Texas couple married for 53 years die from coronavirus while holding hands

Betty Tapley, Curtis Tarpley
The late couple, Curtis, 79, and Betty Tarpley, 80. |

A beloved couple who died 50 minutes apart while holding hands at a hospital in Fort Worth are among the more than 2,200 coronavirus-related fatalities in Texas as the state has reported a surge in infections that has brought the total to at least 125,000 cases statewide Wednesday.

Curtis Tarpley, 79, and his wife Betty, 80, died last week at the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital after brief battles with the virus, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

The couple’s son Tim Tarpley, a personal trainer who also works with Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, told the publication that his mother began feeling ill a few weeks ago but believed it was a sinus infection or a toothache.

Tim Tarpley, who was temporarily staying with his parents during the pandemic, said he took his mother to the hospital. She tested positive for the virus on June 9. He urged his father to try to stay active and let him know if he felt ill.

“He told me Thursday [June 11] that he was feeling weak so I said, ‘Let’s go,’” Tarpley recalled. “I took him to the hospital Thursday afternoon and his first two tests were negative, but they admitted him.”

On June 15, Tim Tarpley tested positive for the virus and his father’s condition declined. His father was eventually retested for the virus again and it was confirmed that he too had been infected with the coronavirus. 

Mayor Price also quarantined herself and got tested because of her work with Tim Tarpley.

The couple, who had underlying conditions to go along with the virus, never improved. 

In a Facebook video, Tim Tarpley said that his parents died in “true Tarpley fashion” by dying “close to the same time while holding hands.” 

“It’s pretty romantic,” Tim Tarpley said. 

Tarpley and his sister, Tricia, said they knew their parents were ready to go.

“My mother always said she didn’t want to live to be 100 and she very much believed this world was temporary and it was a stop on going off to a better place,” Tricia told the newspaper. “She knew something better was coming and she was fine with that.”

In their final moments, nurses at the hospital moved the couple into the same room so they could spend the time together as they held hands.

“His mother and daddy, thanks to the nurses at the hospital, brought his father into the room with his mother. And his mother and father died holding hands after 51 years (sic) of marriage. And they died 50 minutes apart,” Price said in a video message.

“I think those nurses are to be commended and they are just a great example of what happens. And aren’t we blessed that they were able to have that and that Tim and his sister were able to have the closure that their parents were together even on the heels of a tragic loss like that from COVID?”

In an interview with KBTX Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott said that Texas reached an all-time high of more than 5,000 new COVID-19 cases and urged residents to stay home whenever possible.

The governor also raised concern that too many Texans aren’t taking the virus seriously.

“The first obligation that we have is to make sure people around the state really comprehend the magnitude of the challenge we’re dealing with,” Abbott said. “There remain a lot of people in the state of Texas who think that the spread of COVID-19 is really not a challenge.”

Abbott warned that the “hospitalization rate is at an all-time high.’

“The coronavirus is serious,” he stressed. “It’s spreading in Brazos County, across the entire state of Texas, which is exactly why action is being taken.”

KBXT reports that the state is increasing enforcement and testing in areas where the virus spreading and urging people to stay home whenever possible. Abbott also asked Texans to practice social distancing and wear masks.

“First, we want to make sure that everyone reinforces the best safe practices of wearing a mask, hand sanitization, maintaining safe distance, but importantly, because the spread is so rampant right now, there’s never a reason for you to have to leave your home,” he said. “Unless you do need to go out, the safest place for you is at your home.”

Other reports are also showing an upward trend in infections in southern states like Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, particularly among the young.

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