In 2015 This Woman Died Of Alzheimer’s Disease And Her Husband Passed Away A Minute Later

In late 2017 elderly Chicago man Bob Kretschmer was lying on his sick bed when a carer took him by the hand. The woman gave the old boy the sad news that his beloved partner of 71 years had just passed away. Bob was desperately ill himself, but nevertheless what happened next still came as a shock. Within moments of hearing the bad news about his wife, Bob’s hand went limp.

Bob was born in Chicago in February, 1925. A rough and ready boy, he spent a childhood getting into scrapes on the streets of the Windy City. This readied him for the next stage of his life when America joined World War II in 1942. Bob lied about his age and went off to fight in the U.S. Army, helping to liberate Europe from West to East. In doing his bit to vanquish the Nazis, the young hero earned himself two Purple Hearts for his dedication to the cause.

Bob and his unit, the Red Diamond Division, completed more than 35 river crossings after landing in Normandy, France, and finally making inroads into the Czech Republic. Along the way, the unit was involved in a battle for the French town of Metz in late 1944 and early 1945. It was during this fight against the Nazi refusal to surrender the fortress town that Bob sustained the injuries for which he was awarded his combat medals.

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Once the war had been won, Bob returned home to Chicago. It was there that he met Elmhurst, Illinois-resident Ruth Krutsch, who had been born in July, 1927. The couple quickly proved the old adage that opposites attract when the rebellious former soldier and demure, academic girl fell in love. They got married in 1946, settled in Medinah, IL, and soon started a family. Eventually, the Kretschmers had welcomed two daughters and a son into the world – Ruthann, Roberta and David.

Bob has been described as a Jack of all trades, and certainly his career path led him into many different areas of work over the years. He worked on the railroad, as a carpenter and in the rapidly developing plastics industry. Bob also built houses – including his family home – and the former tearaway even became a deputy for the local DuPage County Sheriff Department. In recognition of his fallen comrades, he found the time to volunteer at a Veterans of Foreign Wars memorial site.

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Ruth, on the other hand, dedicated herself to raising the kids, but dabbled in regional politics. This led to an involvement with the local council and, following a Bachelor of Arts degree, sessions at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Ruth then joined the Illinois Commerce Commission. She worked at the overseer of the state’s electricity, gas and water provision for 20 years and ended up making quite a name for herself. An expert in the area of utility regulation, Ruth was often invited to speak at conferences around the world.

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By the time Ruth retired, she was the longest serving U.S. female state regulatory commissioner and widely respected in her field. Kirk Dillard, a former state senator for Illinois, spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper in 2017 about Ruth’s achievements. Dillard described her as a “trailblazer and role model for women elected and appointed to office” in an industry which was known to be “pretty male-dominated.”

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But aside from their respective working lives, the Kretschmers also found space to enjoy their leisure time together. Described as “adventurous and active,” the couple always aimed high, and Bob even gained a pilot’s license. Keen roller-skaters in their younger years, Bob and Ruth still had plenty of get-up-and-go once they had retired and the kids had moved out. They became widely traveled, visiting China, Alaska and Europe, and destinations all over the States. And wherever the Kretschmers explored, the couple were partial to a good meal too.

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Bob was a solid wine and steak aficionado, while Ruth could never say no to a dessert, especially if it came with whipped cream – and lots of it. The Kretschmers were also passionate about animals, keeping a wide-ranging menagerie at their Medinah home. Among the brood was a raccoon, a rooster and a goat, as well as their beloved Irish setters.

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However, as is sadly the case for many elderly people, the couple’s health began to deteriorate. The Kretschmers had also differed in their outlook on such matters. Ruth had been a vitamin-popping exercise enthusiast, while Bob had smoked since he was 13 and latterly relied on golf for his main activity. Nevertheless, in the second decade of this century, Bob and Ruth found themselves in their 90s and dealing with separate health issues. Unfortunately, Bob was battling lung cancer, while Ruth had developed Alzheimer’s disease.

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Both their conditions deteriorated until it got to the stage where they could not fend for themselves any longer. Their three children decided to look after their mom and dad at the house in Medinah. They enlisted the hired help of carers to support them. Happily, in early December 2017, Bob and Ruth celebrated a very special occasion – their 71st wedding anniversary. But, unfortunately, it was destined to be their last.

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That was because only five days later, both of the nonagenarians had lost their respective wars with their deadly diseases. But it was the way in which the Kretschmer couple passed over that was remarkable. Unbelievably, Bob and Ruth died within a distance of feet and a matter of minutes of one another. However, their kids could well believe it happened that way – it all made perfect sense to them.

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Younger daughter Roberta later spoke with emotion to Chicago newspaper the Daily Herald shortly after her parents had died. Speaking from the family home in Medinah, she claimed that her dad was simply not prepared to go before her mom. “They both wanted to die in this house and if my father went first, that wasn’t going to happen for my mother,” she said.

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Apparently, on the day itself, Bob and Ruth were in their separate beds with their dedicated carers in the house. Then in the late morning of December 15, one of the female helpers had approached Bob’s bedside and taken his hand in hers. The old man noticed that the carer was crying, and so he naturally asked her what was wrong.

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The woman then informed Bob that his wife had just passed away. “Ruth’s gone,” she said, and in that moment the carer felt her elderly patient’s hand go limp in her own. In the space of 20 minutes, a hospice nurse had arrived and pronounced Ruth dead officially. But when the medical professional turned from one Kretschmer’s bed to the other, she was taken aback.

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According to elder daughter Ruthann, “[The nurse] said, ‘She’s gone,’ and she stood up, turned around, and said, ‘Oh my God, he’s gone.’” It was in that instant that she realized that the husband had also passed away. In fact, the hospice nurse officially recorded the couple’s deaths at just one minute apart; Ruth at 10:25 a.m. and Bob at 10:26 a.m. When their children heard the news, they understood what must have happened.

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“It was as if he was released from his duty,” Ruthann said of her World War II veteran dad to the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper. “I believe to the bottom of my soul he hung on for her,” she maintained. Indeed, Bob had always been adamant that he did not want his wife to end up in an institution if he were unfortunate enough to pass away first.

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But after being told that his cancer had spread, Bob must have been aware that this was a distinct possibility. The old man knew that with the disease now in his bones and liver, his time was running out. Somehow though, he summoned the strength to stay by his wife’s side until she passed on. His kids say he felt his last duty was to save his wife from having to go on without him.

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Bob and Ruth’s children described it as “a story of devotion, love and courage.” It must have been a bitter blow to deal with losing both parents on the very same day, but perhaps sweetened by one thing. The comfort of knowing that neither their mom or dad had to face the prospect of living on alone must have been a relief. Roy Boston, Roberta’s husband, told the Daily Herald that he felt it may have been written in the stars.

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He said, “The arc of their two lives, terminating as they did within 15 minutes, meant they were meant for each other in this life and the next.” The couple’s eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren will certainly miss both Bob and Ruth. But they should be comforted and inspired by their achievements in life and their love and dedication to each other.

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