After 70 Years of Marriage, They Both Died Within 15 Hours
by Dave Boehi
One of the most heartening stories sweeping across the internet last week was about Kenneth and Helen Felumlee, an elderly couple from Nashport, Ohio. Inseparable during 70 years of marriage, they passed away only 15 hours apart earlier this month. Helen was 92, and Kenneth was 91.
“We knew when one went, the other was going to go,” said one of their children. “We wanted them to go together, and they did.”
Hundreds of media outlets around the world picked up on the original articles by Anna Rumer of the Zanesville Times Recorder. (You can read them here and here.) In a time when so many couples are delaying marriage or avoiding it altogether, when some are even questioning whether the institution of marriage is “outdated,” it was nice to read a positive story of two people who made it work.
I guess people will always like a good love story.
Kenneth and Helen’s eight children said their devotion to each other grew stronger with each year. They told how the couple would hold hands each day during breakfast. And when Kenneth had a leg amputated a few years ago, Helen devoted herself to caring for him, even at her age. “She was so weak, she could hardly do it,” son Cody said. “But she was still pushing his chair; she was still filling his water cup.” This continued until three weeks before they died.
I was also impressed by the stories the children told about their parents’ commitment to helping others. They both taught Sunday school at their Methodist church. In addition to cooking for her own family, Helen often prepared enough to feed others in need. She was known for her extensive greeting card ministry—sending birthday cards, sympathy cards, notes of encouragement. “She kept Hallmark in business,” a daughter-in-law said.
In one of her articles about the couple, Anna Rumer wrote:
When the Felumlees moved out of their original house in Old Nashport and built a bigger home down the street, they gave their old house to a widow and her brother who were having trouble providing for themselves. Kenneth told them, “You’ve got a house for the rest of your life,” son Jim Felumlee recalled. The Felumlees never asked for rent and would help with utilities when needed. Helen prepared food and did their laundry weekly until they passed away.
Living by the Felumlees, it was hard for neighbors to be in need. Everything the couple had was community property. “That’s what it’s there for,” Kenneth would say when someone would ask to borrow something.
When a couple lives out their life and marriage that well, others notice. One old friend wrote:
They knew me my entire life, watched my boys grow up and always looked out for them. My oldest son used to ride his bike across the street so that he and Kenny “could work on it.” I want to remember them by watching them walk hand and hand “around the block” as they did nearly every morning or night, but never without fail. A love like that is hard to find.
Other comments from readers around the world:
Reader on Slate website: “Wow, to be with someone for 70 years… now that’s unconditional love. We should all be that lucky.”
Reader from Scotland: “What an absolutely beautiful story, and I’m sure they’re holding hands in Heaven.”
Reader on ABC website: “I spend days on end looking through a thousand garbage news stories hoping to find a gem like this! A very inspiring story.”
It makes you wonder how many other readers are growing tired—not just of negative news, but of negative news about marriage. I think people are hungry for stories like this that remind them that marriage can work.
May your marriage be blessed and anointed of God to bring glory & honor to Him!
Pr. Paddick van Zyl
Ps’s Paddick & Roelien Van Zyl