"They always said they wanted to go together," the couple's son said of Leola and Alexander Vance, shown here in an undated family photo. (Morning Sun / AP)
ST. LOUIS, Mich. (April 23) - Alexander J. Vance and his wife, Leola, made a life together for nearly 64 years. This week, they died 14 hours apart at Schnepp's Health Care Center.
Alexander Vance met Leola in Algonac, where Vance was building barges for the military in 1941. He was 20, she was 16.
Leola Vance later told her children that she liked her future husband's personality and the twinkle in his eye. He liked "everything" about her, Phil Vance, the couple's 48-year-old son, told the Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant for a Saturday story.
They married Dec. 19, 1941 and moved to the Alma area.
Alexander Vance worked for Alma Products for 39 years, retiring as general foreman about 20 years ago, while his wife was a homemaker.
The couple stayed in their home for as long as they could, until Parkinson's disease forced Alexander Vance to move into a nursing home in February.
Earlier this month, Leola Vance, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, began complaining that her head hurt. It later was determined that she had bleeding in her brain. By April 15, her husband also had taken a turn for the worse and both were in a coma in a nursing home.
"It was almost like a race," Phil Vance said. "They always said they wanted to go together and I sometimes think they were telepathically communicating about who would go first. But we were told she might live for several more days."
Alexander Vance died at 9:45 a.m. ET Wednesday. Phil Vance said family members were singing hymns in his mother's room later that night, when she stopped breathing just before midnight.
"'Now you can be together,' I said," recalled Phil Vance, a retired minister who will perform a service at the Dewey Funeral Home in Alma on Monday.
"They had asked me to do the funeral. It's really a great love story."
04-23-05 22:35 EDT