A Texas couple married for 30 years and hospitalized with Covid-19 held hands when they both died on Sunday, their family says.
Paul Blackwell, 61, and Rosemary Blackwell, 65 – longtime teachers from the Grand Prairie Independent School District – died just minutes apart at Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, two of their sons told NBC News.
The couple contracted the virus almost a week before Thanksgiving. “It took its toll on them pretty quickly,” son Shawn Blackwell said of his parents after they started showing symptoms.
He said his mother was short of breath at night and did not sleep. His father was on the couch for four days. Their deteriorating circumstances forced them to miss Thanksgiving with their children for the first time.
“There hasn’t been one Thanksgiving that we’ve never spent together,” said son Brandon Blackwell.
The Friday after the holiday, the couple was admitted to the hospital, where they would fight for their lives for the next few weeks.
“It was difficult to have them in the hospital,” said Shawn Blackwell.
The brothers could not physically see their parents and could only video chat with them. Their dad broke up during one of those video calls and said he didn’t think he was going to make it.
“They weren’t overly cheerful during their hospital stay,” Brandon Blackwell said. “But only us, I know, offered them some kind of comfort. I was just glad they could see our faces. “
Shortly after video calls with their children, the Blackwells were transferred to intensive care.
“My little brother Shawn spoke to my mom right before she was intubated and I was able to talk to my dad right before he was intubated, so it was crazy how that worked,” Brandon Blackwell said.
The next time the sons would see their parents, they would be on their deathbed.
“My dad wouldn’t make it too much longer and my mom was right behind him,” said Shawn Blackwell. After consulting the doctors, the family made the difficult decision to end their livelihoods.
Paul and Rosemary Blackwell died while holding hands – and the hands of Shawn and Brandon Blackwell, finally able to see their parents in person.
“It was definitely the hardest decision we’ve ever had to make in all of our lives, but knowing that they are together and the wonderful parents they were, we gave them a great job,” said Shawn Blackwell. “We wish it hadn’t happened to our parents, but we do feel a little better that they are both together.”
The couple spent their careers as dedicated educators. Paul Blackwell was a gym teacher, mentor and coach at Fannin Middle School for five years. Before that, he taught at the Young Men’s Leadership Academy at Kennedy Middle School. Rosemary Blackwell was a second grade teacher at Travis World Language Academy and was the school’s longest-running teacher.
“Rosemary and Paul will be greatly missed by many. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families, friends, colleagues and students, both current and former, ”Grand Prairie Independent School District said in a statement to NBC News.
“They absolutely loved their job,” said Brandon Blackwell. ‘I tried to retire my mom years ago and she just said,’ No, I love what I’m doing. She drove 45 minutes to work at 6:30 a.m. for 20 years. “
The family said Rosemary Blackwell would finally retire this year, along with her husband, to enjoy their grandchildren – all 20.
“They’re in their 60s,” said Shawn Blackwell, “they had many years to come.”
The family is unsure how the couple contracted the virus. “They were afraid of the virus and took every precaution,” said Brandon Blackwell.
“You see your parents as superheroes and as the ones who are always there for you, and there’s nothing that should ever happen to them that’s bad, and we really have a big dose of reality,” said Shawn Blackwell.
The sons say they take comfort in the fact that they can be with their parents in their last moments – and that their parents can be together until the end.
“It gave us a sense of closure that they were both going together because frankly it would have been weird to have one without the other,” said Shawn Blackwell.
An online fundraiser has been set up to help cover funeral expenses for the Blackwells.