Devoted couple die on same day
In the end, after 68 years of marriage, Bill and Eldrid Walker died together—within 20 hours of each other and on the same day—even though they were in separate facilities and Eldrid hadn't seen her beloved husband since a stroke a week prior.
Bill would have turned 90 on Saturday, the day the couple was buried. Eldrid was 91.
But Bill had faithfully visited the love of his life twice a day for six years after she was admitted to a care facility. He told his son Mark that putting his wife there and knowing she was probably not coming home was the hardest thing he ever had to do.
Mark, 50, the couple's youngest son, said his parents were inseparable.
"Everybody commented on it. Other than Dad at the service station, you never saw Bill and Eldrid apart. They were seen together all over."
Eldrid was a beauty and caught Bill's eye as he pumped gas in a downtown station and she cared for her young charges as a nanny.
"They never really talked about anybody else they dated," Mark said.
Bill worked many hours at the business he owned, Walker's Friendly Service station in Edgerton. Eldrid kept the books. They gardened together and traveled together.
Mark described their relationship as loving and respectful.
"You'd never seen them fight, but when she was irritated with him, it was, 'William Henry,'" Mark recalled with a smile.
About six years ago, Bill couldn't cover for his wife anymore. She was later diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
"He had been taking care of her and probably hiding it a little bit from us," Mark said.
Bill visited Eldrid three times a day until the care facility staff complained he got in the way of her therapy. So he cut his visits to twice a day.
This was despite the fact that Bill didn't like hospitals since getting wounded in World War II and spending time in a French hospital, Mark said.
Once, Mark and his brother suggested Bill needn't visit so often.
But Bill said, "Well, absolutely he did," Mark recalled. If Bill would visit in the afternoon and Eldrid was sleeping, he'd simply sit and watch TV or talk to her roommate, waiting for his wife to wake.
Eldrid continued to slip, but she almost always knew her husband.
On Sept. 16, Bill suffered a stroke and was admitted to the veteran's hospital. His visits to Eldrid stopped.
"She was asking about him," Mark said. "I'd say, 'Bill isn't feeling too well, he's not going to be up tonight.'"
The pneumonia she had recently beaten came back with a vengeance.
Bill died at 12:45 a.m. Sept. 23. The children decided to tell their mom.
Eldrid understood. She kept repeating his name.
But by 7 p.m., she was resting comfortably and the family went home.
At 8:30 p.m., a nurse called Mark and said she didn't think Mark would make it the mile to the hospital before his mother passed. She put the phone to Eldrid's ear.
"I told her it was OK to be with Bill," Mark said. "That we loved her and that everything was alright."
Mark knew Eldrid was declining but didn't think the two would die on the same day.
The family buried the couple together.
"You know, at the time, when it first happened, you're bawling and stuff," Mark said.
"But then you think ...'That's really beautiful.'"