MESA, Ariz. — Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton claimed everyone’s hearts when their Thanksgiving celebration went viral in 2016.
“Everyone everywhere I go people ask how Wanda is doing and how often I see her,” Hinton said.
The pair warmed hearts when an accidental text from Dench to Hinton ended in them spending Thanksgiving together. They’ve been doing it every year since.
Hinton tweeted that Dench had once again reached out to him this year to keep the tradition going. 2021 marks the sixth year of the get-together.
The pair's celebration last year was more somber than the rest: It was the first year the get-together would have an empty seat at the table.
Wanda’s husband Lonnie was one of the 21,653 Arizonans who lost their lives to COVID-19.
“It will be very sad… but with friends and family around it will be OK,” Wanda said through tears.
The Thanksgiving dinner in 2020 was much smaller because of the pandemic, but Jamal was there to help lift Wanda’s spirits.
“I think of the memories we have," Hinton said.
Lonnie’s funeral was on Oct. 15, 2020. He was buried at the National Cemetery in Phoenix.
Wanda has waited for COVID-19 mandates to allow for friends and family to come to say goodbye.
“He adored Jamal and Mikaela,” Wanda said.
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