Son shares memory of night Skokie couple of 69 years died 40 minutes apart

"I'm watching them wheel her out... and my father had stopped breathing, literally at that point."
SKOKIE, Ill. -- An Illinois couple who had been married for nearly 70 years died together, after Isaac and Teresa Vatkin were wheeled into the same room on Saturday, April 22, so they could be together as they took their last breaths.

Family members positioned Teresa, 89, and Isaac, 91, so that their hands touched in their final moments. They died just 40 minutes apart at Highland Park Hospital.

Their son, Leo Vatkin, tells Eyewitness News that the couple did everything together.

"They were always together," he said. "If someone came over, they were there together for them."

They were married in 1947 in their native Argentina and later moved to the Chicago area.

About 10 years ago, Teresa began suffering from dementia.

"He didn't want anyone to take care of her," said Leo, who lives in Old Bethpage on Long Island. "He wanted to take care of her."

The family eventually had to move them into an assisted-living facility. Isaac was overly protective of Teresa, and he had to be moved to another facility.

"First, they put him on a different floor," Leo said. "They had her in the memory care unit. They tried to have him on the same floor, but that's when it didn't work out. They put her on another floor, and he kept coming down on his own. So they had to move somewhere else."

Isaac was admitted to the hospital for the flu, and the next day, Teresa was admitted to the same hospital for pneumonia. They both started to fail, so the family brought them into the same room.

"We decided to put the parts of the bed on the inside down, and my niece went and put his hand over her hand in the middle," Leo said. "I guess we all felt they know they're together."

Just after midnight, Teresa passed away.

"As they separated them, their hands fell apart," Leo said. "I'm watching them wheel her out, and that's when my niece gasped. And I quickly turned around, and my father had stopped breathing, literally at that point."

The story about their passing went viral, and Leo said he has received and responded to messages from people all over the world.

"Someone was asking me, isn't this overwhelming, it's it too much?" he said. "And I say, if it helps some couple out there or someone going through a rough time to see that you can stay married, you can be in love. I think that's a good thing."
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