When Jerry Whitt died suddenly in May 2018, his wife Mary didn't know what to do with herself.
The couple had raised three children and operated a flooring business -- working all the time to keep it going. She kept thinking about how they had never gotten to travel in their 30 years of marriage. When her sister-in-law, Sandy Whitt, invited Mary to vacation with her family down in Florida a couple of months later, Mary agreed to go. Not just for herself, but for Jerry.
"Jerry used to like to tie the kids' names and our address to balloons and see how far they went, or if we got a response," Mary recalled. "One time we did…Stuff like that he thought was adventurous. It was fun to him and exciting for the kids."
Mary wanted to honor her husband by sending him on that round-the-world trip he never got around to in life, and in a way befitting his sense of adventure. She got two bottles -- a small one for some of her husband's ashes and a larger one that could hold it along with a picture of Jerry and note with her contact information explaining her wish for Jerry.
"I thought this would be a good way for him to travel," Mary said. "He would get to go somewhere."
Mary threw the bottle off Daytona Beach Pier one late July afternoon as the tide was going out. She had no way of knowing then that her final goodbye to Jerry would lead to a heartwarming hello with a new family more than 4,000 miles away.
Fast forward to August 13 -- just a little over two years after Mary threw the bottle into the Atlantic Ocean. It was discovered by the Alvarez family from Carballo, Spain, as they walked along Razo Beach on the northwestern coast.
"They are very nice people," Mary said. "We've just been emailing back and forth" as well as holding video chats.
The family wanted to know what Mary wanted done with Jerry's ashes. She asked the Alvarezes to scatter them into the ocean, which they did last Sunday -- sending Mary a video of the event.
"It touched all of our hearts," she said. "It's just so heartwarming and touching that they are this good to us."
In sharing the story with the Commonwealth Journal, Sandy said, "Where it goes from here I do not know but it is good to know that people care about others a half world apart."
"It's a great happiness to us," Mary continued, adding that she and her children had wondered many times over the last two years if Jerry's bottle would ever be found. "It's a happiness and a sadness too, but we're more happy that at least he got to go somewhere."