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Couple separated by COVID-19 to reunite for 75th wedding anniversary (2 photos)

Dorothy and Robert Bonell haven't seen each other in nine months, but a special in-person visit at F.J. Davey Home has been arranged for the pair's diamond anniversary

Dorothy Bonell is finally getting an opportunity to see her husband Robert at F.J. Davey Home after being separated for nine months due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

And when they reunite May 9, it will be to commemorate their 75th wedding anniversary. 

“I hope I don’t cry. I’m worried about starting to cry, because I don’t want to cry in front of him because he tries to hold it all back, but I know he’ll do the same thing,” said Dorothy. “I have a wonderful husband, I always have.”

“Everything was for me. He’s always worrying about me. So when you’re separated like that, it’s not funny at all. It’s really lonesome.”

Their son, Tom Bonell, says the last his parents visited each other, they were seated six feet apart outdoors and couldn’t really hear each other. Dorothy and Robert have been talking on the phone and using the FaceTime app as their primary means of communication ever since.     

“It was kind of sad to see people visit that way,” said Tom of his parents’ last face-to-face visit.  “But this time, they’re going to be a little closer together, and we’re very thankful to the Davey Home. They’re so good up there in following protocols and doing the right stuff.”

Dorothy, now 98 years of age, tells SooToday that the steel plant needed extra workers during the Second World War. She got a good job at the plant, and for a period of time, Robert was her boss there before leaving to join the army at 18 years of age. 

Robert was overseas for three years, but made sure to give Dorothy an engagement ring before he left. 

“Thank God he came back,” said Dorothy. “When he got back, we got married.” 

“We had a good marriage all these years, and we were happy. We had our three children, and then we adopted our fourth. We had a good life, my husband and I.”

The couple now has seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 

To this day, Tom marvels at the lengths his dad would go just to see his mom when they first began dating. Robert would routinely travel from the east end to the west end to see Dorothy, which was something that some Saultites just wouldn’t do during that time. 

“Back in that time, the city was divided by east end and west end. Mom was Italian and my dad was Irish, and that wasn’t very common for Italian girls to marry outside the Italian community,” said Tom. “So my dad going to the west end, I mean, that was a big deal - and sometimes, guys didn’t do that because they were scared to go to each end of town, because they would get beat up back in those days. That even carried over to when I was a kid growing up on Pim Street.”

“My dad had no fear. He’s a skinny little tough guy, and he had one thing in mind - that was my mother. He walked proudly into the west end up to her house near James on Cathcart to see her and take her out and that, and nobody ever bothered him.”

Dorothy fondly recalls Robert showering her with gifts over the course of their marriage, even when she thought that maybe he didn’t have the money to do so. It wasn’t uncommon for Robert to come home with flowers, or even a dress, for his wife. She says her husband has always been a wonderful person who put others before himself.  

“He was spoiling me a lot, I’ll tell you the truth,” she said.

Tom says his dad had a stroke about eight or nine years ago, and Dorothy took care of him for about six or seven years.

“But it came to a point where she couldn’t manage him anymore, we couldn’t manage him - and we had to put him in a home,” said Tom. “So this meeting for the two of them, we’re all looking forward to it for them.”

So, just what is the key to a long and loving marriage spanning several decades? 

“Well, the only thing I can say is - I keep saying it, but my husband and I, we loved each other right from the start, and we continued to do that for all the years,” Dorothy said.


James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday based in Sault Ste. Marie
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