Husband and Wife Whose Love Story Started During WWII Die Within Hours of Each Other

Wilford and Mary Kepler both tested positive for coronavirus, but his cause of death was listed as a traumatic head injury

Wilford and Mary Kepler
Photo: Courtesy Mike Kepler

A couple married for more than 70 years died six hours apart in a Wisconsin hospital, just days after both were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Wilford Kepler, 94, died on April 18 at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa just hours before his 92-year-old wife Mary, according to the couple’s joint obituary.

“Their beds were together at Froedtert and they were able to hold hands during their last days,” the obituary read. “Mary commented before her death that she was being cared for by Angels.”

Though both had tested positive for coronavirus, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office said only Mary died of the virus, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Her secondary cause of death was listed as diabetes, hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, according to the Medical Examiner. Wilford’s cause of death, meanwhile, was listed as a traumatic head injury after he fell on April 12. The virus was his secondary cause of death.

Mary tested positive for the virus on April 8, and quarantined in her home. But after Wilford’s fall, both were admitted to the hospital, where Wilford tested positive as well, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Wilford and Mary Kepler
Courtesy Mike Kepler

Granddaughter Natalie Lameka told the outlet she’s not sure how her grandparents were exposed to the virus, but knew they were still running errands and buying groceries.

“They still had to live their lives, as much as we wanted to help them,” she said.

Both Mary and Wilford attended Richland Center High School, though Wilford was drafted and reported for duty in World War II before his class graduated, according to their obituary.

Wilford and Mary Kepler
Courtesy Mike Kepler

Mary reportedly started writing to him while he was serving, and when he returned, they married in 1946.

Wilford worked as a machinist at Harnishfeger Corp. for 35 years, while Mary became the first woman to serve as vice president of U.S. Steel Supply, according to the obituary. She reportedly earned her college degree in 1981 at age 54.

“They took care of their children. They lived a good life, and they got their kids educated,” son Michael Kepler told the Journal Sentinel. “They did the things that most people would want to do for their children and for their families.”

Wilford and Mary Kepler

Lameka and her brother Spencer were able to visit their grandparents one last time on April 17, and Lameka, a nurse, told the outlet that “they were aware of what was going on, and they were at peace with it.”

She said Wilford was quiet, but “when he did say something, it was very meaningful and thoughtful.”

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Mary, meanwhile, loved to dance and have fun, and together, they liked gardening, playing cards and visiting their grandkids.

The couple are survived by their three children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

As of Monday afternoon, there have been at least 5,911 cases and 274 deaths attributed to coronavirus in Wisconsin, according to The New York Times. There have been at least 977,256 cases and 50,134 deaths in the U.S.

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