Elderly Couple, Married 40 Years, Dies 15 Minutes Apart

A South Florida couple who had been married for more than 40 years died just 15 minutes apart from each other at the same hospital

Wednesday, Mar 19, 2014  |  Updated 8:19 PM EDT
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A South Florida couple who had been married for more than 40 years died just 15 minutes apart. NBC 6's Christina Hernandez has the story.

A South Florida couple who had been married for more than 40 years died just 15 minutes apart. NBC 6's Christina Hernandez has the story.

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A South Florida couple who had been married for more than 40 years died just 15 minutes apart.

Tom and Naomi Shirley, of Southwest Ranches, both died at Cleveland Clinic in Weston on Saturday.

Tom Shirley, 83, had undergone open heart surgery a year ago and had been admitted to the hospital Saturday after he felt weak, the Sun Sentinel reported. Naomi Shirley, 75, stayed home until the hospital called and said her husband was close to death.

But Naomi Shirley never made it to his bedside; she suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital and died, her family said. She didn't know her husband had died minutes earlier.

"My father passed away not knowing that mother was on her way to see him and she passed away within 10 minutes... so neither one knew the other one had passed," son Tommy Shirley, Jr. told NBC6 South Florida. "They're together now, looking over everybody."

Now, their kids are surrounded by the thought of the timing of their deaths and memories in the forms of pictures and airboats.

"She was right there beside him," daughter Melanie Davis said. "She'd catch a big of a fish as he did. They always did everything together."

Tom Shirley lived in South Florida since age 3, and was a warden for the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission in the Florida Everglades for 30 years, from 1955 to 1985.

"That was dad's life," Davis said. "It was all about nature and teaching us different things about different wildlife animals."

Naomi Shirley moved to Hialeah from West Virginia. She met her husband while working at a drug store, and the couple married in 1969. She worked as a nurse until retirement while the couple raised four children.

"I'm sure they'd be very satisfied. I couldn't imagine a better way of going together," son Troy Shirley said. "What more could you ask for? They truly did love one another. They truly did."

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