Long-married couple dies 6 hours apartPublished 11:16am Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Most people could learn some lessons from the way Harlan and Gertrude Balgeman lived their lives.
They married in 1944, lived a life of farming, never complained about finances, always settled their differences, didn’t wear their hearts on their sleeves and went to church every Sunday.
Perhaps more than anything, it is obvious to people how they felt about each other.
The couple, who were married 67 years, died just six hours apart on Sunday, Nov. 6, in their room at Our House Senior Living in Austin. Directors at Worlein said their times of death are something rarely seen, and Pastor Barbara Finley-Shea of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Lyle said she’s never presided over a double funeral. Looking back at their lives, however, that doesn’t surprise some.
“It’s not surprising that they went together,” said the couples’ son, Lynn Balgeman of Montana, who remembers his parents always looking out for each other — his dad teasing his mom and missing her when she wasn’t there.
Harland and Gertrude’s second son, Robert, agrees.
“I knew it wouldn’t be far apart,” he said about their time of passing. “As the time grew near, I knew that it was going to be closer and closer.”
For more than the last year, Harlan and Gertrude were both in failing health. Both made trips to and from hospitals and nursing homes. Harlan had a heart attack, and Gertrude had broken her hip and was dealing with dementia. Their time apart bothered Harlan, Lynn added, but even though they were aging and in poor health, Harlan always felt the same.
“To dad, she was the most beautiful girl in the world — you couldn’t convince him of anything else,” Lynn said.
Others saw that mindset in Harlan, as well.
“When Harlan would look at Gertrude, he would just beam,” Finley-Shea said.
She added, “You could always tell, when Harlan looked at her, he did not see an 80-year-old woman. I think he looked at her the way when they met.”
During the last couple days, Lynn read Harlan and Gertrude’s favorite scriptures to them while they slept in the same room. They may or may not have been able to hear him.
Lynn said he thought to himself in that room, “Maybe their spirits are gone already?”
He hears others say how it was unique that they were together until the end, and that’s the way he and others would have expected it.
“They were just together,” he said.
Lynn was happy with the arrangements and care his parents received in their last few days, and so were others.
“It was just a blessing that neither one had to be without the other one,” Finley-Shea said.
Harlan and Gertrude are survived by their two sons, Lynn and Robert, along with many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and others.
As much as people remember Harlan and Gertrude as a loving couple, they remember how simple they were, like dedicated members of their church, hard-working farmers and parents who attended and helped with their children’s events — good people.
“They led by example,” Bob said.