True love, true story. The tale behind the deaths—and lives—of a couple married for 62 years has gone viral after they died within hours of each other. The clincher? They were holding hands.
Local ABC affiliate KERO 23 first published Don and Maxine Simpson's touching story last week. According to the station, the couple first met in a bowling alley over six decades ago. He was a civil engineer originally from North Dakota; his wife Maxine was raised in Bakersfield, Calif., where he was eventually relocated for his job.
Soon after their initial encounter, the smitten pair married, traveled the world together, and adopted two boys while abroad. During their marriage of over six decades, the Simpsons became actively involved with the local community in organizations like the Rotary Club, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and the YMCA. Don even co-founded the Bakersfield Racket Club.
Last month, Don was at home when he broke his hip after a fall. At the same time, Maxine's cancer, which she had battled for years, had also progressed. The twosome's family knew they had to keep them together.
Don's granddaughter Melissa Sloan told KERO that she moved her grandparents into a spare bedroom in her home. "I told my sister on the phone, we got one shot to get them together," Sloan said. "We kept them together, and had their beds side-by-side."
Sloan also recalled the exact moments when each grandparent passed away—within four hours of each other. "I could hear on the monitor, she took her last breath and I came to check," Sloan recalled of her grandmother Melissa, who reportedly gripped her husband's hand in the last moments of her life. "She had passed."
After health aides rolled Maxine's body out of the bedroom, her husband Don passed away several hours later. (In the closing scene of Nicholas Sparks' beloved film adaptation of The Notebook, longtime couple Allie and Noah, played by Gena Rowlands and the late James Garner, pass away within hours of each other while cuddling together on the same hospital bed.)
"I walked them out with her body, walked back in to check on grandpa and he quit breathing as soon as her body left the room," Sloan recalled. "He left with her, and they passed four hours apart from each other."