Always together in life, husband and wife of 64 years die hours apart in Detroit Lakes

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John and Anne Alexander were always together after 64 years of marriage, rarely doing anything without their spouse at their side.

"They were just so close," said their daughter, Nancy Alexander.

That's why it wasn't exactly a shock to the family that they died together at Ecumen Nursing Home in Detroit Lakes, Anne at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, and John at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, April 20.

"I think he wanted her to have her own day and then he had his own day, too," said Kate Anderson, one of the couple's six surviving children.

Family and friends will gather for a visitation and prayer service Monday, April 24, and burial the following day in Detroit Lakes.

Going together

John, 88, was born Jan. 12, 1929, growing up on the family farm outside of Detroit Lakes. After serving in the U.S. Army for one year, he came home in 1952, working for Burlington Northern Santa Fe before going back home to work with his father.

He married Anne on Aug. 7, 1952, at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, the church they continued to attend regularly even as their health began to decline as they got older.

Anne, 84, was born Feb. 23, 1933, in Ogema, Minn. After graduating from Waubun High School in 1951, she married John and started their family of seven children, but she also found time to work as a waitress.

They spent most of their years as a married couple on their farm east of Detroit Lakes. When Anne's health began to deteriorate after more than a year of dialysis treatments, as well as John's prostate cancer diagnosis about a year ago, Anderson said they moved into an assisted living facility last fall.

Anne got to a point this spring where it was hard for her to get through grueling dialysis three times a week, and after she only could handle one hour of the treatment on April 3, Anderson said they decided to stop entirely. John, too, was impacted by that decision.

"When he knew mom was going to be leaving, then he just gave up himself," she said.

The couple moved into Ecumen Nursing Home in late March, occupying two rooms just across the hall from each other.

Hospice nurses called the siblings early last week, telling them John would likely only make it a couple more days and it was time to say their goodbyes. Nancy Alexander and her sister, Jackie Voeller, drove to the nursing home last Wednesday to visit their parents.

But instead of John going first, Anne died that afternoon. John was already out of it at that point, Anderson said, but they told him the news. The next morning, he died.

"It's a sad deal, but it's a happy one, too, knowing that they got to go out like they wanted, together," she said.

Anderson said it was a relief in some ways to know her parents aren't suffering anymore, something that Voeller also has taken comfort in since that back-to-back loss last week.

"I'm glad they could go together because being together this long, it's kind of unusual that they would go that soon," she said. "Just with mother's failing, I'm sure dad just gave up, too."

Voeller described her parents as "fun-loving" and busy people who loved playing cards, going to the casino and visiting with friends and relatives any chance they got.

"They loved life," she said.

The Alexanders are survived by six children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, not to mention a lifetime's worth of memories that their family and friends will carry on after their loss.

"It's pretty special how it went down," Anderson said.