A couple from Ohio was fortunate enough to experience the kind of love movies and fairy tales are built on. The two were inseparable, even in death. Kenneth and Helen Felumlee, a couple from Nashport, Ohio, were married 70 years, and could not bear to be apart; Kenneth died just 15 hours after his wife passed away.
Their love story has a humble beginning. In fact, the two could barely afford the cost of the $2 fee charged at the courthouse to get married; they had just $5 in their pockets. The two were introduced to each other by one of Kenneth’s ex-girlfriends when Kenneth was 18 and Helen was 19 . They immediately hit it off, and after dating for three years, the two eloped. They lied to their parents, saying they were traveling to Kentucky for the day to visit a former basketball coach of Kenneth’s. Instead, they drove to the courthouse and were married.
The two got married in Kentucky on February 20, 1944, which happened to be two days before Kenneth was actually old enough to be legally married in Ohio. Their son, Jim Felumlee, said his dad just could not wait. After eloping, the two were nervous to tell their parents, so they lived separately and kept the marriage secret for a few weeks while Kenneth gathered his courage to tell their parents about the marriage.
Shortly after their marriage Helen became pregnant with the first of their eight children. Helen and Kenneth both made efforts to keep their family going. Their children remember their dad going to work, coming home to sleep an hour or two, and heading out to another job. Kenneth worked at the B&O/Chessie Systems Railroad, where he was a car inspector, and ran Felumee’s Garage. Later in his life, Kenneth was a mail carrier for the Nashport Post Office. In addition to his work, his children remember him as a man who served others, saying that there were times where he sacrificed his hour or two of sleep to help someone else.
Helen worked in the home, taking care of their eight children. Along with raising her family, Helen was also committed to serving others. She helped neighboring families in need and taught Sunday School. Perhaps what Helen was most well-known for was sending greeting cards. Helen would send a greeting card for every occasion, and would include a personal note inside each card. Debbie Fulumee, Kenneth and Helen’s daughter-in-law, joked that Helen, “kept Hallmark in business.”
Both Kenneth and Helen served in the Council on Ministry for the church they attended. They both served members of their community, and together they visited a nursing home on Sundays. Kenneth and Helen, the Ohio couple who were beloved by many in their community, were together as often as possible with Kenneth’s demanding work schedule during the 70 years they spent married; dying just hours apart, they would not let even death keep them separated.
One time, while traveling by ferry, the two shared the bottom bunk of the bunk bed available rather than sleep apart for one night. They had the opportunity to travel together after Kenneth retired in 1983 and their children left their home. They traveled to many of the 50 states together by bus. Kenneth preferred not to fly because, as their son Jim said, “you couldn’t see anything as you were going.”
Helen and Kenneth were devoted to each other, and cared for each other during times of failing health. When Kenneth’s health began to fail, Helen started sleeping on the couch just to be near him. Kenneth had to have one leg amputated two and a half years ago, and Helen was his main caretaker, even when she become almost too weak to do so.
Towards the end of Helen’s life she was confined to a hospital bed. Kenneth would reach out and hold her hand, but could not stand to see her hurting. Their children said that Helen was trying to stay strong for Kenneth, just as he was staying strong for her. On Saturday, April 12, Helen passed away at the age of 92. Another 12 hours after his wife’s death, Kenneth looked at his children and said, “Mom’s dead,” and began to fade. Kenneth passed away just 15 hours after his wife, on April 13 at the age of 91.
Their children said that they wanted the two of them to go together, and that they knew they would. They said that family gathered together, singing hymns, reading scriptures, and saying prayers, making it a wonderful going away party for their father. After just 15 hours, what was possibly the longest time they had spent apart once their marriage was revealed, this beloved couple from Ohio who had been married for 70 years, died the same way they had spent their life, together.
By Ashley Campbell