Couple married 72 years dies holding hands

From Iowa, a story of endless love.


Family said the story of Gordon, 94, and Norma Yeager, 90, is a real-life love story.

On the day she graduated from high school, Norma Stock said yes to Gordon Yeager’s marriage proposal. The couple got married on May 26, 1939 in State Center.

“They’re very old-fashioned. They believed in marriage til death do you part,” said son Dennis Yeager.

Dennis Yeager was the youngest of four children born to the couple. His sister Donna was first born.

“Staying together for 72 years is good, I’d say that’s exceptional,” said daughter Donna Sheets.

The way the kids tell it, dad was the life of the party while mom kept everything together.

“Anybody come over — she was the hostess with the mostess. She just seriously — the more she did — the more she smiled,” said Dennis Yeager. “Dad would be the center of attention, like, ‘Weee look at me,’ and mom was like ‘get him away from me!’ You know we even got a picture like that.”

Norma didn’t really want the distance, and family said she hardly left Gordon’s side for 72 years.

“They just loved being together. Everybody argues once in awhile, but they still, he said ‘I have to stick around. I can’t go until she does because I have to stay here for her and she would say the same thing,'” said Dennis Yeager.

Dennis Yeager said the couple left home last Wednesday to go into town, but they didn’t make it.

At the intersection of Highway 30 and Jessup Avenue just west of Marshalltown, state troopers said Gordon pulled in front of an oncoming car. The Iowa State Patrol crash report said the other driver attempted to avoid the crash but was unable to stop in time.

“I rushed from Des Moines where I was working and saw them in the hospital,” said Dennis Yeager.

In the intensive care unit of Marshalltown’s hospital, nurses knew not to separate Gordon and Norma.

“They brought them in the same room in intensive care and put them together — and they were holding hands in ICU. They were not really responsive,” said Dennis Yeager.

Gordon died at 3:38 p.m. holding hands with his wife as the family they built surrounded them.

“It was really strange, they were holding hands, and dad stopped breathing but I couldn’t figure out what was going on because the heart monitor was still going,” said Dennis Yeager. “But we were like, he isn’t breathing. How does he still have a heart beat? The nurse checked and said that’s because they were holding hands and it’s going through them. Her heart was beating through him and picking it up.”

“They were still getting her heartbeat through him,” said Donna Sheets.

At 4:38 p.m., exactly one hour after Gordon died, Norma passed too.

“Neither one of them would’ve wanted to be without each other. I couldn’t figure out how it was going to work,” said Donna Sheets. “We were very blessed, honestly, that they went this way.”

“They just loved being together,” said Dennis Yeager.

God bless them both.

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29 responses to “Couple married 72 years dies holding hands”

  1. Did I understand this right? A 94-year-old man was driving, caused an accident which killed himself and his 90-year-old wife, and everybody thinks this is just peachy? This is horrible. Why was he driving at the age of 94? How irresponsible were this couple’s children to allow their parents to be driving at that age? Others might have been killed as well; would it have been such a neat story if the driver of the other car had also been killed?

    When I realized my dad could no longer drive safely at the age of 86, I took his car keys away, as kindly and tactfully as I possibly could, but I made sure he was not endangering himself and others on the road.

  2. Kate is right; but we should lighten up a little I guess (with all respect).

    As far as dying together with my wife at age 90’ish, well I’d like that way out, hopefully not on a car wreck though, better from natural causes in bed at home.

  3. People age differently. Some in their 90s may be better than far younger people on the road. Unfortunately, in most parts of this country due to lack of public transportation, taking away someone’s keys also takes away their independence and perhaps their zeal for life. I hope kids who take away their parents keys are available to take them wherever they want to go at any time they want to go or else have a chauffeur on call. Some 90 year olds are still driving themselves to the golf course every day the weather is decent and shooting a round of golf that would put young whippersnappers to shame!

  4. Accidents happen daily. The fact that he was in his 90’s has nothing to do with it. You do not know this man and his mental status, nor do you know their children. Do not judge. Take the story in context, it is a story of love. A story of two people who stayed together for life and God allowed them to stay together even in death.

  5. Hi Deacon Greg,
    Great article.

    My note is on the site rather than the post. I am not sure if you know that Patheos is serving up ads about budhism on your page. Not sure if you have control – it may be the cost to going to Patheos, but maybe you do have some influence so I thought you should know. It is one of the things that I have disliked about the Catholic blogs that have moved to Patheos – sometimes inappropriate ads get served up.

  6. we have been married for 56 years and that’s not a bad way to end it. glad no one else was hurt in the crash.

  7. Some accidents shouldn’t happen. Drivers with suspended (or under review) licenses, who crash and kill people…are not heros. And their story is tragic, not romantic. What’s romantic about medical staff pushing beds together, linking hands of two dying patients? It’s not like they *chose* to hold hands. It’s not like they died in their sleep, at home, together. He killed her. Fact.

  8. Respectfully to pagansister: if what you mean is that they are still together “as a couple”, as we commonly understand that to be here on earth, they are not, but rather are now, let us pray, accepted into heaven, and are part of the communion of saints, all aware of one another’s presence but all focused on the Lamb and not on one another. Christ is the only spouse in heaven for the souls there.

    “And Jesus answering, said to them: You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.
    For in the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married; but shall be as the angels of God in heaven.”

    That said, may the blood of Christ save these two souls as well as us all! Ave, Maria.

  9. Irene and I celebrated our 70th Anniversary yesterday 19 Oct. At 92 I will compare my driving skills against anybody. I am buying a new car tomorrow.

  10. Jack, if you are a skilled/safe driver, with an unrestricted license to drive…fantastic. Unfortunately, Gordon didn’t have that.

  11. Kate.. who cares about the age…we didnt know him, heck Im 37 and i found older folks who still drive better then me.. i live next to a retirement center.. a couple of them still drive everyday to volunteer their time and i never seen them in a accident.

    And hey Dina… where did you get the “Drivers with suspended (or under review) licenses” thing?? I read the article a couple times after i saw your post.. just stick to the fact.. not the bitterness your showing..sorry your life sucked because of whatever..

    I can only hope that I have a love that lasts like this..

  12. The full story reports that the 94 year old man was already in the process of having his license revoked by the local transportation authority or DMV.

    This man should not have been behind the wheel, and knowing he was already considered unfit to drive, he should have done the moral and proper thing and refrained from getting behind the wheel.

    As the result of his immoral, criminally negligent behavior, a woman lies in the hospital with a broken neck, her husband distraught. Guess their retirement years won’t be as cute and sweet as this couple’s.

    Let’s not glorify this couple because they were married 72 years. Yes, they got their wish to die together, but at what cost to another couple?

  13. Yes, there is tragedy mixed with this love story. While one family bereaves of their loss of two elderly members of their famiy, another man grieves at the injuries of his wife.
    Sometimes, older people don’t realize that they are no longer functioning well. It’s not like Gordon decided to take a long distance trip, but a short drive that he probably was acquainted with all his life. It’s quite possible that he might have had a mini-stroke at the time.
    Everday, when I’m on the road people make poor driving choices, and I’m just lucky that one of my poor choices didn’t cause a major accident or that I was super alert to avert someone’s poor choice.
    Although it is sad to see both parties affected by tragedy, let us pray for the Clapsaddles, and let us honor a couple that honored each other and their vows.

  14. Thank you Lita. Alex, I didn’t make this up…I just read a story with more details (a story that actually included the fact that his driving ability was questioned and his license pending suspension). If anyone drive’s knowing they’re impaired (and sometimes even if they don’t realize it, such as a drunk driver) I would still wonder where ‘romance’ fit into killing your wife, and injuring someone else. Has nothing to do with your assumption of MY life.

    The article isn’t about us….it’s sensationizing a guy who really showed a lack of judgment and a family who probably should have intervened before the tragedy.

  15. @ Kate you are so right…only 94 year olds get in car accidents. I guess it’s good for you 1 less off the road.

  16. I work in a nursing home and I see on a daily basis whar just
    the basic things elderly people need to feel some what human
    still. yes he should not of been driving. yes people died and
    was hurt. NO he did not plan to hurt nobody. he just couldnt
    or wouldnt let go of his sense to do what we do every day.
    its easy to say take his keys away but in doing that u take away
    theire life. no they shouldnt be allowed to drive and kill
    people but at least do it in a understanding way and
    dont be so quick to judge until u have ur whole life takin

  17. Kate, Rudy, Dina, & Lita…I just wonder if you respond this way about every accident you read, whether it be from a younger or older driver. The gentleman lived 94 years probably without causing an accident & unfortunately this happens, you 4 are pathetic…& for you & your responce Dina about saying “wonder where “romance” fit into killing your wife”…your a piece work to make a heartless stupid comment like that…if you truly think that, your an idiot….no wait…you are an idiot for stating that.

  18. A wonderful sentiment, and the probabilities of being in an accident arrived at their “number” unfortunately

    I would like to say also that 1) we should all be concerned more about avoiding harm to others while driving than we are about retaining our independence in driving; 2) we should all be concerned more about being charitable in our writing than in expressing our emotional feelings and sinful natures.

    Let’s listen more, counsel rather than criticize, say what people need for their salvation.

    Thank you Deacon for this article.


  19. Skeet, if the accident has a ‘person at fault’ then, yes, its entirely appropriate to ask ‘what happened, and can it be prevented in the future?’ Regardless of age. 94y with suspended license…who made a choice (like a drunk driver would) to get behind the wheel of a car….should be a situation that society evaluates. Maybe these types of evaluations (and subsequent implementation of rules/protocols) will prevent you (or your wife, or your child) from getting hurt/killed by an impaired driver (no matter their age).

    And for people to state the obvious…doesn’t make them ‘pathetic’ or heartless. And to question the ‘media spin’ on this horrible tragedy, doesn’t make them an “idiot” or “a piece of work.” It makes for a great discussion, a consideration of another point of view, and maybe even…a bit of enlightenment beyond the words on the computer screen.

    It’s okay to question what you’ve been told. It’s okay to question the romanticism of a tragic act that hurts people…people uninvolved otherwise in the (assumed) good marriage of Gordon and Norma.

  20. Can’t we just accept that this is a beautiful ending to what seemed to be a beautiful life. I hope the Good Lord is as generous to my bride and I

  21. Kate and Rudy are right. One should never look for the silver lining. It’s only an illusion. Besides, the darkness of the cloud is the only reality that will eventually consume us all.

  22. If his license was pending suspension he shouldnt have been driving, if for medical condition,age,whatever. His wife is dead along with him,and the wife of the other couple is in the hospital with internal bleeding and a broken back!? Thats not heart warming! Its sad that the family couldnt take the time to make sure he was safe and didnt drive. Then they would be still alive, and the other party wouldnt be in the hospital. The heart warming part is that they stayed married for so long, and loved each other like they where just married. Most people are shallow and selfish and immature when they get married so they get divorced like it was a changing fad. And if you dont like that feel free to say something snarky and immature sitting there at your computer because that is my opinion on the subject.

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