Her one wish: Dinner with her longtime friend

2012-02-19T00:05:00Z 2012-03-13T20:13:16Z Her one wish: Dinner with her longtime friendBY JONAH NEWMAN • jnewman@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8267 stltoday.com

MEHLVILLE • For more than 20 years, Ralph McGarvey and Dorothy White went everywhere together.

"They were basically inseparable," said McGarvey's daughter, Bette Jost. "It was always Dad and Dorothy."

They and their spouses had been neighbors for years, living about two blocks from each other in Velda Village Hills.

McGarvey was married to White's sister, Marilyn, who died in 1984. White's husband died a few years later, and McGarvey began looking after her.

"When we'd go grocery shopping or to a doctor appointment, I'd always take her," said McGarvey, 81. "I was more or less her chauffeur."

But their relationship stopped there. They were friends, nothing more. Or at least that's what they said.

"We always knew it was more than that," Jost said. "But they'll pretend it ain't."

Last year, White, 88, who has advanced-stage heart disease, was moved to a nursing home in Valley Park, and McGarvey, whose prostate cancer has worsened, moved in with his daughter Jost and her husband in St. Peters. In November, he became unable to drive, and the distance between him and White became too great. They haven't seen each other since.

That is, until Saturday, when they sat down together for dinner at HomeTown Buffet in Mehlville. The reunion was paid for by the California-based Dream Foundation, which grants adults with terminal illnesses one final wish. White's was to have dinner with her longtime companion.

The table was set with a white paper tablecloth, small heart-shaped confetti and three fake candles with flickering lights. White quietly picked at the chicken nuggets on her plate. The oxygen tube in her nose was bothering her and she spoke little. But she smiled when, at the beginning of the meal, McGarvey leaned over and kissed her, quickly, on the lips.

It was a belated Valentine's Day dinner, even if McGarvey and White still say they are nothing more than friends.

"I'm independent and she's independent and we kept our distance," McGarvey said. "We're just friends, that's all."

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