A strong marriage can withstand just about anything. No matter how trying the times are, Nick Avtges, 88, stands by the idea that "L-O-V-E" can conquer all.
He proved exactly that this spring, when he took a bucket ladder up three stories to see his wife of 61 years, Marion, outside her room in Maristhill Nursing and Rehabilitation. Unable to see sit and visit with his wife inside the facility, Avtges had no choice but to get creative.
In a homemade Patriots mask, Avtges held a sign reading, "I love you sweetheart," for Marion to see. The touched fingertips through the screen in her window.
Since his big trip in April, he and Marion have been able to see one another, with the necessary precautions, and this week, he was able to share his story on a national stage, appearing on "The Dr. Oz Show" on Nov. 16.
Before the pandemic, Avtges would wake up, eat breakfast and head over to the care facility, spending the entire day with Marion. While he has since been able to visit once a week for about an hour, it is still not nearly enough time with his beloved wife.
"We love each other very much, and this past year, it's been a bad experience to be alone without her, especially with the pandemic which limits the time I visit her," he said. "I used to go every day, but now I can only go once a week for an hour at most. That's the worst part of this pandemic and how it's affected my life."
For their first wedding anniversary, Marion gifted her husband Patriots season tickets, and the two have been loyal fans to the team ever since. As a surprise, Dr. Mehmet Oz called in Robert Kraft to say hello.
Mr. Kraft understands this kind of love, he said. He and his wife, Myra, were married for 48 years before she passed away in 2011, so hearing about Avtges and his dedication, Mr. Kraft was moved.
"I was blessed with my sweetheart of 48 years. She was a very strong and powerful lady. I loved and respected her. We were great partners," Mr. Kraft said. "Unfortunately, I lost her to ovarian cancer almost 10 years ago. Seeing you go up in that bucket and understanding how fragile life is, it really is cool."
As a way to celebrate their love, Mr. Kraft surprised Avtges with a game ball dedicated to Marion and him, a signed Julian Edelman jersey and a one-of-a-kind date night on the Gillette Stadium field when the pandemic is over.
"I've been a loyal Patriots fan since the beginning .... I think I'm more surprised than she will be, but she'll love it," Avtges said.