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Parading love
Community helps mark anniversary while social distancing
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Family and friends gathered to celebrate the 48th wedding anniversary of George and Gabrielle Breadon April 5 at Pleasant View Nursing Home in Monroe. Gabrielle is currently a resident of Pleasant View. Due to the coronavirus, no one was able to visit the couple or celebrate with them so a parade was organized to help. - photo by Brenda Steurer

MONROE — Friends, family and loved ones managed to keep up with social distancing while also sending well wishes by parading past a picture window at Pleasant View Nursing Home in Monroe April 5.

It was the safest way to celebrate on the date of George and Gabrielle Breadon’s 48th wedding anniversary. 

The couple stood for the hour-and-a-half it took for 75 vehicles to pass through. 

“She wouldn’t sit down,” George said about his wife. “She was too afraid she was going to miss something.”

George thought long and hard about how he could somehow mark the special juncture with his wife, who has resided at Pleasant View since November after having a series of mini strokes. 

“I just couldn’t come up with anything meaningful,” he said. 

The couple hadn’t physically been in contact for more than two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic that’s limited visitors, but were able to be together that day to receive the love that came through the glass. 

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Tracy Hamilton directs the 75 vehicles to line up for the parade. - photo by Brenda Steurer

Marge Klinzing said she and Kathy Zwygart just happened to be “visiting” Gabrielle from outside her third-floor window together when she mentioned hoping to go out to eat with George to celebrate. From there, Klinzing said in 48 hours the community had responded to calls and messages, bringing the celebration to life in a matter of hours to celebrate the couple that has been a part of Monroe since 1977. 

“It’s really important now that we do these things that make us feel good,” Klinzing said. 

Soon Diane Krebs came on board with Zwygart and Klinzing and the three got to work on delegating people to come out, make signs, sing and dance to mark the occasion. Each vehicle came with a message, a wave and a smile for the longtime couple. 

“I organized the event but the community filled the day with love and laughter,” Klinzing said.

Many came to the window holding signs with messages, blowing kisses and expressing their love. Some came in Irish garb, reflecting the roots of the couple who met and were married in Ireland nearly five decades earlier. Others wore pink to reflect Gabrielle’s favorite color. 

“We were able to wave and sort of talk to them through the window,” George said. “They observed all of the regulations, so it all worked.”

It’s really important now that we do these things that make us feel good.
Marge Klinzing

Dan Stormont, a co-worker of George’s and longtime family friend, played bagpipes for the occasion. Gabrielle said later it made her feel as if her son, Gavin, who died 18 years ago was also with them. 

George is a member of the morning Optimists Club and Gabrielle is part of the noon group — members from each were prominent there as well as several other friends they’ve made through the years, he said. 

“It was really nice,” George said. “We’re grateful for our friends and everyone that showed up to support us.”

Gabrielle said afterwards she couldn’t sleep because she just kept reliving the experience in her head of the love and joy she felt from so many.

The morning had started on a high note for Gabrielle already, when she received phone calls from both her brother-in-law in London and her sister in Ireland. 

George said initially being at Pleasant View was difficult for his wife, who was used to spending her days helping others. She was the advisor for the middle school junior Optimists and would take up to a dozen students to the annual convention. George said she would pay for some to go just to give them the opportunity. She served as the swim team president for several years, which in part is how the two became close to Klinzing.

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Dan Stormont played bagpipes to mark the anniversary of George and Gabrielle Breadon. - photo by Brenda Steurer

“She did an awful lot of good,” George said.

When Klinzing discovered a place outside the government services building where they could call Gabrielle on the phone and see her through her window, it’s become a spot for those hoping to feel connected to her.

Klinzing used to meet with Gabrielle on Tuesday nights to visit, and still does through the window — now taking her a copy of the Monroe Times while they chat and laugh as they did before. 

The couple grew up in Ireland and George was in medical school while Gabrielle took up nursing, eventually earning her master’s degree in midwifery. They had met in Galway, just off the Aran Islands, where both were vacationing. They learned later they had worked in the same hospital at one point, but had never met. 

In 1970, George came to the United States alone, working in Baltimore before moving back to Ireland, when the two were married. The following June, the couple moved to the Rochester, Minnesota, where George worked at the Mayo Clinic and Gabrielle worked as a midwife until 1977, when they moved to Monroe and George worked as a doctor at Monroe Clinic. 

“Our plan was to stay in Monroe five years,” he said. “And 43 years later, we’re still here.”

George said they’re proud of their family, and their four boys. Their three oldest children were born in Rochester and their youngest, Desi, was born nine months after they came to Monroe.