N.S. wid­ower ex­pect­ing birth­day card bar­rage af­ter daugh­ter’s re­quest goes vi­ral

Penticton Herald - - HOMES -

SYD­NEY, N.S. — A Nova Sco­tia wid­ower is set to ring in his 93rd birth­day with a bar­rage of cards from around the world af­ter his daugh­ter's call for greet­ings went vi­ral.

Ger­ard Dunn saves the cards he re­ceived from his wife, Ellen, for the many birthdays, hol­i­days and an­niver­saries they shared over more than six decades of mar­riage, re­triev­ing his favourites to adorn his home in Syd­ney, Cape Bre­ton, for each spe­cial oc­ca­sion.

It's that same sen­ti­ment that makes the for­mer post of­fice worker look for­ward to the squeal of the mail slot each day, said his daugh­ter, Miriam Dunn. Since their mother passed in March, she and her six si­b­lings make an ef­fort to send the nona­ge­nar­ian notes, pho­tographs and news­pa­per clip­pings, which he col­lects and rereads un­til the next batch of cor­re­spon­dence.

With his first birth­day with­out his beloved com­ing up in Oc­to­ber, Miriam Dunn de­cided to get her fa­ther an ex­tra spe­cial gift by ask­ing Twit­ter users to send their fe­lic­i­ta­tions in the form of snail mail.

As of Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, the Mon­day tweet has been shared more than 20,000 times, gar­ner­ing twice as many on­line hearts, and nearly 2,000 re­sponses in­clud­ing pho­tos of en­velopes made out to the elder Dunn's ad­dress.

"(Mom) would love that he's get­ting this at­ten­tion, for sure, and the hap­pi­ness it's go­ing to bring him," Miriam Dunn said in a phone in­ter­view.

"He sees this as a trib­ute to her, more so than a trib­ute to him, as a recog­ni­tion of her life, of her hav­ing lived, so he still feels a part­ner­ship with her."

On Wed­nes­day, Miriam Dunn tweeted a photo of her fa­ther hold­ing up the first piece of mail he's re­ceived from an on­line well-wisher.

There's plenty more where that came from, she said, with Twit­ter users from South Africa to Scot­land pledg­ing to post­mark orig­i­nal works of art, choco­lates and care pack­ages from class­rooms of chil­dren.

"I al­ways tease my broth­ers and sis­ters and say, 'I give the best gifts,"' Miriam Dunn said with a laugh. "When I can give a gift and not spend money, that's a bonus."

She said her fa­ther's eyes welled up with tears as he read through the re­sponses to her on­line re­quest, with many Twit­ter users cit­ing their own sto­ries of loss among their rea­sons for pulling out the postage stamps.

"I think that he rec­og­nizes that this is par­tially about him be­ing a wid­ower, par­tially about mom not be­ing there with him any­more, so it is an ac­knowl­edg­ment of her," she said.

"Ev­ery­thing good in his world he at­tributes to mom. He just never stops think­ing about her or feels sep­a­rated from her."

Her par­ents shared the kind of love ev­ery­body wants, said Miriam Dunn. Raised in neigh­bour­ing towns, Ellen Dunn used to say she never imag­ined she would marry Ger­ard, but prayed she would marry some­one like him, ac­cord­ing to their daugh­ter.

"He's very lost with­out her," she said. "He cher­ishes her -- and I wouldn't put it in the past tense, be­cause of course, he still does -and she cher­ished him. And they looked af­ter each other."

Since his wife died, Ger­ard Dunn has con­tin­ued to go about his rou­tine -- driv­ing to the gro­cery store, cook­ing and play­ing the pi­ano ev­ery day. But it's the ma­tri­arch's love that sus­tains him and the rest of the fam­ily, said Miriam Dunn.

If any­thing, Miriam Dunn hopes that the let­ters he looks to re­ceive over his ex­tended "birth­day month" will prove to be a wel­come dis­trac­tion for her fa­ther. She ex­pects he'll take the time to re­spond to some of them, and when he does, it will be on be­half of both her par­ents.

"It's just re­ally go­ing to fill him up. The way it's fill­ing me up, just the re­sponse from peo­ple," she said. "He re­ally feels that she's there with him in spirit and that she is lov­ing this."

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