Couple Married for 72 Years Died Holding Hands

NEW YORK | Friday, October 21st, 2011 6:29am EDT

An Iowa couple married for 72 years died holding hands in a Des Moines hospital within one hour of each other last week after a car accident.

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After 72 years of marriage and four children, Iowa couple Gordon and Norma Yeager die an hour apart holding hands. Photo: Courtesy of the Yeager Family

Gordon Yeager, 94, and his wife Norma, 90, left their small town of State Center, Iowa, on Wednesday to go into town, but never made it.

The couple was hospitalized after a car accident just outside of Marshalltown, Iowa. They were given a shared room in the ICU where they held hands in adjacent beds.

At 3:38 pm last Wednesday, Gordon’s breathing stopped. Though he was no longer alive, his heart monitor continued to register a beat.

“It was really strange, they were holding hands, and dad stopped breathing but I couldn’t figure out what was going on because the heart monitor was still going,” said couple’s son Dennis Yeager.

“But we were like, he isn’t breathing. How does he still have a heart beat? The nurse checked and said that’s because they were holding hands and it’s going through them. Her heart was beating through him and picking it up.”

Norma died at 4:38 pm, exactly one hour later.

“Dad used to say that a woman is always worth waiting for,” Dennis Yeager said. “Dad waited an hour for her and held the door for her.”

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Gordon proposed to Norma the day of her high school graduation and they married on May 26, 1939. Photo: Courtesy of the Yeager Family

The Yeagers are survived by her sister, Virginia Kell, and his brother, Roger Yeager, as well as 14 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

Gordon and Norma’s children say they’re glad the couple passed this way. “They just loved being together,” says Dennis. “He always said, ‘I can’t go until she does because I gotta stay here for her.’ And she would say the same thing.”

“Neither one of them would’ve wanted to be without each other. I couldn’t figure out how it was going to work,” the Yeagers’ daughter Donna Sheets said. “We were very blessed, honestly, that they went this way.”

The inseparable couple was engaged and married within 12 hours in 1939 on the day Norma Yeager graduated from high school.

“She graduated from high school on May 26, 1939, at about10 a.m., and at about 10 p.m. that night she was married to my dad at his sister’s house,” Sheets said.

The couple had a “very, very full life.”

They worked as a team. They traveled together, they were in a bridge club together and they worked in a Chevrolet dealership, creamery and other businesses together.

The couple were put in a casket together holding hands for their funeral this week, but are being cremated and will have their ashes mixed before burial.

“All their life has been together,” Sheets said. “So, when it came to the funeral home, the family asked, ‘Can we have them put in the casket together holding hands?’ Because that’s the way their life was.” [via Yahoo!, ABC, MSN and Huff Post]

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