William and Mary Hanson were like peas and carrots.
"When you describe my parents, it's like one word: Bill-and-Mary," the Bloomington, Minnesota, couple's daughter, Lisa Smeed, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "The one does not go without the other, kind of like peanut butter and jelly or cookies and milk."
That did not change with Mary Hanson’s death on May 16 following a nine-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. Smeed had the heart-rending task of telling her father -- who was in a hospital being treated for cancer -- that his beloved “Sweetpea” was gone.
A few minutes later, Bill Hanson told his nurse, 'My heart really hurts," the Star Tribune reported.
He died the next day, less than 24 hours after his wife. Both were 79 years old.
"He just knew that his heart was broken, and he didn't want to live without her," Smeed told the newspaper.
The Hansons were buried May 22, which would have been their 53rd anniversary.
A GoFundMe page established to help offset the couple's medical and funeral expenses tells their love story. Bill Hanson was in the U.S. Navy in 1956 when he and some friends were waiting at a stoplight in Richfield, Minnesota.
Glancing over, he spotted Mary Kanthak sitting in the car next to them, the fundraising page said. After just a quick glance at one another, Hanson had his friend follow Kanthak's vehicle so he could talk to her.
They were inseparable after that meeting. The couple married in 1965 and lived in Richfield until 1975, when they built a home in Bloomington.
They raised two children: Lisa, and her younger brother, John Hanson. Bill Hanson spent his post-military years working at Control Data Corp., a mainframe and supercomputer firm, the GoFundMe page said. He moved to a less stressful job, dealing blackjack at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, in 1994 following a massive heart attack.
Mary Hanson worked as a personal stylist at several department stores before retiring from Macy's in 2012, three years after her Parkinson's diagnosis, the Star Tribune said. A home health agency took care of her during the day and her husband took over at night.
"Bill took care of her for years, until 2015, when he made the difficult decision to place her in the Masonic Home after his bypass surgery," the GoFundMe page said. "In order to continue to have specialists provide care for Mary, Bill continued to work, even as he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in October 2017.
“Despite his illness, Bill visited Mary every night at the home after work.”
Bill Hanson continued working despite his own failing health so his wife would have access to the specialists she needed, the family said. He worked until May 6, just 10 days before Mary Hanson's death and 11 before his own, Smeed told the Star Tribune.
He stopped working because the esophageal cancer had spread to his right lung and the surrounding lymph nodes, according to the couple's joint obituary.
Brad Smeed, the couple’s son-in-law, described their story as “truly one of love and devotion that we should all be uplifted by.”
"They both went peacefully in their sleep with dignity and in peace and did not suffer," Brad Smeed wrote on Facebook. "Heaven gained two amazing angels this week. Please make sure to tell your parents/loved ones how much you love them and cherish the time you have with them."
Anna Molitor, who set up the GoFundMe page for the family, wrote that she felt blessed to have known the Hansons.
"Amazing people who will truly be missed," Molitor wrote. "Heaven gained two of the finest."
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