Wednesday, December 6, 2023

‘They were meant to be together till the very end’

A photo from the late 1980s of James and Louise Harris (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Terri Thompson)
A photo from the late 1980s of James and Louise Harris. (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Terri Thompson)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The death of a husband and wife less than two hours apart is being described as “surreal” and “mind blowing” by their daughter, Terri Thompson.

Thompson’s mother and father would have been married 49 years in July, she said.

James Harris, 83, and Louise Harris, 80, both died on June 13 of natural causes in their shared room at Commonwealth Senior Living at Kings Grant House in Virginia Beach. While her mother’s passing was expected, Thompson said the death of her father “was a total shock.”

“We knew my dad wouldn’t last much longer after my mom, but we, of course, had no idea he would die within two hours,” Thomspon said.

Who they were before

James and Louise met in Boston in 1967 and were married two years later. James retired from the Navy and later worked for Norfolk Naval Shipyard, while Louise worked for Geico and QVC. The couple lived in their Chesapeake home for 34 years before moving to Kings Grant House, Thompson said.

James was always the “Mr. Fix-it” type, his daughter said, and was always tinkering with things around the house.

“He used to kind of point things out to the maintenance staff at Kings Grant House, saying ‘this needs to be looked at guys,’ or ‘you really have to fix that,'” Thompson said.

Her mother, Louise, worked at QVC for years. Louise received a permanent discount from QVC after her retirement, Thompson said, and Louise took full advantage of it.

Related story: Virginia Beach elderly couple dies on same day

“She had a ‘QVC room’ in her house that was full of things she’d bought over the years,” Thompson said.

Thompson said both her parents entered Kings Grant House in April 2016. In early 2018, Louise’s health declined rapidly after complications from diabetes and heart disease began to take its toll.

‘Together till the end’

By May, James knew that his wife Louise was dying.

“He said that he didn’t want to watch her die or be without her,” Thompson said.

James stopped eating and taking his medication.

On June 13, Thompson said she got a call from hospice nurses who said her mother died at 5:30 a.m.

James and Louise Harris (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Terri Thompson)
A 2001 photo of James and Louise Harris. (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Terri Thompson)

Thompson arrived at Kings Grant House by 6:30 a.m. to find her mother’s body still in bed awaiting the funeral home to arrive. Thompson said her father, who’s health was quite compromised at that point, was acting strange.

“He would hardly talk to me and just kept looking at my mom and trying to talk to her,” Thompson said.

While Thompson was speaking with nurses in the hallway, her father managed to move his wheelchair toward his wife’s bed, and moaned as he struggled to touch her leg.

When funeral home representatives arrived to remove Louise’s body, a nurse entered the room to find James with a faint heartbeat.

Nurses got James to his bed, where he died a few minutes later at 7:13 a.m. — 1 hour and 43 minutes after Louise. Thompson said her father’s cause of death was listed as heart disease.

Thompson noted her father was able to reach out and touch his wife’s leg one last time before he died.

“They were both just meant to be together till the very end,” Thompson said. “My dad is probably fixing stuff up there in heaven while my mom orders things on QVC.”

A service to celebrate the couple’s lives will be on Tuesday (June 26) at 1 p.m. All services will be held at Woodlawn Funeral Home in Norfolk.

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