An Arizona grandmother and the stranger she accidentally invited to her 2016 Thanksgiving dinner have reunited for a meal ahead of this year’s holiday.
Wanda Dench, 63, made international headlines four years ago when she sent a text message to Jamal Hinton, 21, that was meant for her grandson.
Hinton ended up coming to Dench’s Thanksgiving celebration that year, and he has continued to do so every year since.
However, the pair’s 2020 get-together is tinged with sadness, as Dench’s beloved husband, Lonnie, passed away from COVID-19 back in April.
On Friday, Dench and Hinton shared an early Thanksgiving meal at her home in Mesa, where they paid tribute to the late Lonnie .
‘I always remember Lonnie looking at the bright side of things,’ Hinton told The New York Times on Saturday.
‘He would want us to celebrate his life instead of hating COVID and hating everything.’
Wanda Dench, 63, and Jamal Hinton, 21, enjoyed an early Thanksgiving dinner on Friday – seven months after Dench’s beloved husband passed away from COVID-19
Hinton attended Dench’s early Thanksgiving meal with his girlfriend, Mikaela.
Dench’s daughter and grandson were also present for the festivity, where Lonnie was warmly remembered.
The grandmother placed a photo of her late husband on the table and lit a candle for him.
Arizona Family captured the poignant moment Dench gave thanks for the years she spent with Lonnie.
‘Thank you for all the blessings, and thank you so much for having Lonnie in my life. I miss him, but I know he’s in a good place. So to everybody here, I love you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Amen,’ she stated before the food was served.
Lonnie passed away from COVID-19 on April 5, just days after contracting the coronavirus.
For the past four years, Meza couple Wanda and Lonnie Dench had welcomed Jamal Hinton and his girlfriend Mikaela to their home for the holiday. Hinton took to Twitter on Wednesday to share that Lonnie died on Sunday
Days after Lonnie’s death, Hinton took to Twitter to share the heartbreaking news.
‘As some of you may have already found out tonight Lonnie did not make it,’ Hinton wrote.
‘He passed away Sunday morning but Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that!’
He had tweeted just days earlier that both Wanda and Lonnie Dench had gotten sick from the virus but provided an update on Wednesday that revealed that Wanda was not actually sick.
Hinton and his girlfriend pictured with the couple. Besides Thanksgiving, the group routinely met up for dinners
Following Lonnie Dench death on Sunday, his wife shared a message about how much love her husband had for others
Hinton later added: ‘Arizona needs to handle this way better than it is! As we see Covid-19 is no joke. Let’s do something. #StopTheSpread.’
On March 10, Lonnie Dench reached out to AZ Family and told reporters that he was delivering water to grocery stores at night.
He added that looking over photos from Thanksgiving had been giving him some motivation and made him smile.
The two unlikely friends throughout the years
Following Lonnie Dench death on Sunday, his wife shared a message about how much love her husband had for others.
‘He had the truest heart of love, like no other,’ she said. ‘He did so many acts of kindness that no one ever heard about. He was my hero. And I’m a better person because of him.’
In 2016, Dench accidentally texted Hinton inviting him to her family’s traditional holiday lunch in Mesa.
Dench first showed what it meant to have holiday spirit when she accidentally sent a Thanksgiving dinner invitation to Hinton in 2016, thinking he was her grandchild
The at-the-time 17-year-old student told the grandmother she had texted the wrong person, but then asked if he could ‘still get a plate though?’
‘Of course you can, that’s what grandmas do, feed everyone’ Dench quickly replied.
Hinton stayed true to his reservation, and Dench hugged him the minute he walked up to her house.
The 17-year-old was thrilled with the meal, and that he had accidentally become linked with such a nice person.
When the confusion was cleared up, Hinton sweetly asked if he could still reserve his spot at the dinner table, and the Arizona grandmother was true to her word