True love always finds a way

Couple celebrates 65th anniversary together, in spite of pandemic

John Brindley and Jerry Brindley celebrated their 65th anniversary Saturday at The Folsom Center, where a special gathering was held amidst the ongoing COVID+19 pandemic. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Instead of picking one of his many Alabama or blood donor T-shirts, John Brindley decided on a nice blue shirt for this special day. He had an important date with a beautiful woman and he wanted to look his best. He waited in the pretty garden on an unseasonably cool summer morning to finally see the love of his life, his wife Jerry. The face mask John was wearing couldn’t hide the smile in his eyes when his bride arrived wearing a sweet white veil.

John Lamar Brindley and Jerry Brindley were married July 31, 1955, and Saturday they celebrated 65 years of marriage. Although COVID-19 attempted to intervene, some creative thinking by their family and the staff at The Folsom Center enabled the two love birds to celebrate together, from an appropriate distance, at a table set for two in the garden area of the long-term living facility.

Maryann Brindley Kelley, the oldest of John and Jerry’s five daughters wrote, “John Lamar Brindley was raised in the Nesmith community. In 1953, at the age of 18, he moved to Akron, Ohio to work. He met Jerry on a blind date on Feb. 27, 1954. They were married at Grace Baptist Church in Akron, Ohio on July 31, 1955.”

Maryann was born Feb. 27, 1958, and by the time John and Jerry moved to Cullman in June of 1966, they had four girls, soon adding a fifth.

Maryann continued, “They raised them on his parents’ country property until they all grew up and married.”

Besides their five daughters, the Brindleys now have five sons-in-law, 10 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and three step-great-grandchildren. They also have a great church family at Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Nesmith.

“On Feb. 28 of this year, we as a family had to make that gut-wrenching decision to place our mother in a nursing home,” said Maryann. “Dad just couldn’t take daily care of her anymore. It was the hardest decision we have ever had to make, and not knowing what was about to happen with the pandemic around the corner.”

With the pandemic ongoing, the Brindleys have now been apart for five months.

But true love always finds a way.

The Folsom Center allows what it calls “Sunshine Visits” which allow residents to safely and briefly visit with family. A long 6-foot table with a plexiglass partition in the middle, rests beneath the trees on the Center’s grounds, and Saturday, the Brindleys were able to celebrate with each other, COVID-style. The table was decorated for their anniversary and the Brindleys read cards and looked at recent family photos. They ate cupcakes while visiting with each other and laughed with their family.

John, who recently acquired his first iPhone, took pictures of his sweetheart.

His granddaughter Whitney Smith smiled, “He got the smartphone a couple of weeks ago, so now when he calls grandma, he can actually hear her. He has fallen in love with the camera and being able to take pictures. He sends them and shows her the pictures. He can zoom in on the pictures so he can see them really good.”

Whitney described her grandfather as “obsessed” with the phone and the pictures, sharing, “His back screen, his screensaver, is a picture of grandma when they got married.”

Regina Thornton, a nurse at The Folsom Center assisted in making sure the visit was possible.

She said, “The family was quite involved in it and helped set everything up. We try to make things as normal as possible and make the best of it during this time. We do a lot of Sunshine Visits; they still Facetime and do video chats, still. We have different methods, and they can still do phone calls and visit that way. We know we can’t replace daughters or anything like that, but we try our best.”

Smiling, she added, as she looked at the Brindleys chatting through the plexiglass, “I’m sure this is not the way they dreamed of celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary, but at least they are able to see each other.”

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John Brindley, with his new iPhone, snaps a photo of his bride of 65 years, Jerry, Saturday at The Folsom Center. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)