Couple married over 50 years die within hours of each other amid the coronavirus

Couple married over 50 years die within hours of each other amid the coronavirus

A Washington state couple married more than 50 years died on the same day from complications due to the new coronavirus, local media reports say.

Merle and Delores Tofte had celebrated Dolores' 85th birthday with family just weeks ago, but on March 16 they died within hours of each other, the Oregonian and KATU-TV reported.

"They were gracious, they were kind, they were funny, and they loved us," daughter Michelle Taylor told KATU-TV.

Merle, 86, and Delores, who went by "Dee," were the second and third confirmed positive patients of the new coronavirus in Clark County, just north of Portland, the Oregonian reported.

Three days later, they died at Peace Health Southwest Washington Hospital on separate floors. Their family had not been allowed to visit them, the newspaper reported.

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"It's heartbreaking," Taylor told KATU-TV, adding that she would be "forever grateful" to the hospital staff who set up video calls with her parents, her siblings and their children so the family could be together, at least virtually, to say goodbye.

According to the Oregonian, the couple met in the 1960s, married and purchased a Portland printing business. Dee learned the drums and keyboard so she could play along with Merle, and they started a band: "Dee and Mee."

"June 17, 2020, would have been their 53rd wedding anniversary," daughter Lori Kohler, one of five children, told the Oregonian.

Their family told the local news outlets that neither traveled nor got out much, making it all the harder to figure out how they were exposed to the virus.

Dee, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, was rushed to the hospital on March 7 and Merle arrived days later with symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, the Oregonian reported.

"I just want people to take it seriously. That’s what I want. I never thought this would happen to our family. I know that sharing their story is helping people really understand that this virus is taking people’s lives," Taylor told KATU-TV.

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She told the TV station that her parents would be buried but nobody would be present due to state guidelines restricting gatherings and people's movement.

For her birthday, Dee got a new watch from Merle and the couple matching pajamas from the children, Kohler told the Oregonian.

"In the end," she said to the newspaper, "they were buried in their new pajamas, and Dee with her new watch on her arm."

Follow USA TODAY's Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller


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