Dementia is a broad term for physical changes in the brain that cause loss of memory and other mental abilities that interfere with one’s daily life. Forty-seven million people worldwide suffer from dementia. One of those cases was Hazel Cherry’s husband, Leonard.
When Leonard Hazel was diagnosed with dementia, many believed all was lost. They knew the complications of the diagnosis and feared for the worst. However, his wife, Hazel knew better. She knew the bond they had was so strong, and they could get through anything and everything together. Soon, everyone realized the same.
Meet Hazel & Leonard
Flatonia, Texas is a small town, 12 miles west of Schulenberg and has a population of approximately 1,300. This town was smaller than many people’s high school. However, Hazel and Leonard did not meet until then, as they actually lived on bordering towns. They both attended Flatonia Secondary School and there was an instant connection. They “went steady” and became high school sweethearts (just like you see in the movies).
Their Love Blossomed
It was obvious to all those around them that Leonard and Hazel had found true love. Family and friends also note that they spent almost every waking second together. They remained a couple even after graduating high school. They got married in 1942, and began their life together, until death do them part.
Leonard Joined The Military
By the time they were married World War II had already begun. Therefore, soon after their marriage, Leonard joined the Army Air Corps. It led to one of the few points in their lives that they had to spend apart. He trained as a bomber pilot at various bases across the country. He was so skilled, that instead of being deployed overseas, he was given the opportunity to train other bomber pilots. This was a relief for Hazel.
Started A Family
Luckily, Leonard remained safe throughout the war. In 1994, Leonard and Hazel began expanding their family. They had their first child, a son, who they named David. Leonard had been working as an auto-mechanic. Both he and Hazel knew it was time to grow professionally now that their family was growing. Therefore, they made a decision to leave their small town.
Moved To Fort Worth
Leonard’s and Hazel’s family was growing with the addition of their newborn son, David. They knew they had to make big decisions in order to give the life they wanted to their son. Therefore, they left their little town behind and moved to Fort Worth. This is where Leonard combined his leadership skills from the Army, and his mechanic skills.
Opened A Business
Once the decision was made to leave and move to Fort Worth, Leonard knew exactly what he wanted to do. He wanted to start his own business and he knew and auto body shop was the perfect fit. After looking at several places, he found the perfect building, at 303 East 3rd Street. In honor of his last name, he named the auto body shop “Cherry-Hill”.
David Was A Happy Child
Fort Worth was where David spent his childhood. He recalls his life growing up being a pleasant one and his parents always being happy. He said to KWTX, “They never really spent a day apart unless it was for a family emergency or something, and I never heard a cross word between them. I never heard them raise their voices to each other unless they were calling across the yard. They didn’t fight!”
David Grew Up
Every bird has to leave the nest at some point and that’s what their son David did. Although he stayed in Texas, Leonard and Hazel wanted to be closer to him and, now, his new family. In 1980, Leonard and Hazel sold their auto repair business and moved to Woodway, a town outside of Waco. David was excited to have his parents closer to him, so they could see their grandchild, Craig, grow up.
Great With The Grandkid & Great Grandkids
David was so happy to have his parents around. He recalls how great they were with his kids, “The kids just adored my parents! They had such a special relationship, they were so close and came to all of their school events. When my son was growing up, dad came to all of his basketball games…almost all of his practices too,” he said to KWTX.
Leonard Began Showing Signs Of Dementia
The couple was very happy living in Woodway. All of their dreams for their happy family had come true. Unfortunately, like many other older people, Leonard began showing signs of mental disability. They knew they had to get some help in order to conquer whatever was happening to Leonard. But no matter what, they would do it together.
Moved To Assisted Living
Although they did not want to leave their Woodbury home, where they had many memories with their son and grandchildren, they knew they had to. Leonard and Hazel decided it was best for Leonard to move into an assisted living home in Waco, so he could receive the proper care. Hazel across was not far, and moved into The Village at Providence Park (pictured), a nursing home, just next door.
Hazel Was Always There
Since they met, they knew they would always be there to support each other, as their wedding vows said, in sickness and in health. Hazel wasn’t going to let living in separate rooms change any of that. Even though his health and mental abilities were failing, she went back every day to see him. Her love for this man was apparent to all those that saw.
She Stayed Steadfast
Their son David was always able to see the strong bond they had, ever since he was a child. He still saw it there, in the assisted living facility. He told People “Up until the very end.. she was with him every day and ate lunch with him in his room. There was no question that their love was always there.”
Hazel Seemed In Good Health
Hazel seemed like she was rather healthy, and she was when she first moved into the facility. She was frequently seen out running errands. David said “Mother had been driving around town and still going to the grocery store…but Dad’s health had been failing for some years.” Unfortunately, that soon changed.
Hazel’s Health Begins To Weaken
At this point, Leonard was 95-years-old and Hazel was 93-years-old. But, suddenly her health took a turn for the worse. David said “She started getting tired and weaker.” David saw his mother slowly losing life, and he was devastated.
Craig said “On the day she passed, she couldn’t get out of bed and it was hard for her to wake up,” Luckily, she had family by her side “My [Craig’s] daughter was talking to her when she blinked, smiled and let go.” She died at a Waco emergency room hospital at 12:50 p.m at the age of 93. The bond between Leonard and Hazel had been broken by death, or was it?
Didn’t Tell Leonard
When someone is suffering from Dementia, it may be hard for them to understand some things. People, places and things are easily forgotten. Therefore, certain ideas can really upset a person with the disease. This is why David and the rest of his family decided it would be best to wait to tell their father. However, his caretaker said he knew.
Their Bond Was So Strong
After over 50 years of marriage, one would imagine the bond between partners is one of the strongest on the planet. Leonard and Hazel were connected more than just on a physical level, but also mentally, they were inseparable. Leonard’s caretaker said she observed something that proved to her her knew the love of his life had passed.
He Became Calm
Leonard Cherry was in his bed in hospice care when Hazel had passed. His caretaker says that even though she was not in the same room, let alone the same facility, Leonard knew she had died. Approximately at 1 p.m. (10 minutes after Hazel died), Leonard’s caregiver says Leonard, who had been fidgety and restless all morning, took a deep breath and calmed down.
Leonard Reunited With Hazel
Their bond was never truly severed when Hazel passed. Leonard could still feel her. At 10:50pm, 10 hours after Hazel’s death, Leonard passed at the age of 95. Death could not keep them separated. His caregiver says he was calm his last few hours. Many believe it was because he knew he was going to see his love.
People Were Baffled
Many people, including family and friends, were baffled that the two had passed so close together, especially since Hazel had so recently been in good health. But, their son David, once again brought up their bond. It was unlike many have ever seen or experienced. Describing the situation, he said his Dad knew, “He had a connection. He could feel it.”
Was It Divine Intervention?
Furthermore, David (pictured) believes there was something even more powerful at play. He believes their passings have something to do with divine intervention. He told KWTX “It’s what God wanted, and I think it’s what they wanted too.” Their family is so thankful that they can remain together for all of eternity.
They Will Be Missed
Of course, Hazel and Leonard will be sorely missed by their family. David told KWTX “It’s kind of hard you know, you can’t pick up the phone and call them anymore, or call mother and can’t go by and see Dad,” he said. “The more I began to think about it, I began to smile because of how much they loved each other.”
A Perfect Ending To Their Story
Their family soon after held a memorial for the couple. David, and his son and grandchildren, feel their passing so close together was the perfect end to their love story on Earth. David said “I feel blessed that Daddy’s suffering is over, and I feel blessed that Mom is with him and that she didn’t have to live alone.” He said they were “always smiling”, and he knows they are still smiling watching over his family.