A Wisconsin couple married for 73 years died just six hours apart after they both tested positive for coronavirus.
The love between Wilford Kepler, 94, and his wife Mary, 92, blossomed more than seven decades ago when the two exchanged letters throughout World War II.
And the couple remained inseparable when they both died just a few feet apart at Froedtert Hospital on April 18.
‘Their beds were together at Froedtert and they were able to hold hands during their last day,’ a joint obituary read.
‘Mary commented before her death that she was being cared for by Angels.’
Mary and Wilford Kepler (left to right) were married for 73 years before they died within hours of each other on April 18
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that hospital staff moved their beds closer together so they could hold hands during their final days.
They spoke with loved one over the phone and on video calls.
Both tested positive for COVID-19, but the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office determined only Mary died from the virus.
Mary had tested positive for coronavirus on April 8 and was quarantined at their home before accompanied Wilford to the hospital.
Wilford died of a traumatic head injury after he took a bad fall on Easter Sunday.
Both Mary and Wilford (left to right) tested positive for COVID-19, but only Mary died from the virus
The Keplers went to the same Wisconsin high school before writing each other letters during World War II
Mary and Wilford were transported to Froedtert Hospital after Wilford suffered a bad fall on Easter
Medical staff confirmed his COVID-19 diagnoses on April 12 when the Keplers was transported to the local hospital following Wilford’s fall.
Natalie Lameka, their granddaughter, was one of the last people to see the sweet couple before they passed away. She saw them for an hour on April 17.
‘They were aware of what was going on, and they were at peace with it,’ Lameka, a nurse, said.
Lameka and her brother, Spencer, were able to visit their grandparents before they died.
Hospital staff, who only allowed one visitor per patients due to the pandemic, provided them with PPE equipment during their final visit.
The couple was buried together at a cemetery near Wilford’s childhood home.
Their son, Michael Kepler, described them as a loving couple who loved their family.
‘They took care of their children. They lived a good life, and they got their kids educated,’ said Kepler.
‘They did the things that most people would want to do for their children and for their families.’
Pictured: The Keplers with their three children, Michael Kepler, Sandy Kepler and Michelle Pike (left to right)
Lameka has seen first hand the way the coronavirus has thrown the hospital system into disarray, but the death of her grandparents was especially hard.
‘This is affecting families in a big way. We lost our family,’ she said.
Lameka added that her grandparents were very careful and didn’t know where they could have been exposed.
The couple did, however, leave the home to get groceries or run errands.
‘They still had to live their lives, as much as we wanted to help them,’ she said.
Wilford and Mary (pictured) are survived by three children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren
Kepler said his parents first began dating after Wilford returned from World War II and worked as a cheesemaker for Richland County. They married in 1946.
Wilford eventually worked as a machinist at Harnishfeger Corp. for 35 years while Mary became the vice president of US Steel Supply, the first woman to do so.
She took night classes at Alverno College and graduated with a college degree in 1981 at the age of 54.
Kepler described his parents as hard workers. Wilford volunteered at the Milwaukee VA Hospital for more than 20 years. Mary was on the Milwaukee County Commission on Aging.
‘Mom always joked that he hardly ever missed work, and if he had missed work, his fellow workers would have taken up a collection for his funeral,’ said Kepler in the eulogy.
Lameka: ‘Whenever [Mary] would do something nice for someone she would say, “you may not be in a position to do something like this for someone now, but someday you will be, and I hope you pay it forward
‘He wasn’t really loud but he liked to be with people, and he liked to joke.’
Lameka said Wilford was ‘but when he did say something, it was very meaningful and thoughtful.’
On the other hand, Lameka said Mary was fun-loving and liked to dance the night away.
‘Whenever she would do something nice for someone she would say, “you may not be in a position to do something like this for someone now, but someday you will be, and I hope you pay it forward”,’ Lameka said.
‘That’s how they lived their lives.’
The Keplers are survived by three children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.