DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa couple married for 72 years died holding hands in a Des Moines hospital within 70 minutes of each other last week after a car accident that also injured another couple.
"They're very old-fashioned. They believed in marriage 'til death do you part," Dennis Yeager, the son of Gordon and Norma Yeager, told ketv.com.
The accident that claimed Gordon, 94, and Norma Yeager, 90, happened Oct. 12, when the couple left their State Center home for a drive shortly after 8 a.m. At the intersection of Highway 30 and Jessup Avenue, just west of Marshalltown, Gordon pulled "away from the stop sign and failed to yield to a westbound vehicle," according to Sgt. Joel Ehler of the Iowa State Patrol.
The driver of the other car, Charles Clapsaddle, 64, of Marshalltown, was unable to stop to avoid a collision, Ehler said.
Clapsaddle was treated and released from Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center, but his wife, Barbara, was reportedly transferred to Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. A man who identified himself as their son, John, said in a comment published on a story on the Times-Republican website that his mother suffered internal bleeding and a broken neck.
“She is currently stable but remains in the critical care unit,” he wrote. “There will be a long road ahead for her recovery.
Ehler said Yeager was facing pending action by the Iowa Department of Transportation to have his license removed, but citing privacy concerns, said he could release no additional details on what prompted that action.
The Yeagers' children told ketv.com that their parents never liked being apart ever since Norma Stock married Gordon Yeager on May 26, 1939, in State Center. And they were relieved that the couple was able to spend their last moments together at the intensive care unit of the Marshalltown hospital.
"They brought them in the same room in intensive care and put them together — and they were holding hands in ICU. They were not really responsive," Dennis Yeager told ketv.com.
Gordon died at 3:38 p.m. surrounded by their family and holding hands with Norma.
"It was really strange, they were holding hands, and dad stopped breathing but I couldn't figure out what was going on because the heart monitor was still going," said Dennis Yeager. "But we were like, he isn't breathing. How does he still have a heart beat? The nurse checked and said that's because they were holding hands and it's going through them. Her heart was beating through him and picking it up."
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Norma died at 4:48 p.m., according to ketv.com.
"Neither one of them would've wanted to be without each other. I couldn't figure out how it was going to work," the Yeagers' daughter Donna Sheets told ketv.com. "We were very blessed, honestly, that they went this way."
The Yeager’s children said the couple complemented each other.
"Anybody come over — she was the hostess with the mostess. ... The more she did, the more she smiled," Dennis Yeager told ketv.com. "Dad would be the center of attention, like, 'Wheee look at me,' and mom was like 'get him away from me!' You know we even got a picture like that."
And even though they argued every now and them, "They just loved being together," he said.
"He said 'I have to stick around. I can't go until she does because I have to stay here for her and she would say the same thing,'" he said.
The couple reportedly were holding hands Tuesday at their funeral in their casket. Their family said the plan was to cremate them together and mix their ashes.