Merced County couple dies within hours of each other from COVID-19

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Merced County couple who were married for decades died within hours from each other after contracting COVID-19.

Ninety-three-year-old Paul and 83-year-old Shirley are the latest to fall victim to the coronavirus.

Shirley's daughter, Cheryl Whittemore, says the family was on a cruise to New Zealand when the outbreak cut their vacation short, forcing them to come home and quarantine separately.

Soon after coming back to Merced, her parents started to feel the symptoms, so they went to Mercy Hospital.

"The next day, she got worse," Whittemore said. "My sister and Sheila, we were able to conference call her. We talked to her for a few minutes and made her wishes known. She wanted morphine and wanted to go."

That was their last conversation, as Shirley later died.

Her husband also spoke with his sons shortly before he died, telling them his wish was to go with his wife.

"They went to the hospital together, were in the same room together," Whittemore said. "They went together."

The couple was active members of the Christian Life Center, where they spent most of their time for more than 40 years.

"You wish you'd done more and talked more, and you don't have that chance anymore," says Gwen Berining with the Christian Life Center.

Cheryl says her parents will now be buried in Santa Nella, where she'll have to see them one last time from a distance.

"We're able to go there and watch them from the flag pole, and watch them be buried together from afar," Whittemore said.

She asks people to take the outbreak seriously to protect loved ones.

Meanwhile, she's taking comfort in the thought that in times of distance, her parents remain together.

"She's talking to her mother, she's having a great time with Paul, Paul's there," Whittemore said.

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