Neb. couple together 57 years separated by COVID-19 restrictions

Neb. couple together 57 years separated by COVID-19 restrictions
Garry Zager sits outside his wife Judy's window. The two have been separated for 35 days due to COVID-19. (Source: KOLN)

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Long-term care facilities were some of the first to implement restrictions when COVID-19 came to the United States.

That has also been the case in Lincoln, and for some, the shutdown feels more like a shut out.

On March 16, Lincoln businessman Garry Zager was living at long-term care facility Pemberly Place with his wife, Judy.

That day he was given two options: he could stay at the facility and not leave, or he could temporarily move.

Eventually, he chose to leave to keep his business running, and now, a window separates him and his wife of 57 years.

“I visit her every day in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon and evening,” said Zager, sitting in a lawn chair outside the facility.

Cell phones are the only way the two can communicate now.

“This is our communication. This is what we are limited to,” he told KOLN.

Zager has been counting the days he’s been apart from his wife, who is suffering from dementia.

"This lady loves me, and I love her," said Zager. "I have no freedom to hug her."

So now, as often as he can make it, you can find Garry Zagar outside of Judy’s room in his yellow lawn chair.

The facility’s executive director, Helen Crunk, RN, BS, said in a statement:

"I understand the grief our families are facing. Pemberly will continue to follow all guidance from our local, state, and federal government to remain steadfast in our commitment to keep those most at risk safe."

Garry and Judy Zager sit and talk about everyday things, like what she had for dinner, or what kinds of birds she’s seen walk by her window. Garry Zager just wishes they could do one thing.

“We’re missing some beautiful sunsets,” he said. “We’d walk around here and watch the sunset on the horizon.”

Garry Zager said he’s hoping for a quick re-opening to go back to where his heart is.

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