British Columbia

A decades-long love story and 2 lives well lived ended by COVID-19

Irene and David Falk were married for 62 years before they passed away within days of each other at an Abbotsford, B.C., care home.

Family recalls the generosity and kindness of Irene and David Falk, who were married for 62 years

David and Irene Falk both died during an outbreak of COVID-19 at Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Submitted by the Falk family)

If not for a fateful mosquito bite, Irene Knudson might never have married David Falk in 1958, launching a love story that endured for more than 60 years. 

The couple passed away within days of each other at Tabor Home in Abbotsford, B.C., amid the largest COVID-19 outbreak in long-term care in the province to date. 

Irene, 91, went first on Nov. 23. David, 89, died on Dec. 6. 

The Falks leave behind countless admiring friends and family, including two sons and four grandchildren, along with many warm memories of their zest for life and the wonderful times spent around a family dining table that hosted so many.

"They were just welcoming to everyone ... so generous and kind," said son Daniel Falk. "[I'll remember] just how much they thought of others."

David and Irene Falk on their wedding day in 1958. (Submitted by the Falk family)

Irene and David both grew up on farms in Saskatchewan — she a Lutheran and he a Mennonite.

After meeting at teachers' college in Saskatoon, love blossomed, much to the disappointment of their families, who had to come to terms with the differing religious backgrounds. 

"It was quite a family scandal that mom was not Mennonite," said Daniel. 

Irene followed her calling to teach all the way to the Lutheran mission school in Garoua, Cameroon, sailing from North America to Europe on the Queen Mary.

Grandson David Falk said Irene loved Africa so much she might have spent the rest of her life there if she hadn't contracted a bad case of malaria from a mosquito bite, which forced her to return home.

Irene Falk passed away on Nov. 23. David Falk passed away on Dec. 6. (Submitted by Falk family)

"That's when my grandma and grandpa reconnected and eventually got married," he said. "If it weren't for that mosquito I might not be here, which is a strange thing to think about."

The couple spent their working lives in Saskatchewan before retiring to Abbotsford, where they remained active in the Mennonite congregation at Bakerview Church.

Declining health in the last decade hastened their move to the Tabor Home long-term care facility.

David Jr. said learning about his grandparent's story has given him inspiration in life.

"I really identified with the star-crossed love that my grandparents had. He was Mennonite and she was Lutheran and that was challenging for some extended family to accept.

"Me, I'm gay and I'm Christian and for some family members that can be difficult to reconcile, but I'm lucky to have such a supportive family. I think my grandparents hopefully would be proud of where I am today," he said. 

Daniel said the family is grateful for the care his parents received at Tabor Home, especially from the recreation staff who made Zoom visits possible during the long COVID-19 lockdown.

With files from Zahra Premji