Couple dies from COVID-19 holding hands, within four minutes of each other in Rowan Co., N.C.

Couple’s son doesn’t want anyone else to have the same experience
Published: Sep. 11, 2020 at 11:17 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 11, 2020 at 12:51 PM EDT
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ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - A husband and wife, married for 48 years, died within four minutes of each other, holding hands, in the hospital in Salisbury one week ago from COVID-19. Their funeral was held Wednesday.

“They were married 48 years, been together 50, they walked hand in hand for those 50 years,” said son Shane Peoples.

One week ago, Shane Peoples says he was cheated. His mom and dad, 67-year-old Johnny Lee Peoples and 65-year-old Cathy Darlene Peoples died from COVID-19. It marked the end of a thirty-day ordeal of both parents contracting the virus, rapidly declining, and then dying. It started with his mother, just days away from retirement.

“It was mainly the fever and loss of taste,” Peoples said. “My dad starting showing symptoms two days later. About two weeks later they were both put in the ICU. Everything just went south, everything just got worse.”

And when the end was in sight, Shane says the hospital staff did what it could to bring the couple together.

“The next day they put them in the same room, same ICU room, they put their hands together, the nurses gathered around and they passed within four minutes of each other,” Peoples said.

The funeral was held outside, socially distanced, on Wednesday morning.

Shane says if there’s a takeaway for his family from all they’ve experienced, it’s that people need to understand that in some cases, COVID-19 is a killer.

“It’s not a joke. It’s not a hoax,” Peoples said. “I just don’t want anyone else to get hurt. I don’t want anyone to feel the grief that we’re feeling.”

He poured out in his heart in a widely read Facebook post:

"We were cheated. The lives of Mom and Dad were stolen by a virus that many joke about on a daily basis or just straight out believe it’s a hoax of some sort. Both of them took this pandemic seriously and still got sick, still died...

I told myself when I started this, I would not do so in anger, but for the love they inspired me to give.

So, let’s change course.

My parents weren’t just a blessing for me, my brother, my sister, our spouses, and our children. They were a blessing to every person that met them. My mom had the most beautiful soul of anyone you could have met. She was very generous with the love she had for everyone. If she didn’t love you or have love for you, something was wrong with you.

I’m not sure if my dad ever met a stranger, he could strike up a conversation with anyone and make them smile. He went years coaching youth sports and loved helping these children become better people.

They both loved their family very much and did anything and everything they could possibly do for them. Their love for family was greatest when it came to their grandchildren, nine of them in total. They wanted the best for their grandchildren, they would go out of their way just to make each one of them feel special. I had some pretty darn awesome parents.

I miss them so very much. I’m not sure how I’m going to deal without being about to talk to them every night on my ride home from work or not being able to send them pictures and videos of my family. I’ll never be able to hug them, again. I’ll never hear Mom sing happy birthday to anyone, again. I’ll never see them smile when they see Liam and Ava come in the room. They won’t get to see their grandchildren grow up, or see many of their grandchildren graduate.

I know a lot of people believe they have/had the most loving, most caring, affectionate, and devoted parents, but they are wrong. That’s my parents. I only wish I could fill their shoes.

Hold your family close. Treat every moment with them like it’s your last, it could very well be. Love and keep on loving.

I just wish everyone could see them through my eyes. You would see the two most loving and caring couple, ever. Without them, this world just got a bit more gloomy.

Sorry this was so long.

Love all of you.

Wear a mask.

Wash your hands.

Practice social distancing.

Be kind to each other."

Shane Peoples says the family kept hoping, kept praying that his parents would be okay, they never expected that they wouldn’t make it, “…they died together holding hands and walked into Heaven holding hands.”

The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Dr. Shashi’s genetic sequencing research in the Department of Pediatrics, Duke University School of Medicine. Please make checks payable to Duke University and mail to Duke Health Development, Attn: Culver Scales, 300 W. Morgan Street, Suite 1200, Durham, NC 27707 in honor of Johnny & Darlene Peoples.

Ava & Liam Peoples are two of seven children in the world who are currently participating in this research study.

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