Medina couple married for almost 70 years died 2 days apart at The Villages

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 May 2020 at 1:29 pm

Martha and Bill Ames’ secret to a long and loving marriage: ‘remain best friends through it all’

Photos courtesy of Susan Fuller: Bill and Martha Ames are shown at their wedding on June 6, 1951.

MEDINA – Martha and Bill Ames were nearly inseparable since they started dating as young teen-agers at Medina. The couple was together until the very end, dying two days apart in the same room at The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center in Albion.

They are two of the 13 residents at the nursing home who have died from Covid-19. Mr. Ames, 89, was a physical education teacher and coach at Medina. He passed away on April 22.

Mrs. Ames worked 20 years in the district office at the school. She died from Covid-19 on April 24.

“It was comforting to me that they were together,” said their daughter, Susan Fuller of Medina.

The couple married on June 6, 1951. They nearly made it to their 70th anniversary.

Mr. and Mrs. Ames raised two children in Medina, Susan and her brother Bill who lives in Indiana. After Mr. and Mrs. Ames retired in 1985, they lived at a summer cottage in the Thousands Islands and spent the cold-weather months in Sarasota. They returned to live year-round in Medina in 2015.

They were very social people who were active in the Masonic Lodge. The enjoyed having people over. Mrs. Ames would cook and bake. She was also an excellent card player. Her family said she was very competitive, except with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She would always let them win.

Bill and Martha Ames enjoy a boat ride at the Thousands Island.

“We truly enjoyed spending time with them,” Fuller said. “Every holiday was spent together with an elaborate meal and fun board games and card games afterward. We spent many happy times all together at their cottage at the Thousand Islands and at their home in Florida.”

Mrs. Ames was interviewed by her granddaughter on the couple’s 65th anniversary. She was asked the secret to a long marriage: “Love, a sense of humor, and patience,” she responded. “It isn’t about the marriage license – that’s just a piece of paper. It is making sure you always remain best friends. That you trust each other, are patient, kind, and realize that there will be hard days but the good days far outweigh the other as long as you remain best friends through it all.”

Early days of dating

When Mr. Ames was 14 he spotted his future wife, Martha Fortunato, at the old Medina High School on Catherine Street. Martha was 13. To get her attention, he took off one of his boots and dropped it down two floors in the stairwell. The family lore says the boot hit Martha on the head, and that started their long story. They were soon dating. They married on June 6, 1951 when Bill was 20 and Martha was 19.

Bill enlisted in the U.S. Navy in December 1950 and served in the Korean War. He was honorably discharged in 1954. The Ames’s son was born in California when Bill was stationed there.

He earned his master’s degree in education and started his career as a teacher in Silver Creek in 1955 and then worked as a teacher in Neptune, NJ. He returned to his hometown in 1964, and coached wrestling and football. During the summer, he taught people to swim at a quarry on Bates Road at the conservation club.

The family said Bill really loved the outdoors, going hunting, fishing and boating.

Together at The Villages

Bill and Martha Ames are shown together when they lived in Sarasota Florida.

After an active retirement in the Thousands Island and Sarasota, including some time near their son in Indiana, Mr. and Mrs. Ames came back to Medina in 2015.

At that point, Mr. Ames has struggling with dementia. The family thought being back home with his friends and a familiar surrounding would help him. But his condition worsened and he entered The Villages in January 2017, staying in the dementia wing.

The family wanted his wife to be with him, but The Villages didn’t allow Mrs. Ames, who didn’t have dementia, to live in that wing with her husband.

“As a married couple they have a right to be together,” Fuller said.

Mrs. Ames moved into one of the other wings, for people without dementia, in September 2017.

With an impasse about Mrs. Ames being allowed to move into the dementia wing, The Villages last year agreed to let the couple stay together, but it had to be outside the dementia wing.

The Covid-19 outbreak at The Villages has spared the dementia wing. All 49 of the cases have been on the other wings.

Mr. Ames became noticeably sick on April 16 with a fever. Fuller was called at 9:30 p.m. that Thursday night that he wasn’t doing well.

The state has banned visitors to nursing homes since March 13, allowing some families a brief visit if a loved one is receiving end-of-life care.

Susan Fuller would go outside their parents’ window at the nursing home to see them, and would try to Facetime through a phone with a help of a social worker. The phone seemed to frustrate her father.

As his condition worsened, she was allowed inside his room to see him, with the visit a maximum of a half hour. She wore a gown, a mask and gloves. Her brother also came up from Indiana to see their parents. Fuller said not all nursing homes are allowing family to see loved ones who are dying.

“I am thankful we could do that because in New York City they aren’t allowing people (visitors) in the nursing homes or hospitals,” she said.

This family photo with Bill and Martha Ames was taken at The Villages of Orleans on Christmas in 2017.

Her father and mother both had photos of their family – their children, three grandkids and two great-grandsons – near them.

Mrs. Fuller held her father’s hand and let him know how proud she was to be his daughter. The entire family is very proud of him, she told her father. He had a lucid moment and said, “That’s nice.” He died peacefully at 11:30 a.m. on April 22.

His wife, who also had a fever, would die at 5:58 p.m. on April 24.

Mrs. Fuller is angry the coronavirus has spread to so many residents in The Villages.

She said she has taken her complaints to the State Department of Health, which regulates the nursing homes.

But she said her parents were loved and cared for by the staff, especially the physical therapists and aides who worked hard to keep them comfortable.

“The whole team of physical therapists are just wonderful,” she said. “There are very good aides and nurses there.”

The family can’t invite friends and many family members for calling hours and a funeral service because social gatherings are limited to 10 people. Fuller said there will be a large memorial service in the future when restrictions are eased on public gatherings.

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