They are the local couple that made national and international headlines in May.
In a video that went viral, World War II veteran W.D. Brinson visited his wife, Faye, at W. Frank Wells Nursing Home in Macclenny during a drive-thru reunion during the pandemic for Mother’s Day.
“Right down there a little ways,” nursing home staff told Brinson shortly before he got to see his wife for the first time in 56 days.
As Brinson’s granddaughter, Tabatha, drove him closer to where he’d see his spouse, he took a moment to wish a happy Mother’s Day to some residents. Then his granddaughter spotted Brinson’s wife in a heartwarming reunion that was captured on video.
“I love you!” Brinson yelled to his wife. “I hope you have a happy Mother’s Day. I love you.”
The couple’s story took a heartbreaking turn in December when Faye, who was recovering from COVID-19, died of an unrelated health issue the day after Christmas. The 89-year-old was later laid to rest in Jacksonville.
In a recent sit-down interview with News4JAX after their grandmother passed, Tabatha and her cousin, Justin Perry (also a grandchild of the Brinsons) spoke about their grandparents’ storied love.
“She lived with us, so she was like a mother figure to me,” Tabatha Brinson said.
When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis halted visitors from entering nursing homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many families struggled, the Brinsons included.
“He would go every day,” Perry said of his grandfather. “It wasn’t a visit. He would stay all day.”
From dusk till dawn, that’s just the way it was for more than 72 years.
“It’s a love you could only hope for,” Tabatha Brinson said her grandparents’ relationship.
The couple’s love story began in 1948, decades before the world knew who they were. As Brinson put it, they met at a square dance at a place on Beaver Street. To hear him tell it, it was love at first sight.
“And that’s when I looked at her and I knew she was the one for me,” he said.
They married that year and moved to Marietta where they started a family and had six boys. Now they have 12 grandchildren, 26 great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.
“She never forgot our birthdays,” Perry said of his grandmother. “You always got that card in the mail, with $2 in it. You knew it was coming. I miss how happy she made my grandpa… I miss how happy she made my grandpa, there was nothing in this world that made him more happy than my grandma. Grandma didn’t forget, she didn’t forget none of us.”
“They took their vows to heart and I think they said it every day, the way their actions were. There was no giving up,” Tabatha Brinson said.
As long as they had each other, the Brinsons had everything — even if the beard Brinson grew during the pandemic drove his wife crazy.
As their granddaughter explained, he took a vow not to shave his facial hair until the nursing home door’s opened and they could be reunited. And though the couple got to see each other in-person before Faye passed, he never got the moment he was hoping for.
“The doors never opened, and he is not going to shave,” Tabatha Brinson said. “That is something he told her. He is a man of his word.”
The Brinsons’ marriage is a real-life love story and an important reminder of what’s possible when you give your heart to someone. He said the secret to a long and happy marriage — in this case, seven decades — is to give-and-take and listen to one another.
“It’s hard to lose somebody that you have been married to over 72 years,” Brinson said. “I miss her smile every morning.”