Bob Shellard and his wife Nancy have spent more than six decades happily married — but due to the coronavirus, the couple had to get a little creative when it came to celebrating their 67th anniversary together.
Because Nancy lives in a Connecticut nursing home that’s currently restricting all outside visitors due to the outbreak, Bob, 90, decided to make a grand gesture in honor of their anniversary on Saturday by standing outside her window with a heartfelt sign declaring his love for her.
“I knew I couldn’t go inside, and I knew she couldn’t come to me. So I thought I would make something I could show her from the street,” Bob tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I just did the best I could.”
So outside the Stafford Springs nursing home he stood as 88-year-old Nancy, who started living in the home in December after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, watched from above.
Bob Shellard Nancy and Bob Shellard
He held a sign that featured a large red felt heart, a silver glitter trim and the words, “I’ve loved you 67 years and still do. Happy Anniversary.”
“The nurses at the window read it to her, and they were all shouting down,” the couple’s daughter Laura Mikolajczak tells PEOPLE. “She said, ‘I love you. I wish I could be down there with you.’”
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Bob, a former draftsman and graphic artist, says the sign was his daughters’ idea, and that he spent all week working on his masterpiece for his “Boots,” the affectionate nickname he’s had for Nancy since she once admired a pair of boots in a store window.
“She seemed to be quite happy about it,” he says of the end result.
Bob Shellard Nancy and Bob Shellard on their wedding day
The couple’s sweet love story stretches back nearly 70 years, to when Bob was working at International Silver Company in Meriden, Connecticut.
Nancy, who was still in school, worked at a pharmacy Bob would frequent as he waited for a bus that took him home to North Haven.
“That’s where I first met her,” he says. “One time, the bus didn’t arrive in time and she said, ‘Well, aren’t you going to walk me home?’ So I got a little surprise there.”
The couple married in 1953, and had two daughters and two sons. Since Nancy moved to the nursing home in December, Bob, who lives a 20-minute drive away, says he tries to visit her daily.
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“[I miss] her smile. Just being together,” he says. “Of course, we can’t. I try to get there every day. It’s a completely different life for us right now, but she’s still my wife.”
Laura tells PEOPLE that since her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the family visits her as often as they can, though she “doesn’t remember much these days.”
Still, she always recognizes Bob.
“As soon as she sees my dad, it’s like there’s this bond that she will never forget,” says Laura. “He’s the one memory that hasn’t left her… They very much have a love that’s just never faded over the years, and through the memory loss, and all the kids that drove them crazy.”
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