The West

Couple together 45 years die minutes apart
Couple together 45 years die minutes apart

A Florida couple who spent 45 years together died within minutes of each other on Saturday.

Naomi Shirley of Southwest Ranches, Fla., was on her way to visit her husband, Tom, in the hospital when she suffered a heart attack.

According to the couple's children, Tom Shirley, hospitalized with heart problems earlier Saturday, died shortly before his wife.

"Dad didn't know that she had passed, and she didn't know that he had passed," Troy Shirley, one of the couple's three sons, told the Sun Sentinel. "I don't understand it, but it's beautiful."

"He never knew she left and she never knew he was gone, but both left within 10 to 12 minutes of each other," Melanie Davis, the couple's daughter, told CBS Miami.

“You have to look at it in a romantic way," Troy said. "They did everything together."

Tom and Naomi Shirley both died of heart attacks within minutes of each other. Photo: CBS Miami

Tom Shirley, a retired game warden for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, was 83. Born in Texas, Tom moved to Florida when he was 3.

"He fell in love with the Everglades," Troy Shirley said. He wrote a book, “Everglades Patrol," about his experiences preserving wildlife.

"He lived to protect the Everglades," another son, Tommy Shirley, said. "He kind of molded us into what he did and we passed that on to our kids as well."

Naomi Shirley, a retired nurse, was 75.

“My mother loved fishing and the outdoors life and he was a game warden and that’s what attracted them to each other," Tommy Shirley said. "They both liked the same things."

The couple are survived by four children and eight grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the Shirley family is requesting donations be made to the Florida Wildlife Federation.

Stories of elderly couples dying in close succession are not unusual. In 2012, a Pennsylvania couple together for 65 years died just 88 minutes apart. The same year, a Florida couple who had been together for over six decades died within minutes of each other.

And just last month, an upstate New York couple — Floreen Hale, 82, and Ed Hale, 83 — died 36 hours apart, the Daily News reported. The pair, who had been in separate hospitals, were reunited so they could hold hands in their final hours.

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