Couple Married Nearly 70 Years Dies Minutes Apart While Holding Hands

"We don't get to see that often," said Dianne Frank, a clinical nurse manager, of Isaac and Teresa Vatkin's passing at Highland Hospital in Illinois.

Incredibly, an elderly couple near Chicago died 40 minutes apart on April 22.

Married for 69 years, Isaac and Teresa Vatkin held hands at Highland Park Hospital, and surrounded by family, they passed away together, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. They were 91 and 89 years old, respectively. 

"I'm not an overly religious person," said one of their sons, Leo Vatkin, to the Sun-Times. "But there's no explanation. [My dad's] hand was on top of [my mom's]. He was trying to breathe. And then, as they wheeled her out, his hand was hanging over the bed. I turned around, and he wasn’t breathing anymore."

Teresa died at 12:10 a.m., and Isaac died at about 12:50 a.m. The couple's daughter, Clara Gesklin, said she "saw it with my own eyes."

"All of a sudden, when their fingers separated, he just stopped breathing," she said. 

Leo said Isaac "never wanted to do anything apart from [my mom]."

Isaac grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Teresa grew up in Mar del Plata, Argentina. The cities are about an eight-hour drive away. Their kids say Isaac wrote Teresa romantic letters three times per week. The couple's son, Daniel Vatkin, said his mom was everything to his dad. 

"I learned what it is to be a husband," Daniel Vatkin said of Isaac. "Not once ever was there a disagreement in front of the kids."

They married in 1947 and immigrated to Chicago in 1968, where Isaac became a distributor of meats. The couple also invested in apartment buildings, and Teresa focused on the kids.

"My mom was always about family, taking care of the children," Leo said. "When they got off the schoolbus, [she thought] somebody should be there for them."

Isaac made sure the kids had the opportunity for higher education.

"He put us through college, he paid the home off," Leo said. "They were never the fancy-car, the fancy-house kind of people. My dad had work ethic, honesty, doing the right thing."

More than 10 years ago, Teresa began having trouble with her memory. Ever the doting husband, Isaac took care of her thoroughly: He fed her, bathed her, washed her clothes, and brought her to Mayo Clinic for research trials. He learned how to use a computer in his 80s so he could research Alzheimer's Disease.

When he was no longer able to lift Teresa, he allowed her to be placed in a care facility.

Isaac began having his own memory issues, and his kids moved him to a facility near Teresa's. 

When they were both admitted to the hospital for differing health issues — Isaac contracted influenza, and Teresa came down with pneumonia — hospital staff moved them into the same room on April 21. 

"We weren’t really just watching their monitors anymore. We were watching them," their granddaughter said. "We put their hands together."

After Teresa let go, Isaac felt like he could, too.

"The moment he felt we removed her hand from his, he was able to say 'OK, I’m done protecting her. I can go and rest as well,'" Daniel said. "The ultimate in chivalry — so he could go to heaven and open the door for her."

The couple is survived by many, including Isaac's sister, Teresa's sister, eight grandkids and six great-grandkids. 

Banner and thumbnail credit: Flickr, jennie-o

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