UNITED STATES - Relatives of a US couple who died at a nursing home 11 hours apart on the same day said their love story's ending ref lects their devotion over 65 years of marriage.
Mr Harold Knapke and Mrs Ruth Knapke died in their shared room on Aug 11, days before their 66th anniversary, The Dayton Daily News reported on Monday. He was 91, she was 89.
Their daughters said they believe their father willed himself to stay by his wife's side despite failing health until they could take the next step in their journey together.
He went first - his children saw it as his "final act of love" - and she followed. We believe he wanted to accompany her out of this life and into the next one, and he did," daughter Margaret Knapke said.
She added: "In recent years, we often speculated that dad was still here, in this life, because of mum.
"It seemed that, even though his health and strength were so very diminished, he couldn't stop being her protector; it seemed he didn't want to leave her behind."
The couple had known each other as children and began their courtship as pen pals, while Harold, known as "Doc", served in the US Army as a lieutenant during World War II.
Mrs Knapke would later joke: "I let him chase me until I caught him!"
The Knapkes were married on Aug 20, 1947, in St. Henry, Ohio.
Mr Knapke became a teacher, coach and athletic director at Fort Recovery Schools, while Mrs Knapke worked as a school secretary after staying at home to look after their children.
He was eventually inducted into the Fort Recovery Athletic Hall of Fame and the Fort Recovery Alumni Hall of Fame, the Daily Mail reported.
They raised six children while looking after each other with a devotion that did not seem to diminish.
A photo taken this summer shows him lying in a bed, arm stretched through a guardrail to hold her hand, as she leans in to press the top of her head to his.
When she was ailing, he blessed her each night with holy water, daughter Pat Simon said.
Mrs Knapke developed a severe infection in the last week of her life and her children were not optimistic about the prognosis.
Daughter Margaret told the Dayton Daily News: "The next day, Friday, there was a certain calm about him, and he began to fail rapidly.
"As you might know, dad died 11 hours before mum did - both of them on Sunday - and we believe he did that as a final act of love for her. "
The Knapkes had a joint funeral mass, with granddaughters carrying Mrs Knapke casket and grandsons carrying Mr Knapke's casket.
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