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