Couple, both 90, reunited at surprise ‘date night’ - after eight months apart

Derek and Phyllis Mapes have been married 66 years but have been seperated over the coronavirus pand

Derek and Phyllis Mapes have been married 66 years but have been seperated over the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Black Swan Group - Credit: Archant

A Norwich couple separated for months due to the pandemic were treated to a romantic date night to mark their 66th wedding anniversary.

Derek and Phyllis Mapes have been married 66 years but have been seperated over the coronavirus pand

Derek and Phyllis Mapes have been married 66 years but have been seperated over the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Black Swan Group - Credit: Archant

Staff at Laurel Lodge, in Ipswich Road, Norwich, transformed the dining room for a romantic dinner for two for Derek and Phyllis Mapes who have been physically apart since February.

The couple, both 90, missed their 66th wedding anniversary as Mrs Mapes was in hospital and then moved into Laurel Lodge in June.

They met through the Salavation Army, where Mr Mapes was a member in Wymondham and Mrs Mapes in Norwich. They got to know each other by performing in youth choir.

Following his own stay of respite care at a different care home, Mr Mapes decided to move to the Ipswich Road home to be back with his beloved.

Derek and Phyllis Mapes have been married 66 years but have been seperated over the coronavirus pand

Derek and Phyllis Mapes have been married 66 years but have been seperated over the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Black Swan Group - Credit: Archant


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During the pandemic, they spoke nightly and had weekly visits through social distancing or through the window.

Mr Mapes said: “It’s brilliant, it’s good to be back together. You realise what’s been missing.

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“The fact I had been a little bit lonely in a bungalow, I was in there on my own.”

Mr Mapes moved into the care home on October 15, so staff got to work planning the perfect date night.

Laurel Lodge decorated their dining room for an anniversary dinner for Derek and Phyllis Mapes. Pict

Laurel Lodge decorated their dining room for an anniversary dinner for Derek and Phyllis Mapes. Picture: Black Swan Group - Credit: Archant

Their daughter Heather helped to get her dad’s favourite suit and mum’s favourite outfit so they could dress up.

When they arrived at the dinner last Friday, the couple were greeted with photographs of them throughout their lives together.

Mr Mapes said the point he knew about his feelings for his future wife was when he needed to visit a friend in hospital in Holt, and Mrs Mapes offered to accompany him and book his ticket.

After getting married in 1954, the couple had three children, seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Staff went the extra mile by putting up love heart garlands from the chandeliers, balloons from doorways and decorative rose petals, and laying on steak for dinner.

The meal was prepared by home manager Danielle Bullent, with staff stepping in to wait on the couple and provide music.

The manager said: “It felt as if we were not at Laurel Lodge but in this posh restaurant. It was all about them, they had no clue. They’ve been apart for so long.”

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