Canton husband and wife married 70 years die of COVID-19 one day apart

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CANTON, Ohio (WJW) — A Northeast Ohio husband and wife, married for 70 years, both die within 24 hours of each other from COVID-19. They spent their final moments together in the same hospital room on Christmas Day. Their son says their love story did not have the happy ending they deserved.

“They had a great life, but a lousy ending, and that’s the resentment and anger part about COVID,” said Richard Payne, Jr.

Richard and Pauline Payne, Senior were married in July of 1950. They grew up in Canton, and raised two sons.

“They built a brand new home, and before they had a chance to occupy it, it burned to the ground,” said Payne, Jr.

They quickly rebuilt their home and their life together. Richard Senior was a truck driver, after serving in the Marine Corps at the end of World War Two. Pauline was a secretary. Their eldest son says his parents were grounded in faith and family, but they would endure yet another tragedy.

“My brother passed away at a very young age, he was 31 and that left a hole in their hearts that never really healed,” he said.

Richard, Jr. says grandchildren began to fill the void. About three years ago, his father needed nursing home care, his mother joined him last February.

“Miraculously, that nursing home was able to keep COVID out until December and once it snuck in, it was like a brushfire,” he said.

Dec. 13, Rick got a call that both of his parents tested positive for COVID-19. Both ended up in the hospital, but he felt their fighting spirit would help them pull through.

“It just became a series of bad news events, every day their status got a little bit worse each day,” he said.

The Paynes were moved into the same room, the hospital staff suggested hospice care. After a few more days, unable to visit in person, Rick had to say goodbye … virtually.

“A Zoom call with her … that, without a doubt, was the toughest conversation I will ever have, cause it’s the last time you’re gonna be able to say goodbye,” said Payne Jr.

Christmas Day, Pauline died at age 91.  Rick Senior passed away 24 hours later, a month shy of turning 93.

“I was the sole surviving son, I needed to be there, I wanted to be there, couldn’t be there … it’s extremely painful, even thinking about it now,” he said.

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