabeth had a surgery shortly after their visit and underwent the standard protocol of a two-week quarantine. 

Elizabeth and Jerry Hankins will celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary on August 9, 2020.