The Texas couple, who have been married for 30 years and were hospitalized with Covit-19, were holding hands as they died Sunday, their families say.
Paul Blackwell, 61, and Rosemary Blackwell, 65, longtime educators from the Grand Priory Independent School District, died within minutes of Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, their two sons told NBC News.
The couple was infected with the virus almost a week before Thanksgiving. After the symptoms began to show, son Shawn Blackwell said of his parents: “It affected them very quickly.”
He said his mother had shortness of breath at night and was not sleeping. His father lay in bed for four days. Their awkward conditions made them miss the first time thanking their children.
“We never had a big thank you for spending time together,” said son Brandon Blackwell.
The couple was admitted to the hospital on Friday after the holiday, where they will fight for their lives for the next few weeks.
“It’s hard to keep them in the hospital,” Sean Blackwell said.
The brothers could not see the parents physically and could only video chat with them. One of those video calls was interrupted by their father, who said he did not think he was going to do it.
“Their spirits weren’t high during the time they stayed in the hospital,” Brandon Blackwell said. “But I knew we were there, and it kind of comforted them. I was glad they could see our faces.”
It was only after video calls with their children that Blackwells was transferred to the intensive care unit.
“My little brother Shawn had to talk to my mom before he got used to it, and I was able to talk to my dad before he got in, so it was crazy how it works,” Brandon Blackwell said.
The next time sons see their parents they will be on their deathbed.
“My dad wasn’t going to do it much longer, and my mom was behind him,” Shawn Blackwell said. After consulting with doctors, the family made a difficult decision.
Paul and Rosemary Blackwell die holding hands – Shawn and Brandon Blackwell’s hands, finally able to see their parents face to face.
“It was the hardest decision we had to deal with in our entire lives, but knowing that they were together and that they were wonderful parents, we gave them a lovely send-off,” said Shawn Blackwell. “We like it. It didn’t happen to our parents, but we know a little better that they’re both together.”
The couple spent their lives as dedicated educators. Paul Blackwell was a PE teacher, mentor and coach at Fonnie Middle School for five years. Prior to that, he taught at the Young Men’s Leadership Academy at Kennedy Middle School. Rosemary Blackwell Travis was a second-grade teacher at the World Language Academy and was the school’s longest-serving educator.
“Rosemary and Paul will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go to their family, friends, colleagues and current and former students,” Grand Prairie Independent School District told NBC News in a statement.
“They absolutely loved their jobs,” Brandon Blackwell said. “I tried to retire my mother many years ago and she said, ‘No, I like to do that. She drove 45 minutes for 20 years to work at 6:30 in the morning every day.”
The family said Rosemary Blackwell would retire with her husband this year – all 20 of them.
Sean Blackwell said: “They ‘re in their sixties, and they have many more years to go.”
The family did not know how the couple contracted the virus. “They were scared about the virus and took every precaution,” Brandon Blackwell said.
“You see your parents as superheroes and always there for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve got a great deal of truth,” said Shawn Blackwell.
Sons say comfort can be with their parents in their final moments – and their parents can be with each other to the last.
“It gave us a kind of closure that the two of them went together because, honestly, it would have been different to have one without the other,” Shawn Blackwell said.
A Online fundraiser Is set to help with the final costs of Blackwells.