Natalia and Raul Branquinho were married for 65 years. They were both raised on Sao Miguel in the Azores before moving to New Bedford.
At age 19, Raul was working in construction, and Natalia, a year older, was a housekeeper set to marry someone else. “But they fell in love, and have been together ever since,” said their daughter, Ana Pinto.
They had a good life, with stable jobs, Ana said, and they began to grow their family of six children in the Azores. But in 1978, seeking more opportunity for their children, the family immigrated to the United States.
They settled in New Bedford’s North End, and Natalie found employment in the factories, operating stitching machines at Calvin Klein. Raul cleaned floors at The Oaks nursing home.
“They did everything together. They were best friends,” Ana said. The two loved to spend time with their family, cooking and sharing a drink. In their earlier years, they enjoyed going out on the weekends, listening to music and dancing at Cafe Portugal.
Natalia loved to shop. Raul spent much of his time people watching. “We called him the social butterfly,” Ana said. “The highlight of his day was waiting for the mailman. I don’t know why, he did that for almost 25 years.”
Later in life, Natalia and Raul lived on the second floor of Ana’s apartment in the city’s North End. Ana is a certified nurses attendant, and she took care of them, even while working on the frontlines of the pandemic to provide care for others in need.
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After Thanksgiving, just before the second wave of the pandemic took hold, COVID-19 found its way into their home. Her mother got it first, and her father got it two days later. Raul died at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford on Dec. 12, 2020.
Natalia remained in the hospital for two months, battling the long-term effects of COVID-19 and waiting for a bed to open up at a nursing home, where she would be more comfortable. In early January, a bed became available at Royal of Fairhaven Nursing Center, and Natalia died six days later. She was 86 years old. Raul was 85.
“They could not live without each other,” Ana said. “That means now they are happy together.”
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