Elderly couple Violet and Floyd Hartwig had celebrated 67 years of marriage when Floyd’s life sadly came to an end. Violet, 89, was his one true love and never left his side. Indeed, 90-year-old Floyd even passed away while holding his beloved wife’s hand. Later on, when their daughter Donna Scharton reflected back on events, she saw the silver lining in this heartbreaking tale.
Floyd and Violet had known each other since they first met at elementary school in Fresno, California. However, their love for one another didn’t blossom until the 1940s. Floyd happened on Violet again at the Rainbow Ballroom in Fresno, reigniting a friendship that would result in a lifetime of love.
Their reunion in the ballroom occurred while Floyd was on shore leave from the Navy – he was stationed in the Pacific during the World War Two. Floyd continued to serve as a sailor for first few years of their courtship. During this time, the couple kept in touch by sending letters back and forth across the ocean.
The couple sent each other well over 100 letters during their time apart. Indeed, they were so infatuated that Floyd had been known to send five letters to Violet in a single day. The flood of letters has even resulted in the couple being likened to the lovers in The Notebook.
However, their 16-year-old great-grandson Jake Curtis believes the couple’s love exceeded that shown in the novel and movie. “I think about them every day,” he said. As for his great-grandparents being called a “real-life Notebook couple,” he added, “[their love is] a lot better, a lot more detailed. And I think it’s more interesting.”
The letters themselves stand as testimony to the immense love that their great-grandson Jake would grow up to witness. In May 1947 Floyd sent a letter home to his sweetheart. He wrote, “Hi honey, just a few lines from this lonely blue sailor of yours. Miss you darling and so in love with you. […] Honey, I’ll sure be glad when I get out of this. It sure isn’t for me, though at one time I thought the Navy was pretty swell. That was before I fell in love with the sweetest girl in the world.”
His timeless words continued in the same romantic vein. “Love you my dearest and want you so,” he wrote, “Vi, I heard our song this evening and it sure did make me homesick for you. Honey, did you ever get a record of it? I certainly hope so as I want to listen to it and have you in my arms at the same time.”
Luckily for the lovestruck couple, they didn’t have to wait long for Floyd’s wishes to be granted. And in fact, he got rather more than just having Violet in his arms. That’s because the couple got married in August 1947. Floyd then returned to his ship, and the letter writing began again in earnest.
Although apart at first, Violet was excited to start her new, married life with Floyd and looked forward to the day he would be discharged. In the meantime, though, they continued to express their love for another. “Need your arms around me darling, hope it will be soon honey,” Violet wrote in December 1947. “All my love darling and take care of yourself. Love you, love you, and shall always love only you, honey, as long as I live. Your loving wife, forever.”
In early 1948 Floyd was honorably discharged from the Navy, whereupon he returned to the marital home. There, the newlyweds started their long and happy marriage together. Living on their sizable ranch in Easton, CA, they “worked side by side,” and raised three children: Donna, Carol and Kenneth. The couple also went on to have four grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Family life was clearly important to them, something Donna confirmed. “All they ever wanted was their family,” she said, “and it was amazing that they got that in the end.”
Unfortunately, like most other elderly couples, their health eventually deteriorated. Violet, who suffered from dementia, also endured a number of strokes and began to lose weight dramatically. And although Floyd too was ill – he had fought colon and bladder cancer – his heroic main priority was Violet’s health.
Despite having to use a cane to get around and being short of breath when he walked, daughter Donna noted that her father was “only worried about Vi.” She added, “He kept helping her,” before explaining that when they visited the doctor, Floyd would say, “I’m okay, I want Vi fixed.”
Until a month before Floyd’s death the couple stubbornly went on looking after themselves. Floyd continued to perform his husbandly duties, cutting the grass and bringing in firewood to keep them warm. They even carried on their decades-old tradition of eating dinner together in the kitchen.
However, that all changed when Floyd went to see the doctor one day. A blood test confirmed the physician’s worst fears: Floyd had kidney failure and wouldn’t live longer than a couple of weeks. Naturally, the family were devastated and had a heartbreaking decision to make. Having mulled over putting their mother into hospice care, should they now include Dad in those plans, too?
There was only one answer. Conscious that their parents wanted to be together until the very end, the family placed both of them into hospice care. And when the final bell neared, they knew exactly what they needed to do. Donna explained, “We could see it was getting really close. We pushed their hospital beds together and moved them over so they could hold hands.” Laying side by side the couple communicated wordlessly, gripping each other’s hands as they began to breathe in matching time.
With an insight into their relationship, Donna stated, “I think that’s what kept them going, that they each had the other one. They didn’t want to go without each other.” The heartbreaking blessing in this tale is that one did not have to live without the other. Floyd died holding his wife’s hand, and Violet followed him to heaven just five hours later.
Although the family was devastated to lose two such amazing people, they all agreed it was what the couple wanted. It was their wish to leave this earth as one. Fighting back tears, Donna explained, “They were meant to go together. We felt blessed because we knew that’s what they wanted.”
In an emotional interview with ABC News, Donna went on to say, “At the funeral home when there were two caskets, and my brother and I were standing together, we said it was meant to be.” Speaking to local paper The Fresno Bee, Donna added, “That was the only way it could end.”
Now, the family remembers the couple’s love fondly, believing they were truly meant to live and die together. It’s something that seems to have provided comfort to the whole Hartwig clan. “You had a sense they had a connection and I think that connection just came more and more, especially in the last months of their lives,” Donna said.
Of course, the letters the couple sent at the beginning of their relationship show how their love first grew. And they serve as a beautiful, timeless reminder of the power of love and companionship, something Donna is only too aware of. “I remember them kissing each other goodbye every morning,” she told ABC News. “What we felt was keeping them alive was the will to live, and that they didn’t want to let go of each other.”