A love story: El Paso couple celebrates 70th wedding anniversary with a surprise from family


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Some people are lucky enough to find true love in their lifetime. For John and Aileen Cochrane, their love has stood the test of time, celebrating their 70th anniversary on Thursday.

The couple lives in an assisted living facility, Good Samaritan Society, in West El Paso. They are in their nineties and are known by their loved ones and ‘Mer and Papa.’

They were just expected a small get together in an outdoor patio at the facility with their granddaughter to celebrate their anniversary. But what they didn’t know, their entire family was waiting around the corner with noisemakers and signs to surprise them.

“I mean I haven’t seen many of them in well over a year some of them longer than that and it’s so incredible to have everyone here and celebrate such a big milestone, one we all wish to obtain but very few do,” Sharon Watkins, the Cochrane’s daughter, said.

Once the couple came outside and sat down with their granddaughter, the rest of the family came out from behind the corner saying “surprise! Happy anniversary!”

Watkins said this was an extra special celebration because they didn’t think they were going to make it to this point.

“At the end of March, just a few weeks ago, dad was in the hospital in very critical condition and we were told all to come home that it was probably the end and we didn’t think we’d get here and I’m going to cry but he made a miraculous recovery,” Watkins said.

The family was surrounded by their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren from outside the fenced-off area of the outdoor patio at the facility. This was something they would not have been able to do just a year ago.

“We haven’t been here since March 15 when they closed it and put it on lockdown and haven’t been able to see them at all,” Watkins said.

The Cochrane’s said they were genuinely surprised to see their family.

“I didnt expect this believe me and if I talk anymore I’ll start crying, I just can’t believe this,” Aileen said.

KTSM asked the lucky couple what they did to make it to 70 years of marriage:

“Get old,” John said. Obviously, some jokes help. “We still hold hands, if not, we’ll kill one another,” John said jokingly.

“But no really, if you do have big arguments, which we did and will, my advice is we never went to bed angry at each other, so you just apologize or do whatever you have to do to go to bed happy,” Aileen said.

Kenny Allen, an administrator at Good Samaritan Society said ever since visitation restrictions were reduced in the state of Texas at assisted living facilities, it’s been crucial for residents to visit with their family members and loved ones.

Allen said after a year of isolation, many residents have suffered emotionally not being able to see their family. Now, nursing homes may allow personal contact, outdoor visitation even if there is an outbreak at the facility, unlimited time on visits and unlimited end-of-life visits.

The Cochranes are fully vaccinated, and Allen said many residents are as well or wanting to get their shot soon.

John and Aileen first came to El Paso when John was stationed at Fort Bliss. They then moved around with family but came back to the Sun City permanently.

“They decided that they wanted to finish out in the place they call home which is El Paso and now they’re here,” Watkins said.

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