The lives of Carl and Evelyn Ekern ended the way she suspected they would – with the two of them together.
After nearly 70 years of marriage, the two died just days apart, she on April 13, he on April 19.
It didn't surprise the family. The Ekerns' three children told WDAY that it's what their mother had expected all along.
“They seemed to know, mom always said she wanted to pass before dad," Laura Lougheed, the Ekern's daughter, told WDAY.
Carl Ekern, a Naval officer from Fargo, North Dakota, and Evelyn Ekern, originally from North Carolina, met in 1945 while attending different colleges in North Carolina, according to the couple's obituary. During World War II, Carl was stationed in the South Pacific and when he returned to the United States he was stationed in Louisiana, where he married Evelyn on April 2, 1946.
They found random people to stand in as witnesses at their wedding.
“They had no idea who their witnesses were, dad, one of his commanding officers stood up, and then they grabbed random people because it was after the war," Laura Lougheed, the Ekern's daughter, told WDAY.
Upon Carl Ekern's discharge from the Navy, they moved to Fargo, where they raised a family.
Carl Ekern retired as vice president of Mid-America Steel in 1985. He was an avid golfer, reaching the North Dakota Senior Golf Tournament four times, his obituary says. Evelyn was also an avid golfer and the two traveled the world playing the game, WDAY notes.
Their love endured to the very end. Carl Ekern, who had battled Alzheimer's, stopped eating an hour after Evelyn Ekern was taken to a Fargo hospital on April 9, WDAY says. Evelyn died four days later. An hour after Evelyn Ekern died, her children got a phone call that Carl Ekern had entered hospice care.
A funeral for the couple is scheduled for this Friday.
It's not uncommon for a person to die within the same year of their partner's death – and it may be no coincidence, according to a 2006 article published in the Gainesville Times. One of the main reasons for this is heartbreak, or psychological stress, that's caused by losing a loved one, experts told the newspaper.
This "bereavement effect" has been evident in recent headlines. Around the same time of Evelyn Ekern's death, Helen Felumlee, of Ohio, died. Just 15 hours later, Kenneth Felumlee, her husband of 70 years, died, TIME Magazine says.
Last year, a Minnesota couple died on the same day. Clifford and Eva Vevea had been married for 65 years.
In February, a New York couple died hours apart holding hands. Ed and Floreen Hale were together for 60-plus years.
And last November, Frank and Eleanor Turner, of North Carolina, died six hours apart. They had been married for nearly 65 years.