Married for 70 years but separated by COVID-19, Mich. couple dies just hours apart

DETROIT — A metro Detroit couple married more than 70 years passed away within just hours of each other, something their son calls a blessing.

The two were never apart until this pandemic hit and, sadly, were not able to spend their final days together.

“They never saw it in each other’s eyes, the pain of dying,” their son Marc Shindler said of his 92- and 91-year-old parents, Lester and Lillian Shindler. “They went together.”

Lillian and Lester Shindler

The couple met in high school and Lester bought Brody’s Camp Supplies and custom printing in 1969.

“My father was a legend. Everyone stands up and says, ‘Mr. Brody! Mr. Brody!’ People knew him.”

Lester built up the business and opened up a second store in West Bloomfield 10 years later. Marc worked closely with his father and describes it as a bit of a circus.

“It’s an old-time run business. We sold everything from tube socks to underwear to bar mitzvah suits to camping supplies. If you needed it, we had it; if we didn’t have it you didn’t need it.”

Although, if they didn’t have it, Marc says his father would order it and hand-deliver.

Business was booming and Lester and Lillian fell deeper in love each day.

“The reason they got married July 4 is because the store was closed,” Marc said. “They worked together. They lived together. They traveled together; they did everything together.”

As the years passed, Lillian was later diagnosed with dementia. But while she was in the nursing home she would still see her husband regularly. But once the pandemic hit that just wasn’t possible anymore.

“Everything was, ‘Where is Lester? Where’s Lester?’ With her dementia, she wanted to know where Lester was.”

Last month, Marc says his father broke his leg and had to have surgery. Lester was sent for rehab at another nursing home and that’s where, just a few days ago, Lester contracted COVID-19. Lester was taken to the hospital but decided he did not want to be put on a ventilator.

When Lillian heard the news she refused to eat or take her medicine.

Marc says his father died from the virus just a few days later. But, within hours, Lillian, let go as well.

“My father always said to my mother, ‘Come on, Lil, let’s go. We gotta get going. We gotta go to the movies; we gotta go to dinner.’ So he died at 2:30 in the morning, I feel that when he died he came here and he said to my mother, ‘Let’s go, Lil!’ – and they went together.”

The community is now rallying around the Shindler family.

Marc is, of course, grief-stricken but overwhelmed by the kindness and the thought that his parents are finally back together.

“We love you, we miss you and we’re going to continue to be like you were.”

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