AN AMERICAN couple who held hands at breakfast every morning even after 70 years of marriage have died just 15 hours apart.
Helen Felumlee, of Nashport, Ohio, died aged 92 on 12 April. Her husband, 91-year-old Kenneth Felumlee, died the following morning.
The couple’s eight children said the two had been inseparable since meeting as teenagers, once sharing the bottom of a bunk bed on a ferry rather than sleeping one night apart.
They remained deeply in love until the very end, even eating breakfast together while holding hands, said their daughter, Linda Cody.
“We knew when one went, the other was going to go,” she said.
According to Ms Cody, about 12 hours after Mrs Felumlee died, Mr Felumlee looked at his children and said: “Mom’s dead.”
He quickly began to fade and was surrounded by 24 of his closest family members and friends when he died the following morning.
“He was ready,” Ms Cody said. “He just didn’t want to leave her here by herself.”
Son Dick Felumlee said his parents died of old age, and as they would have wanted, surrounded by family.
“At dad’s bed we were singing his favourite hymns, reading scriptures and praying with him,” he said. “It was a going away party, and we know he loved it.”
The pair had known each other for several years when they eloped in Newport, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, on 20 February 1944. At just two days before his 21st birthday, Mr Felumlee was too young to marry in Ohio.
“He couldn’t wait,” son Jim Felumlee said. Mr Felumlee worked as a railway carriage inspector and also as mechanic before becoming a postman for the Nashport Post Office.
He was active in his Nashport-Irville United Methodist Church as a Sunday school teacher.
Mrs Felumlee stayed at home, not only cooking and cleaning for her own family but also for other families in need in the area.
She also taught in Sunday school, but was known more for her greeting card ministry, sending cards for birthdays, sympathy and the holidays to everyone in her community, each with a personal note inside.
When Mr Felumlee retired in 1983 and the children began to leave the house, the Felumlees began to explore their love of travel, visiting almost all 50 US states by bus.
“He did not want to fly anywhere because you could not see anything as you were going,” Jim Felumlee said.
Although both experienced declining health in recent years, Ms Cody said, each tried to stay strong for the other.
“That’s what kept them going,” she said.