BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A love-sick couple can wave to each other from across the river, but they still can’t embrace one another while the U.S.-Canadian border remains closed.
Now, both Merton LaBounty and Tammy Yonkers are each taking part in protests this weekend in Buffalo and Fort Erie, respectively, to call on lawmakers to reach a reopening solution.
Thankfully, their love knows no bounds.
Merton, who lives in Buffalo, and Tammy, of Fort Erie, went separate ways in the 90s, but 20 years later rekindled a love that never went away.
“In 2017, I got a happy birthday from Mert. And we started talking, and then we started dating,” Tammy recalls.
Merton moved five and a half hours and closed a company to move to Buffalo and start again there, where he could be close to her.
Then, the border closed in march 2020.
“It’s just been…he’s the love of my life. I’ve never been happier in my whole life, and I can’t believe this whole thing came to a halt the way it did,” Tammy said.
“We fell right in love, and it touched my life to a point where I’ve never met anybody since her, since then…it’s just the only love I’ve ever known,” Merton said. “And I’d go to the end of the world and wait there until I can see her.”
It hurts Tammy’s son, Aaron, too, who hasn’t seen his dad in states, or Merton, who’s become family since and he and Aaron’s mom began dating again.
“I was over there twice a week because I was playing baseball over there too. It’s tough,” he said.
Now Merton is taking a stand. He’s not cutting his hair or shaving until they can reunite, and he’s taking part in an actual protest is happening this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. at Pat Sole Park. Merton and others will gather there near the Peace Bridge to call on lawmakers to reach a solution.
Canadians, including Tammy, will protest at the same time at Mather Arch in Fort Erie.
“We’ve done our part to stay safe, and I just hope that border opens soon,” Merton said.
“I hope that policymakers can do something to help us,” Tammy said.
The border will stay closed through at least April 21. Buffalo Congressman Brian Higgins has been pushing for it to reopen with a goal of July.
Erica Brecher is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.