John Clark, 86, could barely speak above a whisper for the past two months after he was admitted to an assisted living facility in Tampa, FL, but when he saw his wife of 40 years laying on a hospital bed after suffering a heart attack July 22, John spoke loud and clear for the first time in a long time.
“Grace, I love you. Grace, I love you. I love you,” he said.
John had been brought to the hospital by his step-son Fred Hearns who wanted to see his parents reunited for what he knew could likely be the last time. His 81-year-old mother, Grace, had fed her husband every single meal since he was admitted to the home, and before then she had taken care of John for the past six years after he suffered a stroke. Fred had kept his mother’s deteriorating condition in the intensive care unit at Tampa General Hospital a secret but as her health continued to decline, he knew he had to take John to see her. It was then then that John took his wife’s hands in his and told her he loved her. Four hours later he was found unresponsive and taken to St. Joseph’s hospital where he was pronounced dead. The next morning, Grace was taken off of her ventilator and pronounced dead at noon, just 16 hours after her husband had passed.
According to ABC News, “much of the Clarks’ lives revolved around Allen Temple A.M.E. Church, where Mr. Clark served as a trustee.”
He married Grace around 1970 after each had been married previously. For a number of years they summered in Maryland, where he worked as a chef in resort hotels. Mr. Clark also worked as an equipment operator at the Gardiner phosphate plant.
Grace Tillman graduated from Middleton High School and earned an associate’s degree at Gibbs Junior College. She worked at the segregated Clara Frye Memorial Hospital, then began a 35-year career in data processing with Hillsborough County.
Together, they helped found a Doug Williams fan club, which met weekly with the Buccaneers quarterback in a Wag’s restaurant, and a senior ministry at their church. John was the custodian, the chef, the painter and the plumber at the Allen Temple A.M.E. Church while Grace was a founding member of the Belmont Heights/Jackson Heights Civic Association and volunteered at Meals on Wheels.
Though losing one’s parents on the same day is a sad occasion, Fred takes comfort in knowing his parents moved on together.
“In my mind,” he said, “I could hear her telling him, ‘John, I’ll see you at 12 noon sharp.’ “
Brande Victorian is the news and operations editor for madamenoire.com. Follow her on twitter @Be_Vic.
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