When we go to the movies or read books, we’re often treated to epic romance stories that seem too good to be true. But sometimes real life is even better than fiction. This sweet love story proves that to be true.
Isabell Whitney and Preble Staver met on a blind date in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the 1940s, but life seemed to be against them. World War II was raging across the sea and both Isabell and Preble put their lives on hold to join in the fight against the Nazis.
Preble joined the Marines and fought bravely, eventually earning a Bronze Star. Back on the homefront, Isabell worked as a Navy nurse in Maryland.
Finally, the war came to an end and the pair reunited. Five months later, on February 15, 1946, they got married.
Over the next seven decades, the Stavers would build a beautiful life together, though it had its share of difficulties. They joyfully welcomed five children, but held each other in sorrow when their son, Peter, died in a tragic football accident during his senior year of high school.
Through the mountains and valleys of their lives, the pair got closer and their love only grew.
“They were great people,” the couple’s daughter, Laurie Staver Clinton, said. “Mom really taught me that you can’t change another person but you can change your attitude towards them.
“Dad was a bit of a prickly pear!” she continued. “Dad was the strict one. Mom tried to be strict, but we knew what we could get away with her. It was pretty much a father rules the roost sort of thing.”
Sadly, life has a way of throwing curveballs you never expect. In 2013, the couple moved into a long-term care facility in Norfolk, Virginia after Isabell was diagnosed with dementia.
Because of the dementia, Isabell and Preble were placed in different rooms. This was challenging and frustrating for Preble, but he visited his wife as often as he could and, thankfully, she still remembered him,
“Sometimes, we’d have to tell her to focus and look but when she looked and knew it was dad, she’d get that little smile,” Laurie said.
As Preble’s 96th birthday approached, it became clear that Isabell didn’t have too much time left. That’s when he made a moving request: he asked for one more nap with his beloved wife.
Touched, the staff made arrangements for the couple to lie next to each other for a few hours one afternoon. Seeing the two of them together was enough to bring tears to the eyes of even the most seasoned nurse.
“There was not a single word spoken between the two of them,” Laurie said. “They held hands and just fell asleep. I told dad, ‘This is mom’s birthday present for you.’ He was just so happy that he got to take his nap with her.”
Just a few days later, Laurie got word that it was time to say goodbye to her mother. She brought her dad with her so they could say goodbye to Isabell together.
“He held her hand, and it was just so tender,” Laurie remembered. “I asked him if he wanted to stay after the prayers, and he shook his head. I said, ‘Okay, but you know that means you’re going to have to let go of her hand?’ I was crying, and he was crying.”
Later that day, Isabell peacefully passed away.
Much to the astonishment of Laurie and the nursing staff, Preble followed just a few hours later. It was as if he could not go on living when his beloved was no longer on this earth.
While Laurie and the rest of their family were heartbroken to say goodbye to both of their parents on the same day, they know the pair is exactly where they want to be: together.
The love Preble and Isabell shared is one all of us hope to have.
Laurie shared the secret to her parents’ beautiful 70-year long marriage:
“Mom and dad really lived out that, if you make a commitment, and even though life gets rough or life gets in the way, you work through life, and you live your life together.”
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