Couple Married for 53 Years Die From COVID-19 Within an Hour of Each Other, Holding Hands

BY Louise Chambers TIMEJuly 3, 2020 PRINT

A Texas couple married for 53 years passed away holding hands within an hour of each other after a short battle with the CCP virus. The couple was able to be together in their final moments thanks to a medic who requested they be moved to the same hospital room.

Curtis Tarpley, 79, and his wife, Betty, 80, passed away at the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth on June 18. Betty was admitted to hospital shortly before her husband.

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Curtis and Betty Tarpley. (Courtesy of Tim Tarpley)

Betty initially suspected a sinus infection; however, when it didn’t improve after 10 days, she made a dental appointment, the couple’s son, Tim, told WFAA. “[O]n the way there, she wrecked her car,” Tim explained. “She’d hit a curb and destroyed her wheel. But, she just wasn’t really making sense.” That day, Betty had trouble explaining to her son where she was at. The next day, the confusion got even worse, and she wasn’t able to even check her blood pressure, something she did for almost 20 years.

The worried son drove his mother to the hospital. The 80-year-old tested positive for the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, on June 9, and her condition deteriorated quickly.

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The Tarpleys on their wedding day. (Courtesy of Tim Tarpley)

Just days after Betty’s hospital admission, Curtis, who had underlying health conditions, also tested positive. “They both kind of knew if they got this, if it was brought into the house, that my dad would not be able to survive this,” Tim reflected.

A few days after his parents both tested positive for Covid-19, Tim too tested positive for the virus, and entered quarantine. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price was also required to quarantine, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, as Tim is her personal trainer.

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(Courtesy of Tim Tarpley)

According to her son, it was Betty who first became cognizant that her fight was almost over.

“My mom called me and said, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know, I’m ready to go,’” Tim told CBS DFW. “I yelled and screamed, and thought maybe if I talked to her I could inspire her to have one last bit of will to live,” he said.

Tim called his father, who was being treated on a different floor of the hospital, to break the news. “He said, ‘How’s your mom?’” Tim recalled. “I said, ‘Not good,’ … and it was like, at that moment knowing that my mom was going to go, it was okay for him to go.”

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Tim Tarpley with his father, Curtis. (Courtesy of Tim Tarpley)

A medical staffer came forward with the suggestion that the couple be relocated to the same room. “It was some doctor or nurse named Blake,” said Tim, “that’s all we knew about him. He really went out of his way to get my mom moved from her room to his room.”

The Tarpleys’ medical team placed Curtis and Betty side by side and laid their hands close together. “[N]ext thing we know,” said Tim, “they grabbed each other’s hands. And that’s how they went.”

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(Courtesy of Tim Tarpley)

The grieving son has since expressed immense gratitude to Curtis and Betty’s team, as well as all medics working on the front lines during such a challenging time, calling them “unseen heroes.”

Curtis and Betty attended the same high school in Rockford, Illinois, even working at the same ice cream shop. Somehow, the two met each other in San Diego again, and they dated each other, married, and had their two children, Tim and Tricia, before relocating to Texas in the 1980s.

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(Courtesy of Tim Tarpley)

Tim praised his parents to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for always making it work but admitted he had been bowled over by some of the anecdotes that had emerged about his kindhearted parents since their passing.

“A friend of mine … I guess he was homeless and living in his car, and my mom would let him shower and sleep on the couch and she would make him food to eat in the car,” Tim explained, recalling one anecdote. “I had no idea.”

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Curtis and Betty on their 50th wedding anniversary with their children, Tricia and Tim, and grandchildren. (Courtesy of Tim Tarpley)

Curtis and Betty also gave back in their final moments; their bodies, said Tim’s sister, Tricia, are being donated to the University of North Texas Health Science Center for medical research.

“I don’t know how one would have survived without the other,” Tricia reflected. “They’re together. Neither one of them had to grieve for the other one. For them, it was perfect.”

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Louise Chambers is a writer, born and raised in London, England. She covers inspiring news and human interest stories.
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