Married Teachers Die from COVID-19 Complications While Holding Hands One Last Time

Longtime educators Paul Blackwell, 61, and Rose Mary Blackwell, 65, died on Sunday from complications related to the novel coronavirus

Rose Mary and Paul Blackwell
Rose Mary and Paul Blackwell. Photo: GoFundMe

A community is in mourning after a husband and wife who taught in Grand Prairie, Texas died from complications related to the novel coronavirus.

Paul Blackwell, 61, and Rose Mary Blackwell, 65, died on Sunday while holding hands at the Harris Methodist Hospital, according to their family.

The married couple had spent several days in the intensive care unit, but their condition worsened and their family made the heartbreaking decision to discontinue life support, Paul's son Christopher Blackwell told CBS 11.

"Two of my other brothers are actually in the room there at the hospital and they wheeled my stepmother in there in the room with my father and at the same time, removed them both from the ventilator," he recalled. "They had them holding hands and they were both gone in a couple of minutes."

"I've never seen anything like that before and it’s hard to even put into words seeing that," he added.

Both Paul and Rose Mary were longtime teachers within the Grand Prairie Independent School District, according to school officials.

Paul had been with Fannin Middle School for five years as a P.E. teacher, mentor and coach. Prior to his career at Fannin, he taught at the Young Men’s Leadership Academy at Kennedy Middle School.

His wife Rose Mary was a second-grade teacher at Travis World Language Academy and served as the school's longest-tenured educator, having taught at the campus for the past 20 years.

"Rose Mary and Paul will be greatly missed by many," the Grand Prairie ISD said in a statement provided to PEOPLE. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to their family, friends, co-workers, and students both current and former."

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A GoFundMe campaign set up to raise funds for funeral costs said Paul and Rose Mary are survived by "many, many loved ones," including their children and 20 grandchildren.

"We have had a tragic loss in the Blackwell Family," a description for the Blackwells' fundraiser read. "We are all at a loss for words at this time but want to thank everyone for their continued prayers."

As of Tuesday, there have been more than 16,638,900 cases of COVID-19 in the United States at least 302,300 deaths from coronavirus-related illnesses, according to a New York Times database.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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