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Till death do they part : In love for decades, Bemidji man’s parents died within hours of one another

Clifford and Eva Vevea sit in their side-by-side recliners at their Crookston home in August 2011. The couple, married 65 years, did everything together and two weeks ago, they both passed away within hours of each other.

By Chuck Haga, Forum News Service

CROOKSTON – In 65 years of marriage, most of it spent in Crookston, Clifford and Eva Vevea did everything together.

“They went dancing nearly every weekend,” son Kip said, and the Bemidji man remembers they once were featured in a Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald story. “The reporter wrote that they were the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers” of the region.

“Even when Dad painted the house, she was up there alongside him, painting. In the house, they moved their recliners together so they could hold hands,” Kip said.

Two weeks ago, their health failing, Cliff, 93, and Eva, 90, shared a room and held hands at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks. When they were moved last week to a room at nearby Valley Eldercare Center, staff there “put the beds together for them so they could touch,” Kip said. “My mother was still awake enough to touch his hand.”

Sunday morning, Cliff Vevea died.

A nurse asked Eva if she’d like to hold her husband’s hand once more.

She did.

A few hours later, she died.

A rare case

Jim Bredman, funeral director at Stenshoel-Houske Funeral Home in Crookston, said it’s not unusual for a spouse to die within a year of the other’s passing. “It’s been called the anniversary syndrome,” he said.

“But this is a rare case. In my 41-year career, we had one other occasion where we had a companion funeral” due to death by natural causes. “In that case, the two died within a day and a half.”

Alveda Scholin, of Crookston, was a close friend of the Veveas.

“They were always together, always wonderfully happy together,” she said. “Especially in the later years, they always held hands.

“It’s so unreal that they would die on the same day. But Eva had prayed for that. It would have been very sad for the one left behind because of their closeness.”

Kip Vevea was in Texas when he received word that his mother had suffered a heart attack on Dec. 15. She had been on dialysis for kidney failure.

“By the time we got to Watertown, S.D., we got a call that dad had had a heart attack,” Kip said. When he reached the hospital in Grand Forks, he learned that doctors had inserted stents for the heart but his father’s kidneys had failed.

“I got to talk to him the first day,” Kip said. “After that, I’m not sure he knew we were there.”

He was able to talk with his mother, too. At the eldercare center later, she did not speak, he said, but she seemed to know he was there and was able to respond to his words.

Good life together

Clifford Vevea (pronounced VEE-vee) was born and raised in Thief River Falls, where in the 1930s he starred as a tap dancer in high school musical productions. He worked as a sales clerk until he entered the Army in 1944, serving in the Philippines and, after the war, with occupation forces in Japan.

He married Eva Larsen on July 11, 1947, in Thief River Falls. They moved to Crookston in 1964, where Clifford worked with Job Service until he retired in 1985.

Eva was born on the family farm in Red Lake County, graduated from high school in Plummer, and worked as a billing clerk in Thief River Falls. In Crookston, she worked at a U.S. Department of Agriculture office, retiring in 1984.

Judy Vevea, Kip’s wife, said that she always admired the durable closeness of Kip’s parents.

“He wrote poems for her,” she said. “He wrote songs for her. They were madly in love.”

The funeral for Clifford and Eva Vevea will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Crookston, with visitation one hour before the service.

They will be buried – within reach of each other – at 2 p.m. Saturday at Greenwood Cemetery in Thief River Falls.

“They were ready to go,” Kip Vevea said. “They said they had had a good life together, and they wanted to go together.”

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