By: Josiah C. Cuellar, The Dickinson Press
CountryHouse Residence of Dickinson stepped back in time into the roaring ’20s for their residents’ Valentine’s Day dance. The decorating and atmosphere was perfect for lovebirds to fall back into love all over again. Even those not lovestruck still could enjoy the party spirit with well dressed and dedicated staff members and visiting family members.
There are many stories within this assisted living facility and its residence, but a certain married couple represent a love found in storybooks. Gene and Marilyn Wert have been married for 55 years, and though their love has been tested, they still remain bound to one another. Marilyn is a resident of the facility for those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and Gene visits her daily to spend time with her.
“We were close neighbors, but we never dated until I was 24 or 25, after I got out of the Army,” Gene Wert said. “We got along very well, and she makes me happy.”
They had a summer wedding on June 6, 1964, and lived in New England, N.D. They had four children together, two of whom live in Dickinson. Gene was a farmer, and Marilyn did all the rest — as he would put it, from taking care of the kids, gardening and teaching for a couple of years in Mandan and Baker.
“We used to do some dancing, get-togethers with the neighbors for birthday parties and name days … we had a place up at the lake we used to go to and we would fish,” Wert happily said. “The only bad part about that was sometimes she would out-fish me.”
Gene has a likable spirit with a charming laugh and attitude. He lives in the Edgewood Hawks Point facility. On a recent visit to see his wife, he sat with Marilyn after she ate her dinner. She held his hand with both of hers and fixed his crooked tie. The words they spoke to one another were soft, like children sharing secrets. They truly enjoy one another company.
“It’s nice tonight, but it’s hard with her being here and me being over there, doesn’t always work so good,” Gene Wert said. “She is not the gal I married, but she is still very good; we just gotta make the best of it.”
The dance is meant to be an enriching experience for the residents, to keep them socializing and feeling good while doing so.
“Even when you are in your senior years, it is so important to feel beautiful and handsome, that magical feeling of getting dressed and going to a dance surrounded by your peers,” Tessa Johnson, director of CountryHouse, said. “Our day staff is here. They all got off, went and got dressed up, got babysitters and came back because they want to be a part of this. We are such a family-oriented home that everybody wants to feel that, be a part of it.”
GG’s clothing store helped by donating dresses and apparel items. Family members also helped, and a volunteer styled residents’ hair. It was a fun night created by CountryHouse staff, but for some couples and residents, it was more than a dance — it was an opportunity to embrace their loved one in their arms for a magical moment.