WAUWATOSA — Mary and Wilford Kepler were together for 73 years. Through sickness and health. However, death would only part them for six hours.
Both died from COVID-19 related complications Saturday.
"Our family lost the glue that holds us together," said granddaughter Natalie Lameka.
The couple was key in keeping the tight-knit family together. However, their bond with one another grew stronger each of their 73-years together and they knew it.
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"It was definitely hard. but it was bittersweet," Lameka said.
The family doesn't know how the couple contracted COVID-19. Mary and Wilford were taken to Froedtert Hospital after finding out.
Mary died six hours after Wilford.
Siblings Natalie and Spencer Lameka were the last two family members to see the pair in person during their final days. One person, per one patient, according to hospital visitation rules. Other family members and loved ones were called on FaceTime and video chat software.
"They were able to say, 'I love you,'" Natalie Lameka recalled.
Unlike many COVID-19 patients, Mary and Wilford had each other physically during COVID-19 treatment. Hospital staff safely placed their beds beside one another.
“They had been holding hands and that was just heartbreaking to hear but also heartwarming to hear. And we were just so thankful they were together and were aware they were together," Natalie Lameka said.
Lameka said Mary would refer to the Froedtert staff as "angels" who would take care of her during her treatment.
No funeral arrangements have been made as of the publishing of this story. The family said they do plan to celebrate Wilford and Mary's lives sometime in the future.