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Divided by health, couple married 70 years gets to spend time together

Dreamer Stories | September 5, 2017

In the 1930s Joseph Littleton was living with his family on Fourth Street in Marietta when someone caught his eye from across the way.

“I told my brother, ‘I’m going to walk that little redhead down the street,’” he said.

That girl was Wanita Vandal, and Littleton later recruited her brothers in a first-date strategy by offering to buy them movie tickets if they brought along their sister.

On July 28, 1947, Joseph and Wanita were married. On July 28 of this year, they spent their 70th wedding anniversary together, the first time they had seen one another for nearly a year.

Joseph Littleton’s life is rapidly coming to a close. Heart disease has marked the calendar for him.

Illness has not only staked out his final months but also divided him from his wife, who now lives with one of their daughters in Garrettsville, near Akron. She could no longer care for herself in their old place on Muskingum Drive in Marietta.

The front room looking out onto the street in the neatly kept house has the hallmarks of a shrine, with Wanita’s collection of dolls, decorative plates, small statues and art carefully arranged on the furniture and in cabinets.

When Dream Foundation heard of his plight through one of Joseph’s hospice attendants, they went to work on granting his final dream — a reunion with his wife and family.

The California-based nonprofit specializes in granting the last dreams of terminally ill adults with less than 12 months to live, the foundation Dream Coordinator Leanna Annunziato said. Over the past two decades, she said, the foundation has made those dreams come true for more than 27,000 people.

“Our mission is to touch lives and meet essential needs by providing inspiration, comfort and closure,” she said.