MESA, Ariz. (KTVK/KPHO) — Do you remember the Thanksgiving story a while ago about a Mesa grandma and teenage boy accidentally exchanging texts that led to their two families celebrating the holiday together for years to come?
The grandma is Wanda Dench, and her husband, Lonnie Dench, was a huge part of turning a text mishap into a new Thanksgiving tradition. Sadly, he has passed away from coronavirus. Look in the dictionary under the word “love,” and you’ll find both of their names. “Muah! That’s what old people do!” Lonnie and Wanda said this past Thanksgiving as they kissed.
For four years now, the couple has opened their home and their hearts to Jamal Hinton and his girlfriend Mikaela, plus their families, on Thanksgiving, after the accidental text Wanda sent to Hinton that was meant for her real grandson in 2016.
The holiday would begin with Lonnie giving a prayer, followed by food, and most importantly, just a lot of fun.
Just a few weeks ago, on March 10, Arizona’s Family reporter, Briana Whitney, received a check-in text message from Lonnie. Whitney previously reported on accidental text messages that started a new Thanksgiving tradition for two families. Lonnie talked about how he was delivering water to the grocery stores at night, and about how seeing pictures from the past Thanksgivings made him smile during a time of panic for so many.
He had no idea he would come down with COVID-19 just weeks later, and it would ultimately take his life.
Wanda sent Arizona’s Family these words remembering her husband:
“He had the truest heart of love, like no other. 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.”
Lonnie was the first to greet everyone on Thanksgiving and the last to say goodbye.
Now, he leaves behind a community that’s thankful to have been even a small part of his Thanksgiving. He was a reminder in their world what giving thanks, and genuine love is all about.