Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Couple Reunite after five years Via Technology of Skype

Pictured beside his garden is Melvin Longendelpher.
Behind him, left, is State of the Heart Hospice Social Worker Pam Pohlman,
and his daughter-in-law Peggy Longendelpher.
State of the Heart Hospice patient Melvin Longendelpher, of Greenville, and his wife Pearl Longendelpher, of Ahoskie, North Carolina, were able to talk face to face for the first time in five years through the technology of Skype, an internet technology that allows audio and visual exchange between individuals.

“It really surprised me,” said Longendelpher, a resident of the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville.“I had no idea they had anything like that,” said the 96 year old former resident of Covington. “I never thought I would see Pearl again.” The two were married for 25 years, living in North Carolina. When Longendelpher’s health began to worsen, he decided to return to Darke County where he would be close to his family; Pearl, 93, decided to remain in North Carolina, near her family. The two talk by telephone every night.

Steering the reconnection of the two via Skype was the initiative of State of the Heart Social Worker Pam Pohlman. “When I first met Melvin, he talked a lot about Pearl,” she said. “I knew there was sadness there at not being able to spend time together, or to even see one another.” She said she mentioned the idea to Longendelpher, and he was receptive to trying Skype. “He said ‘do you mean I will really be able to see her face? It was important to him to see her smile.”

Pohlman got in touch with Judy Williams, Pearl’s sister-in-law who also lives in Ahoskie. “I wasn’t sure of the computer part,” Williams said, “so I got my sixteen year old grandson to help set up the Skype process. He was able to do it.” Williams was present when the two first saw one another via the internet. “They were both excited,” she said. “They talked about an hour.” The two plan to talk and see one another via Skype on a monthly basis. She was present when the couple first met, years ago. “It was love at first sight,” she said.
Longendelpher’s daughter-in-law, Peggy Longendelpher, said she thought the idea was “a great one.” She was there with her father –in-law for the first Skype session. “He had the chance to talk with so many family members he had not seen.”

In Greenville at the BRC, Kelly Poeppelman, activities coordinator, helped facilitate the Skype session from Longendelpher’s location. “We used a machine called the ‘Never Too Late Machine’ which can facilitate Skype,” she said. “Often, when people go into a nursing facility they feel a sense of loss of many connections in life. The use of Skype in this instance helps a resident feel more connected to society in general.”

Pohlman explained that “An important part of what hospice does is to provide emotional support to patients and their families. Since it was not possible for this special couple to see one another in person, this was a great alternative.” Now, Longendelpher looks forward, as does Pearl, to visits via the internet about once a month. “I am looking forward to doing it again,” Longendelpher said.

One of the things he wants to tell Pearl about, he said, is the garden he has maintained the past four years at the BRC. Originally, he tended the garden himself, but in recent years has “directed” his family about what to plant and where. Someone suggested he name it “Melvin’s Garden.” His response? “That sounds fine to me.” Residents are often found sitting around the garden, enjoying the restful setting overlooking the grounds of the BRC.

State of the Heart Hospice, with offices in Greenville, Coldwater and Portland, cares for patients and families in eastern Indiana and western Ohio who are confronting a life limiting illness. For more information about any of the services provided by the nonprofit agency, visit the website at

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