The viral “Thanksgiving Grandma” served turkey dinner online earlier this year – and is missing from the table with her husband, who died of COVID-19.
Still, for the fourth year in a row, Wanda Dench welcomed her accidental “grandson” Jamal Hinton, the young stranger who is now like a family thanks to her notoriously mispronounced text.
Dench gained fame in 2016 after accidentally sending 17-year-old Hinton an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner – with a text she wanted to send to her real grandson.
Realizing their mistake, Dench and her husband, Lonnie, told the teenager to come anyway – and he did, this year and every year since.
Dench and Hinton, now 21
They remembered Lonnie Dench and talked about their four-year friendship.
“It will be different, my first Thanksgiving without it,” Dench told the New York Times.
“My husband was always right behind me and told me how proud he was of Jamal and me for what we had done.”
This year, the couple placed a picture of Lonnie on a table frame and set the plate aside to honor him during their annual tradition.
In April, Hinton tweeted that his adoptive grandparents were battling the coronavirus. He later tweeted that Lonnie had died of the virus.
“As some of you may have learned tonight, Lonnie didn’t make it … he died Sunday morning,” Hinton had written at the time.
“But Wanda told me that all the love and support he gets puts a huge smile on his face, so thank you to each of you for that!”
Despite losing and breaking their hearts, Dench and Hinton said they were happy to have each other.
“I’m just grateful we’re here, we’re together,” Hinton told The Times.
“I don’t know what I would have done for the holidays this year, last year or years before if I didn’t have Wanda in my life, so I’m just grateful.”