Dick and Shirley Meek were childhood sweethearts, according to their joint obituary

Dick and Shirley Meek
Dick and Shirley Meek
| Credit: legacy.com

A couple who had been married for more than seven decades died from the novel coronavirus just minutes apart while holding hands for the last time.

Dick Meek, 89, and his wife Shirley Meek, 87, died in the hospital on Saturday, just three weeks after celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary, according to their online obituary.

"They were holding hands and Mom's head was resting on Dad's shoulder. Their favorite music was playing softly in the background. It was a beautiful passing," their family said in the obit. "Theirs was a love story for the ages. They had a fairytale ending...Our hearts are shattered, but we are at peace knowing that they are together forever."

The husband and wife started feeling ill in late December shortly after ringing in their anniversary, according to their children.

Though the couple initially believed they had a cold, they tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 8 and were both admitted to the hospital that day, their daughter Debbie Howell told WBNS.

However, Dick and Shirley's condition continued to deteriorate rapidly, and the family asked hospital staff if the pair could be in the same room for their final goodbyes.

"Mom passed first," Howell recalled. "The nurse put mom's head on my dad's shoulder and she said to dad, 'Dick, it's OK to let go now. Shirley's waiting for you,' and he passed within minutes."

According to the family, Dick and Shirley had been scheduled to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 19.

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"We are devastated to lose them both at the same time. But, we are blessed that they walked together, hand in hand, through the Gates of Heaven into Eternity - never having to face 'Until Death Do Us Part,' " they wrote in a joint obituary for Dick and Shirley. "How many people can say that? It's beyond lovely!!!!"

The family said that Dick and Shirley were "childhood sweethearts who fell in love, started a family, and worked hard to build what has become a legacy of love for all of us."

"Having devout love for family, they still always made time for each other," the family said. "They met every single day, no matter where they were in the world, at 3:00 for a date and a toast to each other."

In his obituary, Dick was described as a former U.S. Air Force sergeant and accomplished carpenter who loved woodworking and handcrafting gifts for his family.

Shirley, according to her obituary, was a Burger Chef retiree "who shared her love for humanity by quietly donating to charities every single month."

They are survived by five children, 13 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.

As of Thursday, there have been more than 24,676,000 COVID-19 cases and 400,000 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the United States, according to a New York Times database.

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