Covid-19 can’t stop Berkeley man’s 87th birthday celebration at Albany senior living facility

Featured in the East Bay Times

Berkeley senior Beany Wezelman and friends were determined to make her husband Dick’s 87th birthday the best it could be.

In the unprecedented times of the Covid-19 pandemic, Beany, 80, and about a dozen close friends donned masks and brought signs and bottles of wine for a toast outside Dick’s window at the Belmont Village Senior Living facility in Albany on Thursday afternoon.

“I just sent an email out to everyone and asked if they felt like coming out, that they promise to keep social distance so we could sing happy birthday to Dick,” Beany said.

The world-traveling couple, beloved in Berkeley for their Dick and Beany ethnic arts sales and passion for African culture, received much love and support from friends — even though they couldn’t hug or kiss and had to remain six-feet apart.

At first, they waved to Dick who was brought to a third-floor window to see them. But after a few minutes, a caregiver came down to let them know that he could come outside to a courtyard where they could maintain their social distance a bit closer and actually converse.

“It’s been hard, very hard, but we’re doing the best we can under the circumstances,” Beany said.

The couple, who married in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1966, share a common wanderlust and have experienced many adventures together around the world. They hiked across the Sahara desert in 1973 and traveled not just throughout Africa, but also to Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, India, Thailand and other places too numerous to mention.

“We’ve celebrated so many birthdays with Dick, and now he’s 87 and this is the first year in maybe 30 years that we haven’t been together,” Barbara Ohay, of Berkeley, said as she feted Dick from the street wearing a facemask. “We would have been upstairs if it weren’t for this coronavirus.”

As Dick greeted his friends from behind a metal fence, the ebullient Beany joked: “He looks like he’s in jail!” All had a good laugh.

Dick beamed at the sight of friends and family, who spent about half an hour wishing him well. Beany led them all in cheers and whoops after singing “Happy Birthday” several times. A sign read: “Happy Birthday Bwana,” a respectful Swahili form of address similar to sir.

“I think he’s happy and we’re all happy,” Beany said.

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