State News

NC couple married for 70 years dies just hours apart

Posted September 10

WRAL News

— After learning her husband of 70 years had died, Rachel Holcomb told a nurse: "My husband passed away today, but it's all going to be OK."

A few hours later, she died peacefully in her sleep.

"To have spent 70 years married and then to die so close together, I thought it was beautiful," said their daughter, Jewell Park.

It was a tale of love only Nicholas Sparks could've concocted, as James, 97, and Rachel Holcomb, 89, of Elkin, who spent most of their lives together, died about 12 hours apart on July 26 and 27.

They hadn't seen each other in a week as Rachel was being treated for pneumonia at Chatham Rehabilitation Center in Elkin and James, who had dementia, was at home with family.

Park said her dad would ask where his wife went, but he didn't believe family members when they told him she was at the hospital. He thought she had already passed away, Park said.

"They were holding on for each other," Park said. "My dad could not stand for her to be out of his sight. When my dad thought she was gone, he felt like he could go, too."

The couple met in the 1940s and had been together ever since.

The day James came home from World War II, his father took him to Mount Airy to buy him a suit, not knowing that mundane task would change his son's life.

In pursuit of a necktie to match, James stopped at J.C. Penney in Elkin while his father went to town to pay some bills.

Rachel was working at the store counter.

"She went home and told her mom she met a single guy and she didn't know a thing about him, but if he asked her out, she'd give him a date," Park said. "My dad told us years later that he never did like that necktie, but he liked the girl."

The two went on a double date with some mutual friends and the rest is history. They were married in May of 1947.

James went to college and became a teacher, and later principal, in Wilkes, Yadkin and Surry county schools for 36 years.

Rachel became a stay-at-home mom after the birth of her four children, Randall Holcomb, Wanda Kennedy, Angela Townsend and Jewell Park, all of whom are now married.

Park and her husband, Benny Park, have been married for 46 years, she said, a testament to her upbringing in the shadow of her parents' love, she said.

"Every morning, he kissed her good-bye and left for work and every evening, he kissed her hello," Park said. "My dad always said he married the most beautiful girl in the country. We come from a long line of love."

James, born in 1920, was stern but loving and an active member of Little Elkin Baptist Church, their oldest daughter Kennedy said. Rachel, born in 1927, was the perfect mother, meticulously organized and always there when her kids needed her.

"They were always loving, wonderful, kind people to everyone," said Kennedy, who has been married for 49 years. "You could always see their love for each other and for the family."

A joint funeral was held for the couple on July 29 with full military honors and the presence of their family members.

The couple had four children, five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

While her parents spent the last week of their lives apart, Park said they'll spend eternity hand-in-hand.

"I know they are in heaven together. My daddy has her mind back and my mom has her health and they have each other," she said. "How much more wonderful could heaven be?"

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Information from: Winston-Salem Journal

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