After 63 years of marriage, Platte couple dies 20 minutes apart

Published: Aug. 7, 2016 at 1:03 PM CDT
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It's one of those stories that rarely comes around once in a lifetime. A story of an elderly man and woman with incredible faith and 63 years of marriage.

As their health got worse, their faith and love for God, their family and each other grew stronger until the very end.

After they married in 1953, the journey of life took Henry and Jeanette De Lange to Platte, South Dakota. He was a Korean War Veteran. She was a musician, worked at the Platte Care Center and took care of their five children.

It wasn't until Sunday, July 31, 2016 when their children got a call from the Platte Care Center.

"They said both your mom and dad aren't doing very well at all. Highly recommended that we get there as soon as we could," son Lee De Lange said.

Lee's mom, at 87 years-old, suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and had been in nursing home care since 2011.

"Dad visited mom once a day, twice, or maybe three times a day. It was very sweet," Lee said. "Wednesday or Thursday, she had stopped eating. She was dehydrated."

Henry, at 86 years-old, was battling Prostate Cancer.

"The VA was doing as much as they could until about 7-8 weeks ago. Said there isn't more they could do," Lee explained.

After some recent falls, Henry's condition worsened.

"He said, 'I need to go to the nursing home'. They put mom and dad in the same room which was very sweet," Lee said with a smile. "Wednesday, when we checked him in, he said 'I don't know how many more days I have Lee. How many more days the good Lord will have me here."

That time got sweeter because Henry and Jeanette were back together. On that Sunday, two of their five children were with them as well knowing there wasn't much time.

"[The doctor] said your dad's pulse is worse. I wonder if he'll go first," Lee said. "About five minutes later, the aid said I think your mom will go very soon. It was 5:05 p.m. at that point."

Not long after, at 5:10 p.m., she did.

"We read Psalm 103. We didn't quite get done. She passed away very, very peacefully. Incredibly peacefully."

"My brother Keith said to my dad, said 'mom's gone to heaven. You don't have to fight anymore, you can go too if you want'. He was laying in bed. He, for the first time, opened his eyes, looked intently over where mom was. Closed his eyes back down. Laid back down, died about 5 or 10 minutes after that," Lee said.

The clock on the wall said 5:30 p.m. when Henry went to heaven, twenty minutes after his beloved wife.

"We're calling it a beautiful act of God's providential love and mercy. You don't pray for it because it seems mean but you couldn't ask for anything more beautiful."

It doesn't end there; the clock told another story.

"[Karen] said 'the time was 5:10 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. and look at the clock'. So I looked at the clock and it said 5:30. That's odd. I looked at the watch on my wrist, it said 5:55 p.m.. It stopped at 5:30, the exact time dad passed away," Lee said.

The battery-operated clock on the wall stopped. Something they just can't explain.

"Amazing. A sign from God that was the right time."

Even the aid came in and said he's never seen anything like that in his 27-year career. It's what leaves the De Lange family at peace after losing Henry and Jeanette at about the same time.

"Mom and dad were Christians. They loved Christ. They wanted so badly to show their love for Christ that they loved one another. It's natural what they do. For them to be able to be a witness in life, also in death... That's cool. Really cool."

The De Lange family, friends and other community members will gather Monday to celebrate the lives of Henry and Jeanette De Lange.

The funeral is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. at the Platte Christian Reformed Church where the couple spent decades as devoted members. For a look at their joint obituary, click on the link to the right side of this page.