Separated First By War, Then Sickness, 2 WWII Veterans Are Laid To Rest Together Hundreds of American World War II veterans are dying each day. Isabell and Preble Staver, a couple married for 71 years, died on the same day last month.

Separated First By War, Then Sickness, 2 WWII Veterans Are Laid To Rest Together

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


The love story between Isabell and Preble Staver came quietly to an end last month. The couple was together for more than seven decades. The Stavers were two of the hundreds of World War II veterans who are dying each day. NPR's Sarah McCammon attended their funeral in Virginia Beach over Veterans Day weekend, and she has this remembrance.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Like so many couples of their generation, the romance of Isabell Whitney and Preble Staver was interrupted by World War II.

LAURIE STAVER CLINTON: They met on a blind date, and the romance bloomed.

MCCAMMON: Laurie Staver Clinton says her parents both served, her mother as a Navy nurse and her father in the Marine Corps. They were married soon after the war ended. Staver Clinton describes Preble Staver, a Bronze Star recipient, as a tall, outgoing man with a strong, larger-than-life personality.

CLINTON: And then Mom, oh, my gosh. She really was my heart.

MCCAMMON: Isabell Staver spent years raising the couple's five children before eventually returning to work. Staver Clinton says her mom kept the family running through multiple moves for Preble's career and the loss of one of their sons, Peter, who died after a high school football injury in the 1970s.

CLINTON: She taught me how to be a kind person, how to be a compassionate person.

MCCAMMON: As Isabell slipped into dementia in recent years, Preble struggled to cope. Last year, they had to be moved to separate rooms at their long-term care facility.

CLINTON: So when I would explain the need for the separation, Mom would look and see - she would go, but that's Daddy. That's Preble.

MCCAMMON: Jim Need, a friend from church who visited Preble often as his health began to fail, says his love for Isabell was clear.

JIM NEED: Sometimes he was a little frustrated because he - she may not recognize him, but the few times when she did, you could always see him just smiling, you know, like crazy.

MCCAMMON: Laurie Staver Clinton says her parents shared a moment like that just days before their death when Isabell was taken to visit Preble's room for his 96th birthday.

CLINTON: Then all of a sudden, I heard this little, warbly voice.


ISABELL STAVER: (Singing) Happy birthday, dear Preble. Happy birthday to you.

CLINTON: Mom had stopped initiating course of conversation due to the disease process, and for her on Dad's birthday to sing "Happy Birthday" to him was just so touching.

MCCAMMON: Staver Clinton says all her father wanted for his birthday was to take a nap next to his wife, something they hadn't been able to do for a while. So the family arranged to lay Preble and Isabell in bed together where they slept side by side for two or three hours.

CLINTON: And it was really the catalyst of them being able to let go, I believe. Mom was much calmer after that.

MCCAMMON: Within a few days, a hospice nurse told Staver Clinton that both of her parents were moving closer to death. On October 25, days before what would have been her 96th birthday, Isabell received last rites from their Episcopal priest while Preble held her hand. About 14 hours after Isabel died, Preble was gone, too.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The Lord be with you.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: And with thy spirit.

MCCAMMON: Preble's friend Jim Need says he thinks Preble was holding on just long enough.

NEED: I have no doubt. I honestly feel he was waiting for her, you know, the - kind of the Marine - and this is a good thing - Marine mentality. He was going to take care of her until he knew she was OK.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing) Oh, God, our help in ages past...

MCCAMMON: On Friday afternoon, with a Marine honor guard standing by, Isabell and Preble Staver were laid down together one last time, side by side in the old church cemetery. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Virginia Beach.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.