After Almost 60 Years of Marriage, This Missouri Couple Stayed Collectively to the Finish

Arthur Kelley might barely increase his voice above a whisper final fall when he informed a nursing assistant he by no means needed his spouse, Maggie, to be alone. After virtually 60 years of marriage, 5 kids and a lifetime stuffed with extra victories than defeat, Kelley needed to be there for his ailing spouse, even when she didn’t know he was there.

He acquired to be there for her. However like so many different individuals who have died of covid-19, he died with out his household.

Dementia had stripped Maggie Kelley of her reminiscence, so her household had moved her right into a nursing dwelling in 2015. Arthur, who had acquired look after Parkinson’s illness at dwelling, moved to the identical facility within the St. Louis suburbs two years later to be nearer to Maggie.

“It was a literal option to go be there with Mother,” stated their youngest son, Kevin Kelley. “He actually desired to be there.”

Their mother and father shared meals, watched tv and slept in the identical room for 3 years. They had been separated solely as soon as, when Maggie, 81, contracted an asymptomatic case of covid early in August.

“He protected her like Superman protects Lois Lane,” stated their oldest daughter, Lisa Kelley-Tate. “That’s how he was together with her.”

Arthur and Maggie Kelley celebrating an anniversary main the Higher Religion Missionary Baptist Church. The couple died 30 days aside in 2020. A double funeral marked the tip of practically 60 years collectively as a married couple.(Derrick Varner)

Arthur, 80, would usually ask when he might see his spouse once more.

“He needed to verify he didn’t cross earlier than she did,” Kelley-Tate stated a staffer on the nursing dwelling informed her. “It was his job to verify he was there for her. Possibly he knew then that his time wasn’t going to be lengthy.”

Maggie completed her quarantine they usually reunited. However solely briefly. She died of problems of dementia on Nov. 2.

That afternoon, Arthur held her hand so long as he might. When Kelley-Tate arrived, he was nonetheless holding on, so she took her mom’s different hand. She fastidiously painted Maggie’s nails purple, her favourite colour. However Arthur nonetheless needed extra time with Maggie.

“It took some time earlier than he had me name the mortician to return choose her up,” Kelley-Tate recalled. “He stated, ‘I need her right here with me just a bit longer.’”

Maggie and Arthur grew up collectively in Coffeeville, Mississippi, a small city about 90 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee. Maggie was the daughter of a trainer and a farmer. Arthur helped his household run its dry-cleaning enterprise. He additionally realized to play the piano effectively sufficient to carry out in juke joints and church buildings.

Their relationship bloomed in highschool. Arthur took Maggie to the promenade earlier than they headed off to school. Maggie attended two traditionally Black schools in Mississippi: what’s now generally known as Alcorn State College in Lorman and Rust School in Holly Springs. Arthur left the South for the Midwest, the place he attended Southern Illinois College in Carbondale.

After their wedding ceremony on June 3, 1961, in Coffeeville — Maggie walked down the aisle in a lace costume with a sweetheart neckline; Arthur wore a white jacket and a large grin — the couple determined to place down roots in St. Louis. Their lives revolved across the kids they quickly had, church and music. Maggie taught elementary faculty and took care of the youngsters whereas Arthur studied speech pathology.

“They’d at all times speak about how they’d work collectively,” stated their youngest daughter, Gina Kelley. “They labored as a workforce.”

The couple attended Central Excessive College in Coffeeville, Mississippi, a small city about 90 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee. Maggie graduated with the category of 1956. Arthur earned his highschool diploma in 1957. (Kelley Household)
Arthur Kelley grew to become the pastor of Higher Religion Missionary Baptist Church in north St. Louis in 1977. Arthur and Maggie Kelley pose for a photograph within the early Nineteen Nineties on the church. (Erma Moore)

Arthur grew to become the pastor of Higher Religion Missionary Baptist Church in 1977. He juggled life as a speech pathologist and minister, their kids stated. Maggie, who at this level was dwelling elevating the children full time, established a routine for them that included prayer time, gospel music and home-cooked meals, together with her beloved “Heath bar cake.”

Arthur and Maggie Kelley stayed devoted to one another, in good occasions and unhealthy. One in every of their hardest moments was the loss of life of their 3-year-old son, Arthur Jr.

Of their ultimate years, each struggled with their well being, however they by no means complained about their circumstances. They leaned on their religion as an alternative as he pushed via the challenges attributable to Parkinson’s illness whereas her dementia progressed.

“At occasions, I stated if my father had my mother’s physique and my mother had my father’s mind we’d be all good,” their son Kyle Kelley stated.

After Maggie died, Arthur helped his kids make funeral preparations for her. He picked out her casket, after which he chosen one for himself. Two of his kids lifted him out of a chair so he might see the within.

“He stated, ‘I like that,’” Kelley-Tate recalled. “I stated, ‘OK, we’ll hold that in thoughts,’ not considering it might occur 30 days later.”

He too had contracted covid, one of many greater than half-million nursing dwelling residents nationwide to catch the contagious virus. Arthur needed to attend his spouse’s service, so his household determined to carry off on the funeral till he acquired higher.

He by no means recovered. Precisely one month after Maggie’s loss of life, he died within the covid ward of a close-by hospital. No household was allowed to be with him. A nurse referred to as Kelley-Tate by video after he died.

However the household got here collectively for what was now a double funeral with the caskets shut to one another — the mauve one Arthur had picked for Maggie and the mahogany casket he had picked for himself.

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