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DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa couple who was married for 72 years died one hour apart last week in the hospital as they held hands.
Family said the story of Gordon, 94, and Norma Yeager, 90, is a real-life love story. On the day she graduated from high school, Norma Stock promised to spend forever with Gordon Yeager. The couple got married on May 26, 1939 in State Center.
“They’re very old-fashioned. They believed in marriage til death do you part,” said son Dennis Yeager. Dennis Yeager was the youngest of four children born to the couple. His sister Donna was first born. “Staying together for 72 years is good, I’d say that’s exceptional,” said daughter Donna Sheets.
The way the kids tell it, dad was the life of the party while mom kept everything together. “Anybody come over — she was the hostess with the mostest. She just seriously — the more she did — the more she smiled,” said Dennis Yeager. “Dad would be the center of attention, like, ‘Weee look at me,’ and mom was like ‘get him away from me!’ You know we even got a picture like that.” (picture, right)
Norma didn’t really want the distance, and family said she hardly left Gordon’s side for 72 years. “They just loved being together. Everybody argues once in awhile, but they still, he said ‘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,'” said Dennis Yeager.
Dennis Yeager said the couple left home last Wednesday to go into town, but they didn’t make it. At the intersection of Highway 30 and Jessup Avenue just west of Marshalltown, state troopers said Gordon pulled in front of an oncoming car. The Iowa State Patrol crash report said the other driver attempted to avoid the crash but was unable to stop in time.
“I rushed from Des Moines where I was working and saw them in the hospital,” said Dennis Yeager. In the intensive care unit of Marshalltown’s hospital, nurses knew not to separate Gordon and Norma. “They brought them in the same room in intensive care and put them together — and they were holding hands in ICU. They were not really responsive,” said Dennis Yeager.
Gordon died at 3:38 p.m. holding hands with his wife as the family they built surrounded them.
“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,” said Dennis Yeager. “But we were like, he isn’t breathing. How does he still have a heart beat? The nurse checked and said that’s because they were holding hands and it’s going through them. Her heart was beating through him and picking it up.”
“They were still getting her heartbeat through him,” said Donna Sheets.
At 4:38 p.m., exactly one hour after Gordon died, Norma passed 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 Donna Sheets. “We were very blessed, honestly, that they went this way.”
“They just loved being together,” said Dennis Yeager.