Don and Maxine Simpson of Bakersfield met while bowling – he was a civil engineer from North Dakota, she was a local gal – and the pair married a few years later. Over the course of their decades together, they adopted two sons and were involved with local organizations like the Rotary Club, while still making time for travel.
Their family says that, over the years, the couple remained inseparable.
"All Don wanted was to be with his beautiful wife," granddaughter Melissa Sloan told KERO News. "He adored my grandmother, loved her to the end of the Earth."
Years ago, Maxine was diagnosed with cancer, and over the summer her condition rapidly worsened. After Don broke his hip in a bad fall in July, their granddaughters decided to move them into the same room in the family home.
"We kept them together and had their beds side by side," Melissa Sloan said.
The couple spent their final weeks together holding hands, looking at old family photos.
Their family suspected the pair might die together, a phenomenon backed up by recent scientific research. As the American Heart Association has found, a person really can die of a broken heart.
The family turned out to be correct, as the Simpsons eventually died on the same day.
Maxine was the first to go, passing away as she held Don's hand.
As the family was taking Maxine away, Don passed too.
"He quit breathing as soon as she left the room," Sloan said. He died four hours after his wife.
For the family, it was a bittersweet occasion.
"I know in my heart this is what's supposed to happen," Sload told KERO News. "They left this world together."
New Line / Everett