When New Bedford's Edwin Robert "Bap" Baptiste turned 91 years old on New Year's Day, he knew the time had come to hand over the car keys.

Bap had driven for more than 70 years, most of that time with his beloved wife and soulmate Shirley Prescott Baptiste by his side. Bap and Shirley have been married for more than 66 years. They are inseparable. They still cuddle in bed at night.

Shortly after his birthday, Bap contracted COVID-19. He and Shirley are unvaccinated. Shirley was able to see Bap once during the weeks he was in the hospital fighting for his life. For their lives. You see, one does not exist without the other.

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Her physical limitations and advanced age made hospital visits difficult. Then there is the risk of COVID. Shirley turned 92 on Tuesday. They spoke daily on the telephone.

New Bedford's Edwin "Bap" Baptiste in the hospital fighting COVID-19
Barry Richard/Townsquare Media

Bap's condition declined rapidly, but he battled on for himself and for Shirley. Pneumonia set in, making breathing difficult, but still he battled on.

Then it got better. Bap got better. Not completely better, but well enough to be moved to a step-down hospital and then home to Shirley because she knows he can get better care at home.

New Bedford's Shirley and Edwin "Bap" Baptiste
Barry Richard/Townsquare Media

As of this writing, Bap continues to make slow but solid progress.

While uncertain whether he would live or die, Bap, a Navy veteran of the Korean War era, decided he wanted to donate his gently-used car to the Veterans Transition House in New Bedford. He wanted to help veterans in need of transportation. They welcomed his kind gesture.

Mark Thornton, who enlisted in the Army 43 years ago Tuesday, is a resident of the Veterans Transition House. Bap's car is registered in Thornton's name and it is he who will drive fellow VTH residents to their appointments.

Robert Thornton with the car donated to the Veterans Transition House in New Bedford by Edwin "Bap" Baptiste
Barry Richard/Townsquare Media

Thornton said Bap is "a person who is a gift from God." He said Bap is someone "who never forgot the service and sacrifice of the men and women who served, and that Bap has "changed and touched many lives for the better" through his "unselfish" gift.

New Bedford's Edwin Baptiste, Shirley Baptiste and Robert Antil
Barry Richard/Townsquare Media

Bap and Shirley are my Uncle Bap and Aunt Shirley. When Shirley was no longer able to climb the stairs to her own apartment, her brother-in-law, my uncle, Robert "Bob" Antil, who is 87, refused to allow the couple to move to a nursing home so he made room for them in his small apartment. They call themselves "Three's Company" after the hit TV show. These are the people who taught me my values. They just don't make them like this anymore.

If Bap is going to get healthy again, it will happen there. There is a whole lot of love and positive vibes between those walls. 

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