Although Leonard and Hazel Cherry are gone, their love “will live on forever in heaven.”
The sweethearts met while attending a small Texas high school in Flatonia, got married in 1942 and spent every waking moment together for 74 years until they both passed away within hours of each other on October 27.
“They had so much love for each other,” Leonard and Hazel’s only son, David Cherry, tells PEOPLE. “No question, they are both up above, smiling.
“They’ll always be together.”
Leonard and Hazel grew up in tiny neighboring Texas towns, but didn’t meet until high school, when they started to date. Soon after the couple got married in 1942, Leonard joined the Army Air Corps and spent years training as a bomber pilot at different bases during WWII. He went on to train other bomber pilots instead of fighting in the war.
Hazel gave birth to David in 1944 and the Cherrys moved to Fort Worth to raise their son and start an auto shop business they called “Cherry-Hill.”
“They never really spent a day apart unless it was for a family emergency or something,” says David, 72. “And I never heard a cross word between them. I never heard them raise their voices to each other unless they were calling across the yard. The didn’t fight!”
They eventually sold their Fort Worth auto shop and moved to Waco in 1980 to be closer to David, who has two children and four grandchildren.
“The kids just adored my parents!” says David. “They had such a special relationship, they were so close and came to all of their school events. When my son was growing up, dad came to all of his basketball games.”
Adds David, “I didn’t find out until after he died, but apparently he showed up to almost all of his practices too.”
The couple moved to an assisted living home in Waco a few years ago when Leonard began showing signs of dementia. Hazel stayed in an independent living section of the facility, while Leonard received nursing care.
“Up until the very end, until right before they died, she was with him every day and ate lunch with him in his room,” says David. “There was no question that their love was always there.”
Hazel was “in excellent shape” until about a week before she died at a Waco emergency room hospital at 12:50 p.m at the age of 93.
“She started getting tired and weaker and on the day she passed, she couldn’t get out of bed and it was hard for her to wake up,” says David. “My daughter was talking to her when she blinked, smiled and let go.”
The family didn’t let Leonard know that his wife had passed away, but at approximately 1 p.m. (10 minutes after Hazel died), Leonard’s caregiver says the ailing man, who had been fidgety and restless all morning, took a deep breath and calmed down.
“I’m not sure how it worked, but he knew what happened. He had a connection,” says David. “He could feel it.”
Ten hours later, at 10:50 p.m., Leonard died at the age of 95.
“It’s what God wanted,” says David. “And I think it’s what they wanted too.”
A memorial for Leonard and Hazel will be held Friday at the Wilkison-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home in Waco.