Couple married for 65 years die within a few hours of each other; family call it a blessing from God

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27 2013 3:20 p.m. MDT

This June 2013 photo provided by the Knapke family shows Harold and Ruth Knapke. Relatives of the Ohio couple, who died at a nursing home 11 hours apart on the same day, said their love story's ending reflects their devotion over 65 years of marriage. The Knapke's died in their shared room on Aug. 11, days before their 66th anniversary.

Knapke Family, Associated Press

Ruthie, 89, and Harold Knapke, 91, were devout Christians from Ohio who met in the third grade and have stuck together ever since.

But their love story came to a sweet end earlier this month, when on Aug. 11 the couple both passed away within 11 hours of each other after 65 years of marriage — only a few days away from their 66th anniversary.

The Knapkes' children and grandchildren have viewed their passing together as a miracle from God.

"I don't think any of this would have happened without God," grandson Jeffrey Simon said on Fox News. "We've always said over the last year that we hope and pray that they go together because one couldn't do without the other one, and they certainly surprised us by going in the same day."

Harold Knapke had been struggling with his health for several months, yet he continued to fight. It was only when his wife caught an infection and her health began to suffer that he slowly began to let go.

"They told Grandpa that she's going to go too and that it was time to let go," Simon said. "They said that he became very calm, and his health just went down very quickly from there and he passed away at 7:30 on that Sunday morning, and then 6:30 that night Grandma's infection finally got to her and she passed that night."

After being together and loving each other for that long, daughter Margaret Knapke told Today.com, going together seemed to be what her father wanted most.

"We believe he wanted to accompany her out of this life and into the next one, and he did," Margaret Knapke said.

The couple who met in third grade wrote letters throughout Harold's service in World War ll and were married soon after his return. They raised six children together and had 14 grandchildren, according to Fox News.

It is really just a love story," Carol Romie, another daughter, told Today.com "They were so committed and loyal and dedicated. They weren't going to go anywhere without the other one."

It was through watching his grandparents that Simon was able to learn many lessons, both small and large.

"The example they showed in their faith and their relationship with God really strengthened their own relationship, and you could see that to the very end when they were together," Simon said.

"You remember the lessons that they taught you, not only by what they told you but just how they lived their lives, the way they raised their family and their relationship with each other. That's definitely something to take away from them."

The family joined together for a joint funeral service in which each granddaughter participated as a pallbearer for their grandma and each grandson for their grandfather.

"It's consoling to us that they went together," Margaret Knapke told CNN. "On one hand it's difficult to lose both parents at once when you didn't see it coming … but it's very consoling that they got to go together."

Simon also expressed the hardship of loosing both grandparents together, but he focused on the happiness he felt in knowing where they are, and that they are together.

"It kind of softened the blow to lose them together and to know that they're together in a happier place. They're together, and that's really all you can ask for," Simon said on Fox News.

Email: spetersen@deseretnews.com

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