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72 Years Together: The couple Who Died Holding Hands

After 72 years of marriage they had only an hour’s separation between them in their passing, yet their locked hands never let go.

The family of the Iowa couple says their life together was a real-life love story, never separated, even after their tragic car accident which sent them both to the hospital.

They believed in marriage,’ Dennis Yeager, the youngest son of Gordon Yeager, 94, and wife Norma, 90, told MailOnline. ‘They chose each other and once they had committed, that was it.’

article 2051047 0E72CC2300000578 861 634x475 Gordon and Norma Yeager married for 72 yrs die an hour apart holding hands

A perfect match: After 72 years of marriage and four children, Iowa couple Gordon and Norma Yeager die an hour apart holding hands

article 2051047 0E72F6DF00000578 215 634x658 Gordon and Norma Yeager married for 72 yrs die an hour apart holding hands

The way they were: Norma and Gordon Yeager, dressed in their finery, enjoy a day out at the beach. The couple were both born in Iowa before Gordon Yeager moved to a farm a Minnesota with his family. After it was badly hit by the Depression, 16-year-old Gordon returned to work at the Chevrolet Garage in State Center, Iowa – a business which he would eventually go on to own.

It was once back in the town, he fell in love with Norma who was still studying at high school.

After his proposal, Gordon and Norma were married on the very day that she graduated, May 26, 1939.

It was a small wedding held at 8pm that evening in the home of Gordon’s sister, the expense of which was covered by the young man’s first pay cheque.

The newlyweds spent the first few years of marriage in California where Gordon worked as a welder in the shipyards during the Second World War while volunteering at night for the war effort.

They later returned to the town of State Center and had four children – Donna who was born in 1940, Roger in 1943, Gordon in 1946 and the youngest Dennis in 1949.

Tragically both middle sons Roger and Gordon later died in car crashes.

Always together: Gordon and Norma Yeager loved to socialise and spend time in the outdoors, particularly at Clear Lake, Minnesota

article 2051047 0E72DBCC00000578 574 634x408 Gordon and Norma Yeager married for 72 yrs die an hour apart holding hands

Young at heart: Even in their nineties, Gordon and Norma Yeager enjoyed socialising, sports and walking their Yorkie dog, Radar. While bringing up their young children, the Yeagers first ran a hardware store before taking over the Chevrolet Garage with Gordon’s brother Roger until both men retired at 65.

The couple’s youngest son Dennis, 62, described his parents as incredibly active individuals.

He said: ‘We took family camping trips in Iowa and Canada but spent most of the time at Clear Lake, Minnesota. We rented a cabin and went boating. I remember my Dad, even at almost 60 years old, water-skiing at Clear Lake. One time, when I was driving the boat he disappeared under for such a long time, that my Mom was worried sick.

When he eventually surfaced, she screamed at him, ”what were you doing down there?” to which he yelled back, ”well I wasn’t coming back up without my trunks!”’

When they retired, the Yeagers would spend half the year in Tucson, Arizona, enjoying the outdoors and fishing in the Hoover Dam.

Despite their closeness, Dennis admits at times his parents were ‘total opposites’.

He said: ‘They just loved being together but of course they would get mad at each other.

My Dad was very sociable, he loved doing anything that involved being with people. My Mom was quieter but she would support my Dad in whatever he was doing. She would be there making sure everyone had something to eat, had a drink in their hand.

She was such a perfectionist. When they had the garage, she won every award going from Chevrolet for her book-keeping. I remember they would be up together poring over those books until 2am if there was even a penny out of place.

article 2051047 0E72FB2F00000578 691 634x366 Gordon and Norma Yeager married for 72 yrs die an hour apart holding hands
Loving family: Gordon and Norma Yeager with their grandsons Jeff and Greg

article 2051047 0E72CF6800000578 121 634x450 Gordon and Norma Yeager married for 72 yrs die an hour apart holding hands
Proposal: Gordon proposed to Norma the day of her high school graduation and they married on May 26, 1939

article 2051047 0E72CB4500000578 938 634x394 Gordon and Norma Yeager married for 72 yrs die an hour apart holding hands

I have to stay here for her: Their son says Gordon knew he would never stray far from his wife of 72 years, After celebrating the rare achievement of a 70th wedding anniversary, surrounded by family, Dennis said his parents loved to spend time watching sports, socialising and walking their little Yorkie dog Radar.

They were not your typical 90-year-olds,’ he added. Dennis said that his father would continuously say, I have to stick around. I can’t go until she does because I have to stay here for her and she would say the same thing.’

Last Wednesday while making a trip into town, the car Gordon Yeager was driving mistakenly pulled out in front of another.

A police report said the oncoming driver tried to avoid the collision, but it wasn’t able to stop in time.

Rushing to the hospital, Dennis said he found his parents sharing a unit in the intensive care unit.

Never separated and holding hands they lay, though ‘not really responsive,’ he said.

That afternoon at 3:38pm, Gordon passed away, with his wife and family beside him. The anomaly began though for the family, when Gordon’s heart monitor kept beeping.

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,’ Dennis recalled. ‘But we were like, he isn’t breathing. How does he still have a heart beat?’

article 2051047 0E72F71600000578 396 634x405 Gordon and Norma Yeager married for 72 yrs die an hour apart holding hands

Side by side: Gordon and Norma Yeager celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary – they died holding hands after 72 years of marriage

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Platinum celebration: Gordon and Norma Yeager made the rare achievement of being married for more than 70 years
Dennis asked a nurse who checked, pointing out the couple’s hands which were still locked together.

‘Her heart was beating through him and picking it up,’ Dennis said the nurse explained.

Exactly one hour later though, at 4:48pm, Norma died too.

‘Neither one of them would’ve wanted to be without each other. I couldn’t figure out how it was going to work,’ said daughter Donna Sheets on what life would have been like for the other if only one had survived. ‘We were very blessed, honestly, that they went this way.’

Dennis said: ‘I don’t believe there was a big secret to their marriage. Sometimes one or the other would get mad but they worked everything out.

‘In the end, they chose each other and that was it. They were committed.

The couple held hands at their funeral Tuesday, sharing the same casket. Their family says after they are cremated, their ashes will be mixed together.

The Yeagers are survived by Norma’s sister, Virginia Kell, and Gordon’s brother, Roger, along with their children Donna and Dennis as well as 14 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.


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