Maíre and Gerry Ryan were born just one day apart from one another in Tipperary, a county in Ireland. They met when they were 17 years old and have been inseparable ever since, staying together until age 93, when they both passed away on the same day.
Maíre, a teacher at Holy Family Secondary School, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Alzheimer’s in her later years, and Gerry became her caretaker. Gerry and Maíre have been called a “real-life Notebook couple” for the way their lifelong romance was altered but not ended by the onset of dementia.
Eventually, arthritis left Gerry unable to care for his wife or even walk on his own. The two were moved to Curragh Lawn Nursing Home.
Even still, Gerry was always his wife’s carer in the mental and emotional sense, even when he couldn’t lend her physical help anymore. Sarrita, one of the nursing home staff members, says she’s been at the nursing home for 13 years and never seen anything quite like this loving couple.
“Gerry used to hold her hand all the time and remind her about the olden times and their life. He used to orientate her to the present every single day. He would sit and tell her poems, he loved Irish poetry, and he used to sing to her at night. I have never seen anything like that.”
As Gerry’s condition worsened, he was moved to the hospital for better treatment. But Maíre didn’t fare well in his absence and began declining as well. Gerry was eventually sent back to the home to live out the rest of his life with his beloved wife in palliative care.
In their final days, as both of their conditions continued to worsen, Gerry requested that his bed be moved next to Maíre’s so that the two could hold hands. His request was honored.
Maíre passed away at 3:45 am on Monday, February 19th, 2018. Gerry followed her at 5:20 pm on the same day.
Those who were touched by Gerry and Maíre’s story will continue to remember their prime example of true love. May they rest in peace.
Click “next” for the story of a couple who was reunited after being placed in separate care facilities.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?