‘Thanksgiving Grandma’ and Jamal Hinton unite after her husband’s death

Ashley Terrell
·3 min read

This thanksgiving season marks the 5th anniversary of their tradition

An accidental text invite for a Thanksgiving dinner four years ago turned into unlikely family tradition, but this year it looks a bit different.

Wanda Dench, didn’t know that her grandson changed his phone number at the time and accidentally texted Jamal Hinton about Thanksgiving plans in 2016, according to The New York Times. Every year since then, Hinton and the Dench family have shared a meal together on or around Thanksgiving.

But this year, in April, Dench lost her husband Lonnie to COVID-19, as reported by People.

via Social Media (Jamal Hinton)
via Social Media (Jamal Hinton)

Read More: CDC pleads with Americans to not travel for Thanksgiving

Hinton took to social media to announce the news of Lonnie’s death: “Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face. So, I thank every single one of you guys for that!”

Hinton, 21, and Dench, 63, of Mesa, Arizona, held a small dinner on Friday with a portrait of Dench’s husband and a burning candle as they talked about him, their friendship, and what they’re thankful for.

“It’s going to be different, my first Thanksgiving without him,” Dench told The New York Times. “My husband was always right behind me, telling me how proud he was of Jamal and me for what we’ve done.”

Dench and Hinton’s story, originally shared by Buzzfeed, immediately went viral and Dench was given the title of “Thanksgiving Grandma.”

Read More: Midwest GOP, Dem governors unite for virus PSA as Thanksgiving approaches

Thanksgiving will now look different for millions of Americans with 12 million COVID-19 cases confirmed in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned against traveling over the holiday and ask people to limit the number of guests at celebrations, while practicing social distancing protocols and wearing face masks.

Four years ago when they two met, Hinton mentioned the racial tensions during the 2016 presidential election at that time. He believed that their story of friendship brought needed positivity.

“It was something to show everybody, ‘Hey, we’re all still human, we’re all still together and we can all be friends,’” he said. “I’m just grateful that we are here, we are together. I don’t know what I would be doing for the holidays this year, last year or years before if I didn’t have Wanda in my life, so I’m just grateful,” said Hinton.

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