Floyd and Violet Hartwig died at home in hospice beds pushed close together by their children so the married couple of 67 years could hold hands in their final moments.
On Feb. 11, Floyd, 90, died first, while still holding his wife's hand. Violet, 89, died five hours later. The pair were surrounded by their family.
Violet had dementia for her last years, and Floyd had largely taken care of her. But in January he was diagnosed with kidney failure and was told by doctors that he had about two weeks to live.
"They had a connection, and I think that connection just came more and more, especially in the last months of their lives," their daughter Donna Scharton told the Fresno Bee.
Floyd continued to care for his wife, even as his health rapidly declined.
"My dad could hardly walk," Scharton said, "and his main concern was my mom."
Of their dying together, Scharton said through tears: "We felt blessed because we knew that's what they wanted."
The couple knew each other since elementary school and connected romantically during World War II at the Rainbow Ballroom in Fresno while Floyd was in the Navy.
After the dance, Floyd was sent back to the Pacific, and the young lovebirds exchanged more than 100 letters from 1946 to 1948.
In May 1947, Floyd wrote from Johnston Atoll in the Pacific:
Hi honey, just a few lines from this lonely blue sailor of yours. Miss you darling and so in love with you. … Honey, I'll sure be glad when I get out of this. It sure isn't for me, though at one time I thought the Navy was pretty swell. That was before I fell in love with the sweetest girl in the world.
The pair said their vows on Aug. 16, 1947, while Floyd was on leave from the Navy.
Floyd's first job when he returned home from war in 1948 was delivering eggs. He later worked as foreman on a large Fresno County farm, where he remained until he retired at the age of 65.
They had three children together — Donna, Carol, and Kenneth — and owned a 20-acre ranch in Easton, California, where they proudly worked side by side, chopping cotton and feeding turkeys into their old age.
Learn more about the Hartwigs' love story in this video by the Fresno Bee:
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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