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Married for nearly 50 years, Jackson couple die of COVID seconds apart

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Jackson — During their marriage of nearly 50 years, Patricia and Leslie "L.D." McWaters bowled together, danced together — and after they contracted the COVID virus, they took an ambulance to the hospital together, and then died together. 

The couple died seconds apart on Nov. 24 in Henry Ford Allegiance Hospital in Jackson. She was 78; he was 75.

"The time on both of their death certificates is 4:23 p.m., because (the difference) was too close to call," said daughter Joanna Sisk. "It's like they met right after they died and went up to heaven together."

Family photo

Sisk said her mother visited a doctor two weeks ago after "feeling poorly."

"They were both fine until they got COVID," she said. "My mom went to the hospital and they sent her home, and told her what they tell people — to take care of herself and to stay in place.

"When she went back home, my dad ended up getting it."

The couple got progressively sicker, Sisk said.

"They finally took the ambulance to the hospital on (Nov.) 17th," she said. "They weren't in the same room together because the hospital wasn't equipped to have two oxygen hookups in the same room, so they put them on the same floor, five rooms apart."

Togetherness defined the McWaters' marriage, their daughter said.

"For being such opposites, they really worked nicely together," she said. "My mom was bossy, but he let her be. He'd give her the business back, but in the end she'd work it out her way."

Patricia McWaters was a nurse for 35 years, and Leslie was a truck driver, running local and cross-country routes for companies including Kmart and Wilson Dairy.

"They met at Julie's Bar, a local bar that was around here," Sisk said. "My dad said that he saw my mom, and that was it. He said she was just so beautiful, and she wore her hot pants and go-go boots really well."

The couple married April 16, 1973.

"During the early years, they went dancing all the time," Sisk said. "They were the kind of people if they asked you how you were doing, they really wanted to know, and they'd stop and look you in the eye, and listen to what you had to say."

The pair often took their 1959 Corvette to classic car shows, and enjoyed hosting pool parties and hanging out at Julie's Bar.

Sisk said the couple remained in good health in their senior years. "My dad was a bodybuilder for years; he took second in the Mr. Michigan contest."

During the first few days of their hospital stay, the couple talked on the phone every day, their daughter said.

"They were always asking for updates about the other one from the nursing staff, and they'd call each other to see how the other was doing. Finally, she wasn't able to talk."

Sisk said she got the call on the 24th that her mother had taken a turn for the worse. "When they called me to go up there for my mom, I never dreamed that my dad was going to pass that day too," she said.

"I had been in my dad's room earlier, and he communicated just fine; he just said he was in pain. He said people don't understand how painful it is to try to breathe with this thing. It was awful.

"So he never knew that my mother passed," Sisk said. "Neither of them knew. ... They're in heaven together now, though. I know they are."

Sisk said her parents are looking down from heaven — and reacting differently to the attention their death has attracted. 

"Mom is furious, because she hated to have her picture taken, and their picture is going all over the place," she said. "And dad is just thrilled because he's a celebrity."

Survivors include daughters Susan Brewer and Joanna (Tom) Sisk; three grandchildren, Chelsea Loker, Keaton Brewer and Erika (Ben) Rickman; six great-grandchildren, Maxx, Mia, Arbor, Lyla, Emma and Nola; several nieces and nephews. 

Pat is survived by her siblings, Sandy Hixon, Jerry (Gaye) Sipes, Sonny (Erline) Sipes and Sherry (Al) Hedrick; and brother-in-law, Phil Hendricks Sr. Leslie is survived by his brother, Claud "Stan" McWaters Jr. 

The couple were cremated, and a future service is planned. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the Humane Society, United States Disaster Relief Fund or American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).


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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN