Alex and Marie Willette's love was one that knew no boundaries.
They were a couple that couldn't stand to be apart. Marie Willette moved into Manatee Springs nursing home five years ago after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
Her husband, Alex, wasn't far behind his bride of 64 years.
"He became a patient so they could be roommates, and he could be by her side all the time," said Manatee Springs nurse Linda Burlang.
As Marie's health worsened, Alex's love only grew.
"Always go in there every morning, pinching her cheeks and whispering sweet nothings to her. She'd giggle or she'd go, 'Oh, stop that!" Burlang smiled.
Marie's mind wandered further away over her last three months, but an unspoken connection kept the two close.
"She couldn't say, ‘that's my husband.' But she would always brighten up as soon as he'd walk in, she'd perk up," Burlang said Thursday.
Alex said it was all about keeping a promise he made to Marie, or 'Mama' as he called her, on their wedding day in 1948: to protect and provide, ‘til death do us part.
"He told me one time, a week or so ago, he said, 'You know when Mama goes, I'm going to go right with her.' I said Alex, don't talk like that," said Shirley Heanue, who was close friends with Alex.
Marie Willette died at 7:50 pm on Sunday night. Alex kept his word, caring for her to the very end. He then passed away himself, at 8:15 Monday morning.
"He didn't want to leave her side, and I believe that she didn't want to go without him," said Manatee Springs' Kelly Fraser.
It was a love strong enough to keep the couple together for a lifetime, and to take them away just twelve hours apart.
"I don't think there were two people more in love than they are," Heanue said.
Alex and Marie Willette were married in rural Star Lake, New York, but lived in Bradenton since 1975. They are survived by their daughter and two sons, seven grandchildren, and another seven great-grandchildren.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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