Couple married for 69 years die minutes apart holding hands

An elderly Chicago couple have died within minutes of each other after 69 years of marriage.

Isaac Vatkin, 91, spent the final years of his life caring for his beloved wife Teresa, 89. As she died in their shared hospital room on Saturday morning, he was holding her hand.

"The moment he felt we removed her hand from his, he was able to say 'OK, I'm done protecting her. I can go and rest as well'," their son Daniel Vatkin told the Chicago Sun Times.

Isaac died just 40 minutes later.

Ten years ago when Teresa began suffering from Alzheimer's, Isaac fed her, washed and bathed her. In his 80s he even learned how to use a computer so he could research the disease.

The couple had met in Argentina, where they both grew up. Isaac wrote Teresa beautiful letters three times a week, his children said. He called her Tere, and she called him Alberto - a name he took to avoid anti-Semitism.

They emigrated to Chicago in the 1960s, learnt English and grew a family together.

"He put us through college, he paid the home off," their son Leo Vatkin told the Sun Times.

 "They were never the fancy car, the fancy house kind of people. My dad had work ethic, honesty, doing the right thing.

"My Mom was always about family, taking care of the children. When they got off the school bus, [she thought] somebody should be there for them."

The couple's children say when Teresa died and their hands were separated, Isaac "just stopped breathing".

"I'm not an overly religious person," Leo said "But there's no explanation. His hand was on top of hers. He was trying to breathe. And then, as they wheeled her out, his hand was hanging over the bed. I turned around, and he wasn't breathing anymore."

"It was really a love story," their daughter Clara Gesklin said.

The story of Isaac and Teresa's passing is very similar to that of UK couple Frank and Joyce Dodd, who were able to hold hands one last time before dying within hours of each other in early April.

It turns out there is a phenomenon called 'broken heart syndrome'. Scientific research has found the stresses of losing a spouse can have very physical manifestations, affecting the heart. And these symptoms can have fatal results for the elderly.

Newshub.