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A man is not where he lives, but where he loves
The greatest love stories are not those in which love is only spoken, but those in which it is acted upon.
Confined to a wheelchair in a long-term care home, Wilf Babcock is living one of the greatest love stories ever told.
Gazing at the woman he has loved for the past 67 years, he seems to instinctively know a heart worth loving is one you understand, even in silence.
Because it is in the silence of the night that he takes his wife’s hands and holds them close to his heart.
“It was love at first sight, you might say,” Wilf says about the pretty girl named Mavis he met on a Saturday afternoon in Verona in the fall of 1946.
A few days later, Wilf took Mavis out on a date in a 1930 Model A Ford Coup.
“I liked his wavy hair,” Mavis recalls about her first impression of Wilf.
For Mavis, it was impossible not to fall in love with the shy, well-mannered young man.
Training to be a teacher, Mavis left the following summer to attend college in Toronto.
Wilf followed her.
“He came all the way to Toronto to see me,” she notes. “I was shocked.”
Wilf and Mavis married two years later in a parsonage because Mavis was too nervous to go to a church. The first of three boys arrived one year after that.
“They’ve been good boys,” Wilf says lovingly about his sons Jim, Glenn and Dale who expanded the family tree with seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. “They’ve never caused us any trouble.”
With his marriage certificate hanging above their two beds that have been pushed together, Wilf, 89, gazes adoringly at the woman he met when he was 20.
He smiles when he thinks about their early years together when his starting wage was 20 cents an hour to shovel gravel into a truck for 10 hours a day.
From there, Wilf worked at a rock quarry in Verona for 40 cents an hour; an aluminum plant in Kingston for 45 cents an hour; and, National Groceries for 50 cents an hour.
They both laugh about the time he came home on a Friday with 23 baskets of peaches from his boss.
Quickly recruiting help, Mavis and her mother spent the weekend canning fruit.
“We had peaches for two years,” Mavis says with a smile. “They were the most beautiful peaches I ever saw.”
Living in Harrowsmith in a house Wilf’s father purchased for $1,450 (Wilf repaid his father promptly), the couple saved enough to build their first house together which Wilf designed. They lived there for 29 years.
Ready for another challenge, the ambitious father of three accepted a job with the Department of Highways at the District Office. He spent the next 32 years travelling from Kemptville to Trenton and north to Hwy. 7. He retired as Area Supervisor.
Residents of Helen Henderson Care Centre in Amherstview for the past two years, Wilf joined his wife in the nursing home a few months after she arrived.
For two years prior to her arrival, Mavis battled health complications from a burst bowel.
“I didn’t expect to have her,” Wilf says through tears from his wheelchair. “For months, she didn’t know me at all.”
“I don’t remember any of it,” Mavis, 87, responds quietly. “They gave me four months to live and that was two years ago.”
“And here she is now,” Wilf exclaims gratefully.
Sitting comfortably in the home owned and operated by the Gibson family, Wilf appreciates every minute he has with his wife
He talks with pride about her accomplishments as a teacher and wife.
“She’s been a good wife,” he says with love.
“I couldn’t have done it without you,” Mavis responds softly.
Asked about the secret of their strong marriage, Wilf says they talk about issues that are bothering them before they go to sleep at night. Afterward, they pray for the safekeeping of their family.
Deeply in love with his wife, Wilf can’t imagine life without her. For him, her heart is worth loving, even in silence.
Glowing with happiness, he looks at her adoringly and says, “We hold hands a lot when we sleep.”
In photo: Wilf and his wife Mavis