Like something out of “The Notebook,” there was a couple who met prior to World War II and ended up serving together in the war. They spent seven decades of marriage together, then one day in their care facility, took their final nap together – passing away on the same day.
Isabell Whitney and Preble Staver fell in love while on a blind date with each other in Philadelphia. However, when the US entered World War II, the couple had to put their relationship on hold. Isabell volunteered as a nurse in the Navy stationed out of Maryland, while Preble served in the Marines.
Shortly five months after the war ended, the couple married on Feb. 15, 1946. Preble then went to work supporting his family as a lobbyist and banker.
Over the years, the couple had five children together. Unfortunately, they suffered a loss in 1975 when their son, Peter, died unexpectedly while playing in the last high school football game of his senior year.
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Their daughter, Laurie Staver Clinton, said to People, “At that point, we began to really see a softer side of my dad. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their kids, and that really took a toll on my folks, but it also brought them together.”
Speaking about her parents, Laurie added, “They were great people.” Her dad “was a bit of a prickly pear,” whilst her mom, a compassionate person, taught her that “you can’t change another person but you can change your attitude towards them.”
Preble and Isabell remained together by each other’s side.
“They really enjoyed each other’s company. It was just fun to see them, and they made a nice little life for themselves,” Laurie shared.
Then, in 2013, once Isabell began showing signs of dementia, the couple moved in together to a long-term care facility in Norfolk. While Preble became frustrated with his wife’s worsening dementia which had the couple being placed in separate rooms, he still loved her very, very much.
Laurie recalled, “They just found another way to express their love. Dad, even after he stopped walking and was in a wheelchair, he would wheel himself down to the Memory Care Unit and go visit mom. When I would reunite them, they always, the first thing they’d do was put their hands out and hold each other’s hand and tell each other they loved each other.”
Even though Isabell’s dementia was debilitating, there were times that she would remember her husband. “Sometimes we’d have to tell her to focus and look but when she looked and knew it was dad, she’d get that little smile,” Laurie said.
According to NRP, a friend from church named Jim Need said, “Sometimes he was a little frustrated because she may not recognize him. But … when she did, you could always just see him—just smiling, like crazy.”
As Preble’s 96th birthday grew closer, he told Laurie that he wanted to take one more nape with Isabell. So, the staff got together to make arrangements for the couple in order for them to be able to lay beside each other for almost three hours.
“There was not a single word spoken between the two of them. They held hands and just fell asleep. I told dad, ‘This is mom’s birthday present for you.’ He was just so happy that he got to take his nap with her,” Laurie said.
Isabell even managed to sing Preble “Happy Birthday” as she was wheeled into his room.
A few days after the birthday festivities, on Oct. 25, 2017, Laurie was told to prepare to say her final goodbyes to her mother Isabell. She brought her father into the room so he could say goodbye as well.
“He held her hand, and it was just so tender. I asked him if he wanted to stay after the prayers, and he shook his head. I said, ‘Okay, but you know that means you’re going to have to let go of her hand?’ I was crying, and he was crying,” Laurie recounted to People.
After Isabell passed away, Preble followed her, dying only hours later.
Incredibly, the couple had been born 14 days apart in October 1921. They also passed away 14 hours apart. On Nov. 10, 2017, the couple was laid to rest side by side at a Virginia Beach church’s cemetery.
Looking back at how her parents stuck by each other’s side through 70 years of marriage, Laurie has said that “if you make a commitment, and even though life gets rough or life gets in the way, you work through life, and you live your life together.”
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.