Tom and Naomi Shirley spent 45 years of their lives together, and this week left the world the same way.
The Florida couple was inseparable during their marriage, as they explored the Everglades and raised four children. This week both husband and wife died separately at the same hospital, 15 minutes apart, each not knowing that the other was dying.
The 83-year-old Tom Shirley was taken to the Cleveland Clinic on Saturday with heart problems. As 75-year-old Naomi Shirley was being picked up from her home for what doctors said would be a final visit with her husband, she suffered a heart attack as well.
“On her way to the hospital, she passed away with a heart attack,” their son Troy told the Sun-Sentinel.
“Dad didn’t know that she had passed, and she didn’t know that he had passed,” Troy added. “I don’t understand it, but it’s beautiful.”
Tom Shirley worked in the Everglades for 30 years as a game warden for the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, which later became the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He was remembered as a passionate conversationalist with a love of nature.
“He had been involved in Everglades issues for decades, every aspect of them,” said Jorge Gutierrez, past president of the Everglades Coordinating Council. “He was exploring God’s creation.”
Naomi Shirley was born in West Virginia but later moved to Florida, meeting Tom when he came into the drug store where she worked. They married in 1969.
Tom and Naomi Shirley loved going on adventures together, including trips to Africa and the Amazon.
But Tom fell ill in the last year, and underwent open heart surgery. In recent days he began feeling weak, and was taken by ambulance to Cleveland Clinic.
The story of Tom and Naomi Shirley is nearly identical to another couple who spent their entire lives together and died the same way. Frank and Eleanor Turner died in December after being married for 65 years. Both husband and wife died of separate ailments at the same hospital, passing six hours apart.