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After 65 Years of Marriage, Illinois Couple Dies on the Same Day

Betty Gay died at 2 a.m. and her husband, Jim, closed his eyes and died just before midnight. "I know he would have been lost without her," says a good friend.

Jim and Betty Gay on their wedding day in March 1948. | Screen shot of a photo provided to the State Journal-Register by their daughter Jane Haase.
Jim and Betty Gay on their wedding day in March 1948. | Screen shot of a photo provided to the State Journal-Register by their daughter Jane Haase.

STAUNTON, IL — After 65 years of marriage, Jim Gay couldn't live without his Betty. He'd already lost a part of her to Alzheimer's disease. And when she had to move into a care center, Jim went, too, though he really didn't need help the way Betty did.

He just didn't want to leave her side.

When she died at 2 in the morning on March 18, Jim closed his eyes and slept most of the day. But he didn't take long to follow. By midnight he was gone.

"There had been no indication that morning his health was rapidly deteriorating," their daughter Jane Haase told the State Journal-Register after a reporter from the paper called to ask about her parents and the coincidence of their departure from this life together. "Everybody, they just can't believe it."

In death, as in life, Betty, 85, and Jim, 87, were the talk of Staunton, a small downstate Illinois town of 5,000 folks just outside of St. Louis where they raised four children.

The family held a double funeral on March 22. Longtime friend Alva Tevini was there.

"They were a very committed couple to each other. I don't know what Jim was thinking, exactly, but I know he always depended on her," Alva said. "I know he would have been lost without her."

They met on a Saturday night at the Moose Lodge dance in Staunton after World War II. Jim had just gotten out of the Navy and came home to nearby Benld, a tiny town, just a speck on the map in Macoupin County.

"He asked to walk her home, even though he had driven his friends from Benld to the dance," Jane told the State Journal-Register. "His friends could not find him because they did not know where my mom lived, so they drove the truck back to Benld and my dad took a cab home. 

"They were together from that night on."

Jim and Betty married in 1948 and raised a family in Staunton, three sons and a daughter. Betty volunteered at the local hospital. Jim owned Gay Plumbing, Heating and Hardware. They were blessed with 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Betty was always the lively, talkative, vivacious one. And Jim was the quiet, soft-spoken one. He would follow her lead.

"It was always a joke how she would speak for him, ordering food at restaurants, answering questions for him," their daughter said. "That is the reason I say he couldn't live without her because there would be no one to speak for him or tell him what to do."


charlies angel April 01, 2014 at 02:35 PM
Touching story! I think most of the marriages from WWII era lasted long compared to these days. RIP Mr. & Mrs. Gay...
art doyle April 02, 2014 at 07:19 AM
Charles-I agree with you but marriage has been redefined. I think households worked better when roles were more established. We will not see those days again.
charlies angel April 02, 2014 at 01:19 PM
Dan, I also agree with you. The leave it to beaver days worked. God only knows what will happen in the next 30 yrs. My parents were married for 51 yrs when my dad passed. I can't imagine being with my husband that long (joking).
Carolyn Brack-Jackson April 30, 2014 at 07:43 PM
Sad and sweet, RIP Mr. and Mrs. Gay!

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