Four months ago, Ray and Bonnie Anderson didn’t expect to be celebrating their anniversary sitting 6 feet away from one another, but on Tuesday, June 30 – their 64th wedding anniversary – that is exactly what they did.

Ray, 88, and Bonnie, 82, who previously lived on Lake Ida, recently moved to Bethany on the Lake, a senior living facility in Alexandria. However, after Ray had a small stroke, he was moved to the nursing home section while Bonnie remained in the independent living building.

Even though they had been separated, they still saw each other all the time – until the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Because they lived in separate buildings and because guidelines were in place to keep visitors out of the nursing home, Ray and Bonnie hadn’t seen each other since the beginning of March, when the state was basically shut down, according to their children – Pamela Anderson, Rick Anderson and Greg Anderson.

Pamela Anderson, who lives in Wisconsin, and Rick Anderson, who lives in Illinois, along with Greg Anderson, who lives in Alexandria, were able to bring their mom to visit their dad so the two were able to “celebrate” their anniversary.

Bonnie said it’s been a long haul and she wasn’t sure she was going to make it without seeing her husband, but she did. And on Tuesday morning, she was all smiles, based on the twinkle in her eyes because of course, her mouth was covered with her mask.

Although it was not an ideal situation, the family was happy they were able to bring their parents together for their anniversary. They even brought flowers, balloons and an enlarged photograph of their parents’ wedding photo to commemorate the occasion.

Ray, who didn’t say much, just sat back in his chair – 6 feet apart from not only his wife, but his children – and soaked it all in with the same twinkle in his eyes as his wife and a grand smile behind his mask.

Ray Anderson, 88, a resident of the Bethany on the Lake nursing home, waits in his wheelchair for a visit from his wife,  Bonnie, 82, on Tuesday, June 30, which happened to be the couple's 64th wedding anniversary. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)
Ray Anderson, 88, a resident of the Bethany on the Lake nursing home, waits in his wheelchair for a visit from his wife, Bonnie, 82, on Tuesday, June 30, which happened to be the couple's 64th wedding anniversary. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

Bonnie Anderson, 82, of Alexandria waits with her son, Greg Anderson, who is holding flowers, a balloon and picture of his parents. Bonnie and Greg were at Bethany on the Lake to visit Bonnie's husband and Greg's dad, Ray, as it was the couple's anniversary. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)
Bonnie Anderson, 82, of Alexandria waits with her son, Greg Anderson, who is holding flowers, a balloon and picture of his parents. Bonnie and Greg were at Bethany on the Lake to visit Bonnie's husband and Greg's dad, Ray, as it was the couple's anniversary. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

Outdoor visits now an option

Matt Fischer, Bethany on the Lake administrator, said the outdoor visits were scheduled to start Monday, but rain delayed them to Tuesday.

Prior to the outdoor, in-person visits, residents of Bethany on the Lake were able to have contact with family and friends through Zoom video conferencing and visits through glass/plastic partitions whether from their rooms or in the chapel.

With the outdoor visits, Fischer said they can be booked just like a person would book a hair appointment. There is an online booking system or people can just call the front desk. Each visit is limited to 45 minutes.

When family or friends arrive, they must go through a screening process first and also must wear a mask.

“This is a step forward, but we are also being very adamant with our process,” said Fischer. “The health of our residents and staff is our No. 1 priority.”

The space set up for the outdoor visits was put together within just a couple of days by Bethany on the Lake staff, said Fischer, who praised them for all of their hard work and efforts throughout the whole coronavirus pandemic.

He said all staff members wear eye protection and surgical masks each and every day.

“We have a great staff and they have made it manageable for our residents,” said Fischer. “They do a great job with stepping in and being like family for our residents. They develop relationships with our residents and we have become one big family at Bethany.”

Fischer said he is “very blessed” to have such a great team and that they will continue to work with the Minnesota Department of Health and Horizon Public Health to stay within the guidelines.