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Love Lives On

Byard and Jo Layman celebrate 60 years together, even though they reside separately at BRC

Byard Layman, 84, carries an inconspicuous paper bag and keeps a steady pace as he winds through the corridors that connect his Assisted Living apartment to the rest of Bridgewater Retirement Community’s campus. His destination is Joy House, one of six unique nursing households in the Huffman Health Center. The bag holds carefully selected goodies for Jo, his wife of 60 years.

Love and Life Across Levels of Living

The couple came to BRC together, sharing a home in Bridgewater Village as Independent Living residents for close to 13 years. Then Jo’s health started to decline, and she had a few serious falls. With a heart condition of his own to manage, Byard knew that they couldn’t safely take care of each other independently.

About three years ago, he moved into an apartment in Assisted Living, and she relocated to Joy House, a Nursing Household on the third floor of the North Tower.

That’s when Byard began his daily trek through the halls—twice daily, in fact, most of the time.

“I knew that if I didn’t visit every day, she would not do as well,” he said.

Upon arrival, Byard arranges the contents of what Jo sweetly calls her “care packages.” A chocolate chip cookie. A special flavor of pudding. A magazine. Word puzzle books. Each item is a small but unmistakably touching testament to their relationship.

He settles into the recliner beside her wheelchair. In the background between them is a framed black-and-white photo of them as a young couple in Mt. Sidney’s Lebanon Church of the Brethren on their wedding day.

“Jo greatly relies on his presence,” affirms Jodi Morris, Joy House household coordinator. “I’ve seen how just sitting in her room not saying a word can make a huge impact on their emotional wellbeing.”

BRC teams go above and beyond to ensure that couples’ bonds remain strong, even when they are no longer able to live together.

The Laymans’ love story is one of honest, simple pleasures. Their routine moments together may look different now, but they convey the same thing: lifelong affection and respect.

In their early years, life followed the flow of raising five children, workdays, and gatherings with friends. These days, their familiar patterns are Monday morning Bingo, afternoons in Jo’s room watching television or working on word searches, and singalongs with nursing household residents and team members.

A Special Anniversary

But you should never count out a grand romantic gesture when it comes to Byard, either. Last spring, he enlisted the help of team members in both Nursing and Assisted Living to orchestrate a surprise 60th-anniversary dinner for the love of his life.

“I thought the idea of him surprising her for their anniversary was an amazing and sweet idea!” said Assisted Living Coordinator Cameron Tolley, who has come to know Byard closely since his move to Assisted Living.

Thinking she was just going out for a drive with former Joy House Coordinator Jill Rhodes, Jo was over the moon when they stopped at The Village Inn—one of her favorite restaurants just a few miles down the road—and there was her husband. He was ready with a special meal, a bouquet of flowers, and a small group of familiar BRC faces to celebrate with.

“This man jumped out and was a-huggin’ and a-kissin’ me, and I thought, ‘Well, I can hug and kiss him back.’ And there we stood,” Jo said.

“It was so worth it,” said Tolley. “She raved about it for weeks afterward.”

“Whether it be visits every day, participating in activities together, or even a special surprise supper like Byard planned, we want all of our residents to continue living their best lives together—with just a little support from us as they need it,” Tolley added.

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To remain eligible for the Home No Matter What Promise, residents must fulfill their obligations in turn as citizens of the BRC community and not give away the resources needed to meet financial obligations to BRC.