Loved ones help 88-year-old man reunite with wife in nursing home during coronavirus pandemic

·4 min read
Nick Avtges, 88, goes up in a bucket truck to visit wife, Marion, at her nursing home since she is under quarantine. (Photo: Chris Avtges)
Nick Avtges, 88, goes up in a bucket truck to visit his wife, Marion, at her nursing home since she is under quarantine. (Chris Avtges)

An 88-year-old man’s determination to see his wife led him to what some might call extreme measures as he rode up to her window in a bucket truck outside of her nursing home.

Nick Avtges of Watertown, Mass., has been unable to see his wife, Marion, since her nursing home stopped allowing visitors during the coronavirus pandemic on March 14. The couple’s son, Chris Avtges, tells Yahoo Life that this development affected his father, who had been visiting Marion daily.

“My dad’s routine for the better part of a year has been: Get up, have breakfast and head to the nursing home around 10 or 11,” Chris said. “And he’d stay there until 6 or 7:00 [p.m.] every day.”

After observing how his father was emotionally affected by not seeing his wife, Chris came up with an idea that he never thought he could make a reality. While sitting around with family and friends, he suggested that they get a bucket truck and have their father lifted into the air to visit Marion at her window. After reaching out to solicit help on Facebook, a friend from high school, Peter Tzannos, who works in construction, offered to provide the vehicle to put the plan into action.

Nick Avtges spending time with wife Marion before her nursing home went under quarantine (Photo: Chris Avtges)
Nick Avtges spending time with wife Marion before her nursing home went under quarantine (Chris Avtges)

Though Chris and his siblings were trying to keep it a secret from their father, word traveled fast online and his dad learned of the plan.

“My sister says he started crying. He was blown away at what we were trying to put together,” Chris says.

On April 8, the day Nick and Marion were set to reunite, Chris says that although his father was going to be lifted roughly 30 feet into the air, he was so excited to be able to see his wife again.

“He ... was anxious, he was like a kid at Christmastime, he was just ready to get up there. He just wanted to see her,” Chris recalls.

Nick is a lifelong resident of the Massachusetts town and a retired civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps. Marion worked as a registered nurse, a special education teacher for Watertown Public Schools and a parish nurse for their church. According to Chris, the family has experienced hard times over the years, with the death of one of his siblings and Marion surviving breast cancer twice.

Nick and Marion have been married for 61 years (Photo: Chris Avtges)
Nick and Marion Avtges have been married for 61 years. (Chris Avtges)

“If you ask my dad what the secret is to 61 years of marriage, he’ll tell you the same thing every time: ‘It’s a four-letter word, L-O-V-E.’ And through thick and thin, my dad has been the rock for her and for the family.”

Though Chris says he was blown away by the attention his family has received, he is very appreciative of how the Watertown community came together for his father to make it happen.

“It was really a community that pulled together,” he shared. “My dad was a graduate of Watertown High class of ’50, all my siblings were, all the people who helped out were Watertown graduates. My dad’s been born and raised in Watertown, he hasn’t lived anywhere else. He was very involved in the community, especially in baseball. He coached baseball for close to 30 years ... so a lot of people knew who he was and ... the outpouring of support was awesome.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides.

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