couple photo

Gordon and Norma Yaeger were married for 72 years.

Here’s something to be thankful for on America’s Thanksgiving Day: an Iowa couple who shared 72 years of married life and died holding hands.

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. A car accident sent the couple to the emergency room and intensive care unit with broken bones and other injuries. But, even in the hospital, their concerns were each other.

“She was saying her chest hurt and what’s wrong with Dad? Even laying there like that, she was worried about Dad,” said the couple’s son, Dennis Yeager, 52. “And his back was hurting and he was asking about Mom.”

When it became clear that their conditions were not improving, the couple was moved into a room together in beds side-by-side where they could hold hands.

“They joined hands; his right hand, her left hand,” [daughter Donna] Sheets said.

Gordon Yeager died at 3:38 p.m. He was no longer breathing, but the family was surprised by what his monitor showed.

“Someone in there said, ‘Why, then, when we look at the monitor is the heart still beating?'” Sheets recalled. “The nurse said Dad was picking up Mom’s heartbeat through Mom’s hand.”

Norma Yeager died exactly an hour later.

They died as they had lived. They had worked, travelled and played together. He was the life of the party, she was “the giver”, said Dennis. “She supported Dad in everything. And he would have been lost without her.”

Not bad for a “teenage” marriage, more or less. They were engaged and married within 12 hours in 1939 on the day Norma graduated from high school! You wouldn’t really want to encourage that in today’s cultural climate, but it does show that young marriages can last when society is supportive of marriage.

And when the couple complement each other.

And when there are children to concentrate the mind and energies. This article doesn’t say how many, but they are survived by 14 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. A great legacy, from a great marriage.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet