When Hazel Cherry’s husband was struck down by dementia, she did everything she could to ensure that the pair stayed close. However, it wasn’t until years later that their son realized just how inseparable they had become during their long lives.
Hazel and Leonard Cherry grew up just a few minutes drive away from each other in small, adjacent towns in Texas. However, it was only at high school that they eventually came into each other’s lives, and a beautiful romance then blossomed.
The pair were head over heels in love with each other and continued to date after high school. They eventually tied the knot in 1942, and so began a wondeful life together filled with love and happiness. Indeed, they spent almost every waking moment together.
One of the rare times when the Cherrys were forced to part was when Leonard joined up with the Army Air Corps during World War II. The brave service man was stationed at the Carswell base in nearby Fort Worth. During his time in the military, Leonard helped to train many young pilots.
The couple were then blessed with a bundle of joy in 1944, when their son David came into the world. The news caused the Cherrys to up sticks and relocate to Fort Worth. Once the war was over, moreover, Leonard began working as an auto repair technician so that he could provide for his family.
However, it wasn’t long before the pair decided to risk it all by starting up their own business, an auto-shop known as Cherry-Hill. It was a successful operation for more than three decades, but then the Cherrys decided to call it a day so they could move closer to their grandkids.
So the Cherrys moved to Woodway, a sleepy Texas town with a population of less than 10,000. It was the ideal location to watch their grandchildren grow older and to live out the rest of their own years.
Yes, the pair were so close that they rarely spent a day apart during their long lives. Their son David has even claimed that his parents never argued during their marriage. In 2016 he told People, “They never really spent a day apart unless it was for a family emergency or something. And I never heard a cross word between them. I never heard them raise their voices to each other unless they were calling across the yard. They didn’t fight!”
The couple also enjoyed a beautiful bond with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And while speaking about the moments that they enjoyed with his kids and grandchildren, David was full of praise. “The kids just adored my parents,” he told People. “They had such a special relationship, they were so close and came to all of their school events. When my son was growing up, dad came to all of his basketball games.”
The pair lived a happy and fruitful life, that was until tragedy struck. Leonard was diagnosed with dementia, and he was later moved to a care facility in the city of Waco. Hazel would visit him, assist with his care and even moved into an independent living facility in the same building so that they could remain close.
She cared tirelessly for Leonard and stayed with him throughout much of his illness. As David explained to People, “Up until the very end until, right before they died, she was with him every day and ate lunch with him in his room. There was no question that their love was always there.”
Hazel lived a full life and could regularly be seen driving to and from the grocery store until just a few weeks before she died. While her husband’s health went downhill in the latter years of his life, Hazel passed away suddenly in October 2016. “She started getting tired and weaker and on the day she passed, she couldn’t get out of bed,” David explained to People. “My daughter was talking to her when she blinked, smiled and let go.”
The family couldn’t bear to break the news to Leonard. However, just a few hours later, he too passed away. A caregiver at the facility said that he’d been restless, before suddenly becoming calm and breathing his last on Earth.
Family members were baffled by the fact that the lifelong sweethearts passed away within mere hours of each other. David believes that the two had such a strong connection that Leonard, before he died, could sense that his wife had passed away.
Moreover, David has said that perhaps divine intervention may have played a role in the two passing away just hours apart. He has also claimed that the ending is exactly what the couple themselves would have chosen. “It’s what God wanted,” he told People. “And I think it’s what they wanted too.”
In the hours following their deaths, family members paid tribute to the couple, who they described as remaining “deeply in love.” The pair will now spend eternity together, after they were laid to rest following a memorial service close to their home.
David added that the couple will be missed by all who knew them. “It’s kind of hard you know, you can’t pick up the phone and call them anymore.” he said. “The more I began to think about it, I began to smile because of how much they loved each other.”
Despite the sadness, however, the couple’s son is happy that the pair are now together in peace, and that his father’s suffering at the hands of dementia has passed. “I feel blessed that daddy’s suffering is over, and I feel blessed that Mom is with him and that she didn’t have to live alone,” he said to CNN in 2016.
Speaking about the couple’s legacy, David’s son Craig said that they taught him how to love all people. Meanwhile, he believes that the couple will meet once again in the afterlife. “There is no question in my mind that my grandmother was waiting for him in heaven with open arms,” Craig Cherry told Fox 6 News in 2016.
The incident is not the first of its kind, however. There have in fact been many lifelong couples who have passed away within hours of each other. In 2016 a New Zealand husband and wife died just hours apart following seven decades of marriage. And, in another case, a couple of 58 years passed away while holding each other’s hands. Proof, perhaps, that true love really does last forever.
For others, though, life is not that fair. Many of us will endure the pain of losing a partner, and there’s perhaps no one who knows this better than Deedee Zgonis. When her husband was suddenly taken from her, Deedee was left to face the battle – and run her husband’s business – alone. But all of that was to change when, one day, she received a surprise phone call.
Deedee turned up at her pizza restaurant after a relaxing weekend away – but something was different. She wasn’t sure exactly what it was at first, but looking closer, she could see that a drastic change had taken place inside. Then as she stepped through the front door, her reaction was one of utter shock.
Deedee Zgonis is the owner of a pizza restaurant called Pizza Bella in Bedford, New Hampshire. Her husband, Yianni, used to run the show while she helped out part-time – but tragically Yianna passed away unexpectedly in 2012.
This left Zgonis in charge of the restaurant as well as trying to coming to terms with her husband’s passing. That naturally meant that she had to learn very quickly how to run a business; a daunting task for anyone, let alone a grieving widow.
So while Zgonis was figuring out how payrolls work – at the same time as trying to pay her mortgage – people around her were noticing how hard a time she was having. But Zgonis still kept going despite her grief.
Unsurprisingly, then, Zgonis had a mantra: “No matter what happens, you can overcome it.” And she was certainly doing her best to overcome this task, even if at times it no doubt seemed insurmountable. Then one day, she got a surprise phone call.
It was Eastern Bank on the line. In a surprising turn of events, the bank told Zgonis she had been chosen to receive a treat, courtesy of its “Good Things Happen to Good People” project. It turned out that Debbie Blondin, Zgonis’ banker, had nominated her.
“She has a fabulous local business, but… she’s one of those people who gives probably more than she gets,” Blondin told the Union Leader. And so, Eastern Bank sent Zgonis off for a spa weekend in Florida as a reward for her efforts.
Of course, Zgonis had a fantastic weekend away – but she had no idea that there were more surprises to come. In fact, there were a bunch of people working hard all over that weekend to do something even more amazing for her.
So when Zgonis returned from her trip, she headed straight to the restaurant. But as she opened the door, her heart skipped a beat: something was different; her pizzeria had been transformed.
Stepping through the door, Zgonis gasped, “Oh my God! Are you kidding me?” Yes, the whole interior of the restaurant had been redone. And the group of family, friends and volunteers responsible were waiting inside to see Zgonis’ reaction.
It turned out that the spa trip was just a way of getting Zgonis out of town for the weekend. After all, her loved ones knew that she had wanted to revamp the restaurant for a while, so they decided to pull together and do it for her.
And Zgonis was beyond grateful for their hard work. “I couldn’t believe it,” she told the Union Leader. “My knees just buckled from under me.” Indeed, her reaction that night when she was asked if she liked the revamp was priceless.
“It’s frickin’ beautiful!” she screamed in response. But the best part of the surprise was still to come: two special people appeared from around the corner, and Zgonis totally lost it.
It was two of her daughters. Both had moved away from the area, but the bank had arranged for them to join her other daughter as part of the decorating team. In a video of the event, Zgonis burst into tears, completely overwhelmed by the emotion of the day.
Afterwards, Zgonis was so grateful to the bank for choosing her. Speaking to the Union Leader, she admitted that she had been faced with choosing between remodeling the restaurant and installing a new oven.
But the bank kindly did one of them for her. “People come into my life that are just beautiful people, and I’m lucky that way,” Zgonis said. “I don’t know what makes me more deserving than anyone else.”
However, Blondin said Zgonis was “the perfect candidate” to win the prize, describing her as “the sweetheart of Eastern Bank.” And she was pleased to see someone so grateful to receive help.
The Zgonis daughters were delighted for their mom, too. Themie, who lives in California, said, “We just cannot describe how grateful we are for this entire process, and how beautiful Pizza Bella is looking.”
And Litza, who lives in New York, remarked that being nominated was “really validating” for her mom. It gave her “the extra boost of confidence that she deserves.” Their father would have be “floored,” according to the third Zgonis daughter, Vicki.
And after receiving such an amazing helping hand from the community, Zgonis was able to enjoy one last perk thanks to Eastern Bank. Luckily, she got to have Thanksgiving with all three of her daughters under the same roof.