In honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, we’re sharing a story about how love conquered all for one dedicated couple who had been through everything — including Alzheimer’s disease — and celebrated the last year of their 67 years of marriage together in assisted living.
Learn more about the couple — the grandparents of author Caitlin Burm — and how their love transcended all bounds, in addition to the role assisted living played in their relationship, this Valentine’s Day.
A Lifetime of Love
There aren’t many couples who are fortunate enough to celebrate 67 years of marriage — let alone begin and end the day holding hands. But, that was a typical day for Bill and Marilyn Cole, who always stood by each other’s side.
The Coles spent a lifetime together, meeting through mutual friends when Bill was an 18-year-old and Marilyn was 16. They went out to dinner and then to a movie together on their first date, and although they recall not having a lot to talk about, they both knew it was love.
“He was very handsome, but quiet… He did tell me that I was beautiful and that I had nice skin,” Marilyn says. Their courtship soon began, and their engagement followed not too long after.
Bill says of his proposal:
“I told her I loved her and that I wanted to be with her all the time.”
The Coles were married six months after their first date, on January 31, 1948.
They started their lives together and then raised eight children on a farm in Hartford City, Indiana, spending most of their lives there before traveling west years later to retire in Tucson, Arizona to be near their children and grandchildren.
Love in Assisted Living
After many years together filled with great memories, the Coles began to experience more health issues with age. They required more and more care until they moved into assisted living together in Tucson, for additional assistance with their conditions.
In 2010, it became noticeable that Marilyn was becoming more forgetful, but it wasn’t until the last five years that she was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Staying true to their lifetime of commitment and love, Bill became Marilyn’s caregiver, and chose to move into memory care to stay by the side of his wife of 67 years.
Bill experienced the ups and downs of the disease as it continued to advance in Marilyn, causing her to have difficulty recalling memories and recognizing family and friends. He passed away in 2015, but one thing that never wavered was their love for one another.
Even on the worst days, Marilyn would stay by Bill, and he was there to care for her and tell her he loved her, no matter what condition he was in.
Bill and Marilyn’s love for each other truly conquered all, and this Valentine’s Day, I will celebrate them by taking the time to reflect on the lessons that my grandparents and their love have taught me in my own marriage.
If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that their love transcended all bounds — and that they have given new meaning to the vow: “To love and to cherish… for as long as we both shall live.”
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