Nursing home couple finds love in the age of COVID-19

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A couple recovering in a Chicago-area nursing home has found love in the midst of a pandemic. The pair met a little more than a year ago at the Westchester Rehab Center and Nursing Home in the western suburbs.

At 76 and 64 years old Noreen and Mark Landrebe are newlyweds, still in their honeymoon phase after their wedding in April.

"I overheard her talking. I liked what I heard," Mark said, doting on his bride.

That feeling led Mark to strike up a conversation with Noreen and they said things proceeded quickly from there.

Before moving to the Westchester facility, they most recently lived just a mile a half away from each other, but were married to other people at the time.

But as fate would have it, they were both widowers by the time they met.

"Mark got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. Of course I said 'yes,'" Noreen recalled.

They quickly arranged the wedding ceremony with the minister and a couple guests. They couldn't go inside, so they got married on the sidewalk outside the facility.

Noreen said she thought she'd never get married again.

"Absolutely not. That was the farthest thing from my mind," she said.

Before meeting Mark, Noreen had already spent a year in hospice after a heart attack and stroke. Mark was also at the facility after he suffered a stroke as well.

Both said they were fortunate enough to make amazing recoveries, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The Westchester facility was one of the first and hardest hit nursing homes in the area with a dozen deaths and numerous cases, but Mark and Noreen managed to stay clear.

Not only did they motivate each other, but their story has also motivated others in the facility.

"COVID was going on and we needed something positive," said nursing director Libby Rusink. "It kind of brought the team together and was good for the facility."

Noreen said Mark's pick-up line was, "Do you want to go to my room and play pinball?" Although she says she's not much of a pinball player, she agreed and is getting lots of practice these days.

The two continue to keep a light heart during these tough times, joking they have no plans to start a family.
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