'Devoted Husband,' 88, Soars to Wife's Nursing Home Window Using Bucket Lift amid Pandemic
"That was the first time he saw her face-to-face in weeks. It was just amazing," Chris Avtges said of his father Nick Avtges' sweet gesture
When it comes to soulmates, a couple in Massachusetts is proving that love truly knows no limits — or heights.
Each day over the last year, Nick Avtges, 88, has been routinely visiting his wife Marion, 85, at the Maristhill Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Waltham, The Boston Globe reported.
However, because of the coronavirus outbreak, the facility closed its doors to all visitors in March in an effort to protect its residents, according to the newspaper. Prohibited from visiting his wife of 61 years, Avtges was left heartbroken.
That is, until his family jumped into action and came up with a creative way for him to see his wife through her third-story window by using a bucket lift.
“[It was] awesome and emotional, on so many different levels,” Chris Avtges, Nick’s son, told the Globe of the reunion, which happened on April 8.
The clever idea first came to Chris as he was sitting around a bonfire with friends in Connecticut and talking about how upset his father was because he couldn’t see Marion, according to the newspaper.
Though using a bucket lift was initially a joke, by the next day, Chris said he started to consider the idea more seriously.
“We laughed,” he told the newspaper. “But the next morning, I got up and was kind of thinking about it a little more.”
Chris ultimately turned to Facebook, reportedly asking in a post if anyone owned a bucket lift, or knew someone who did, so his family could borrow it for 24 hours.
People quickly began to respond to the post and offer their help, but Chris told the Globe it was Peter Tzannos whose comment stood out among the rest.
“A friend of mine from high school — he was like, ‘I can do this for you,'” Chris added to NBC affiliate WYCN. “I was like, ‘Oh my! Okay! That’s crazy!'”
Thrilled, Chris reached out to James Tracy, the president and administrator of Maristhill, to share the good news and ask permission to make it happen.
“[I] spoke with them and made sure they were all set with it, and the ball started rolling from there,” Chris explained to the Globe.
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The initial plan by Tzannos, who works as a property manager in Watertown, was to use a boom lift, but he reportedly scrapped that idea after experiencing some “logistical issues.”
Instead, Tzannos called up another friend from Watertown: Ryan Donnellan, who, as the owner of a tress services company, happened to own a bucket lift.
“Ryan dropped what he was doing and he came out there within a couple of hours,” Tzannos told the Globe.
The emotional moment was captured on film and shared on Facebook by granddaughter Sydney Avtges, one of Nick’s many relatives who witnessed the reunion.
In the clip, Avtges wears a mask and gloves and waves from the bucket lift before getting hoisted 30 feet into the air, moving slowly toward his wife’s window.
When he finally reaches his destination, Marion can be seen waving to her fearless husband behind the window screen while Nick holds up a sign for her that reads, “I Love You Sweetheart,” according to the Globe.
“I showed her the sign. And she said, ‘I love you too, more than you know,'” he told the newspaper afterward. “They could have lifted me 10 stories and it would not have bothered me. As long as I got to see her. I was just anxious to see her.”
“We touched each other through the screen,” he added to WYCN. “Our fingertips touched.”
While it was incredibly memorable for the couple, the moment was equally as special for their family members who witnessed it.
“That was the first time he saw her face-to-face in weeks,” Chris explained to the Globe. “It was just amazing.”
Added Tracy: “He’s been a very devoted husband. He never missed a day.”
Avtges told WYCN that once COVID-19 is in the past, he and Marion plan to take a vacation.
While that date may still be up in the air, there’s something that he does know is certain at this time.
“We’ve been married 61 years,” he told the local news station, “and love [each other] today as much as we did when we first met.”
As of Wednesday, there have been at least 641,523 cases and 28,759 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to The New York Times. In Massachusetts, there have been at least 29,918 cases and 1,108 deaths reported, according to the Times.
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