couple died after 70 years of marriage
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
December 15, 2023 ·  3 min read

The Heartwarming, Seven-Decade Love Story of Preble and Isabell Staver

In an age of fleeting relationships and no-commitment “dating” apps, hearing a true love story is like a big breath of fresh air. Preble Staver was born on October 17, 1921 and Isabell Whitney on October 31 of the same year. While the future lovebirds were studying in Philadelphia, they ended up meeting on a blind date. This blind date would result in 70 years of marriage.

Just as their romance started to bloom, the United States entered the Second World War. Together, they decided to sign up to help their country. Preble, who ended up receiving a Bronze Star, joined as a Marine and Isabell was a Navy nurse in Maryland.

On September 2, 1945, WWII ended. Within five months, the couple reunited and finally married on February 15, 1946.

The Beginning of 70 years of marriage

After 71 years, Preble and Isabell’s fruitful marriage came to an end on October 25, 2017 – but not without leaving a powerful mark on their children and beyond.

63-year-old Laurie Staver Clinton, one of the Stavers’ five children, remembers her parents the most positive and brightest of lights.

She describes her father “as a tall, outgoing man with a strong, ‘larger than life’ personality” and her mother as “[her] heart” and someone who “taught [her] how to be a kind person, how to be a compassionate person.” (1)

Lives of the Staver family were filled with love, but living was not always easy. After the war, Preble worked as a lobbyist and banker. This occupation resulted in him and his family moving around U.S. to places like Florida, South Carolina, and Virginia.

On top the challenges of moving, they also lost their son, Peter, in 1975 who died during the last football game of his high school senior year.

“At that point, we began to really see a softer side of my dad, Parents aren’t supposed to bury their kids and that really took a toll on my folks, but it also brought them together,” Laurie told PEOPLE. (2) “Something like that can either tear a couple apart, but they made a pact to get through it together. They really were each other’s support team.”

When Signs of Dementia Started to Show…

After many decades, Isabell eventually started showing signs of dementia. Together along with their children’s help, they decided to move in a long-term care facility in Norfolk, Virginia in 2013.

Preble took this transition especially hard. Combined with the stress of a new environment, watching his wife drift deeper and deeper in to dementia was heartbreaking. Although they were in the same facility, they had to sleep in separate rooms.

“They just found another way to express their love. Dad, even after he stopped walking and was in a wheelchair, he would wheel himself down to the Memory Care Unit and go visit mom,” said Laurie. (2) “When I would reunite them, they always, the first thing they’d do was put their hands out and hold each other’s hand and tell each other they loved each other.”

You can watch a celebration of their life below:

One Final Wish After 70 Years Of Marriage

Leading up to Preble’s 96th birthday, he had one wish: to have one more nap with Isabell. Thanks to the amazing staff, he was able to get his wish.

Since being placed in different rooms, napping in the comfort of each other’s company wasn’t possible. But this time, for almost three hours, Preble and Isabell shared this gift one last time.

“There was not a single word spoken between the two of them. They held hands and just fell asleep.” (2)

Days later on October 25, 2017, Isabell breathed her last breath. Fortunately, Laurie was able to get Preble there in time to say goodbye. (1)

And 14 hours later, on the same day, Preble died, too.

It’s as though he was waiting to make sure she was going to be okay, before passing on himself. Other will believe he died of heartbreak.

“Mom and dad really lived out that, if you make a commitment, and even though life gets rough or life gets in the way, you work through life,” said Laurie. “And you live your life together.”

Keep Reading: The Man Who Biked From India to Sweden for Love