91-Year-Old Wife With Dementia Recognizes Husband on Their 72nd Wedding Anniversary

December 4, 2019 Updated: December 4, 2019

When Leonard and Shirley Matties, both 91, celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary, their mutual love was plain to see. Shirley’s eyes sparkled with recognition upon greeting her husband; with Shirley dressed in a beautiful pink gown and clasping Leonard’s hand tightly, onlookers would have been forgiven for forgetting that Shirley has dementia.

Ardis Behrendsen, a certified nurse’s aide at Grace Manor Care Center senior living facility in Burlington, Colorado, where the couple lives, was touched by their story. She decided to help the elderly couple’s family make party arrangements for the Oct. 11, 2019, celebrations.

One of the couple’s seven children, Carolyn Martell, told CBS News that the family was already planning an anniversary party. Behrendsen simply wished to help take the party “above and beyond” the family’s expectations by sourcing a beautiful pink gown for Shirley and arranging a special commemorative photo shoot for the married pair.

The “Most Amazing Day”

According to WTHR, the Mattieses used to live on one of Colorado’s centennial farms, a property formally recognized by the state after being owned and run by the Mattieses for over a century. The family finally sold the property in 2007 when Leonard and Shirley moved to Burlington.

Staff of the senior-living facility helped family members with preparations for the special day before assisting Shirley out into the hallway and to her husband’s residence.

Behrendsen took to Facebook to share her joy at the day’s events. “With permission from my resident’s family, I get to share some pictures about the most amazing day I have had since working in healthcare,” she began.

“I have been working in long term healthcare since I was 16,” Behrendsen continued. “Working with the elderly has always been a huge passion to me. What I got to be a part of today was the most beautiful experience.

“Not only was I able to get this beautiful bride a dress and doll her up, but I was also able to take pictures of their very special day and capture the love and commitment they have for each other, even after 72 years.

“Leonard and Shirley are such a beautiful example of what true love is, and prove that when you truly love someone, you fix what is broken and love each other through all the hard times you may face.”

“I Asked …”

Shirley was captured on video being assisted in her wheelchair for the special occasion. He laughs with excitement, and Shirley seems to recognize Leonard’s face, clasping his hand lovingly once the couple are united.

The retired farm owners enjoyed a romantic celebration, replete with flowers and a framed photograph of themselves as newlyweds. The couple even posed for photos, holding handwritten cards; Leonard’s read: “I asked,” while Shirley’s read: “I said yes, 72 years ago.”

Behrendsen regaled witnessing the look on Leonard’s face as they brought Shirley into the room, saying it was “one of the most beautiful things” she had ever seen. Leonard and Shirley’s daughter told WTHR that her mother “lit up” when she put on her new dress, and expressed immense gratitude to the staff who helped make the day so special for her parents.

Posing with their old framed photograph, the happy couple gave permission for the photos to be posted online. They quickly went viral, garnering thousands of shares on Facebook and attention from numerous media outlets.

People responded with affection to Behrendsen’s original post. “Love is the only thing that is immortal,” wrote one person. “True love continues to expand over the years. Thank you for this beautiful posting.”

اس پر ‏‎Ardis Behrendsen‎‏ نے شائع کیا جمعہ، 11 اکتوبر، 2019

“These pictures are amazing,” wrote another. “Gives me hope that maybe my true love is still out there somewhere! Congrats Shirley and Leonard on your 72nd anniversary.”

The Secret to Lifelong Love

According to the elderly couple, there’s a sure-fire way to live a long, happy life and experience enduring love. It’s all “work,” says Leonard, while Shirley explains that they simply “kept going.”

“Just keep on trucking. That’s pretty special,” their daughter Carolyn exclaimed.

Behrendsen claimed to feel blessed to work in healthcare, owing to days and experiences like these. “In the end, love is the only thing that truly matters,” she said. “Thank you Leonard and Shirley for reminding me what life is all about, you are truly an inspiration to me. I love you both.”

The 91-year-old lovebirds have been holding hands and guiding one another through the trials and tribulations of life for over seven decades.

The Mattieses have lived, loved, and certainly “kept on trucking.” In so doing, these soul mates are a true inspiration to many more couples the world over.

Photo courtesy of Ardis Behrendsen

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