After nearly 65 years together, couple die hours apart

earriero@charlotteobserver.comDecember 2, 2013 

Eleanor and Frank Turner were born within 26 days of each other in July 1926. They wed 22 years later, starting a marriage that lasted nearly 65 years. The couple died within nine hours of each other on Friday.

COURTESY OF THE TURNER FAMILY

Eleanor and Frank Turner were born within 26 days of each other in July 1926. They wed 22 years later, starting a marriage that lasted nearly 65 years.

So it seemed fitting, relatives said, that the two would ultimately die hours apart from each other Friday, without even knowing the other’s fate.

“We’re still in shock. It doesn’t seem real to us,” said niece Carolyn Warren. “But isn’t it ironic that they both passed, one and then the other?”

Eleanor Witt Turner, 87, died first on Friday at Hospice House in Monroe. Then nine hours later, her husband, Frank Eugene Turner, 87, died at Autumn Care of Marshville.

Daughter Linda Purser said she was debating whether to tell her father about her mom’s early-morning death when she received a call from a nursing home saying her father had died about 1:30 p.m.

The two would have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary Dec. 24.

“They didn’t give up. They had their share of fights, just like anybody else. But when it came down to everything in the end, they stuck together,” Purser said. “They worked together as a team to do everything.”

Purser said her parents’ love story began at a long-forgotten Charlotte car dealership that sold Kaiser-Frazer automobiles.

Eleanor, who had recently relocated from Asheboro, was working as a secretary at the car company when Frank stopped in, looking for a car.

Frank, a native of Illinois, had just gotten out of the Navy and was planning to return to work at The Associated Press, Purser said.

A car salesman asked whether Frank wanted to take a car out for a test drive. Purser said he replied: “Yes, but only if I can take your secretary with me.”

After several months of courtship, the couple wed, both at age 22.

Because of Frank’s job, initially as a copy boy and later moving up to chief of communications for the AP, the young couple (and growing family) moved around a lot – from California to Indiana to North Carolina to Florida. They ultimately settled in the Charlotte area.

“He apologized to us one time for moving us around so much, but I told him it was the best thing that he could have ever done for us because we met so many different types of people, and we wouldn’t have had that if we’d stayed in one place,” said Purser, who has a younger brother, Larry Edward Turner.

Purser described her parents’ marriage as “a good, strong one.”

“They loved each other, and you could always tell they were proud to be out together,” she said. “They were just meant for each other.”

After Eleanor got dementia later in life, the family decided to put her in a nursing home.

“Dad couldn’t stand to be without her. He didn’t want to be apart from her,” Purser said. “So he would try to drive over to see her, but the dementia started getting to him, too, and he would get lost.”

A few months later, the couple moved into Monroe Square senior living facility in Union County.

Frank’s loyalty to his wife often got him some good-natured ribbing from the nursing home staff, Purser said.

“He was still able to walk, and she wasn’t. She was supposed to pull a cord to alert the staff when she needed something, but she’d just call him instead,” Purser said.

Frank would help her with whatever she needed, whether it was helping her get to the bathroom or retrieving an item for her.

“He was doing stuff he wasn’t supposed to be doing,” Purser said. “He did for her anything she wanted because he just adored her so much. And she sure loved him, too.”

Frank suffered a stroke a couple of weeks ago, and on the day he was scheduled to be released from the hospital, Eleanor was checked in after also suffering a stroke.

The two were able to meet as he left and she entered Carolinas Medical Center-Union early last week. Purser even got pictures of the couple holding hands for what was to be the last time.

After the hospital stay, Eleanor returned to the Hospice House in Monroe. Because Frank didn’t technically qualify for hospice, the family moved him to Autumn Care of Marshville.

At 4:40 a.m. Friday, staff at the Hospice House called Purser to tell her that her mother had died. Then around 1:30 p.m., Purser received another call, this time from Autumn Care, saying her father had died.

Purser said that while she’s sad she’s lost both of her parents, she’s glad neither of them will have to continue living without the other.

Fittingly, they will be buried together Monday at Lakeland Memorial Park in Monroe.

“They thought alike; they both wanted the same things out of life,” she said. “They were the same. And they were lost without each other.”

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero

The Lake Wylie Pilot is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service