Man dies from a 'broken heart' after wife of 66 years passes away seven days prior

Jill and Collin List were married 66 years, and this month died seven days apart. This photo was taken in 1975.

Jill and Collin List were married 66 years, and this month died seven days apart. This photo was taken in 1975.

He sat close by, holding his wife's frail hands and rubbing her head while she struggled to breathe, before she passed away.

"I love you," she said to her husband during her final moments.

Collin and Jill List, of Tuakau, had been married 66 years. They died earlier this month just days apart after they were both admitted to Middlemore Hospital with heart problems. 

Collin, who had turned 89 the day after his wife's death, was admitted first on  August 29, after he started having heart palpitations. Jill, 84, soon followed after suffering from a heart attack on August 31. 

Loving couple married for 63 years die a few hours apart
​Auckland couple die of cancer on the same day after 54 years of marriage
Couple die just six hours apart
Killed by a broken heart: Why more elderly couples are dying within hours of each other

"Mum was the shock," said eldest daughter Vicki Carter. "We got dad down from the ward . . . she turned to him and said she loved him – she got to tell him that one last time, which is special."  

Moments before she died, Jill told her husband she was frightened. Collin reassured her of his love. "It's OK to go," he told her.

This was one of their last conversations before Jill died just after 3am on September 1.

Seven days later, Collin's health suddenly began to deteriorate. 

"He was fine, he could walk around and that. His vital signs were all really good," said eldest son Wayne List. 

Ad Feedback

But something wasn't right. 

"He said that he just wanted to be with [Mum] – he slowly just passed away," said Wayne. 

He was described as being a "fighter" and he was "strong". He had survived seven heart attacks last year, he had a triple by-pass in the 80s and a quadruple by-pass 10 years later.

But after 66 years of marriage, it was love that would take his life. 

Carter said her father died from a "broken heart". 

"He was worried about (us) his kids. I told him on Wednesday that if he wanted to be with mum, it was OK."

He died on September 8 surrounded by his youngest daughter, Marlene Williams, grandson and his grandson's partner.

"Dad, just let yourself go now, Mum and Missy [Collin's cat] are just waiting around the corner. Dad, you know we don't want to lose you, but you just have to go," Williams told her father while she sat by his bed in hospital.

The couple first meet at Mercer when Collin was 22 and Jill was just 17. They married in 1951, owned a small-engine and bicycle business in Tuakau and built their first home in 1961, which they occupied up until their passing. 

Collin was an engineer, fabricator and a perfectionist, although "hated" being called that. 

"Stuff that people wouldn't even consider repairable, he could repair it," said Williams. 

"Everything had to be done exactly right otherwise it wasn't worth doing."

Jill was  a homemaker who loved sewing and knitting, and would make sure that her family would never go hungry and never be cold.

"Her life just centred around her kids. We were her life, well and truly.

"Mum and I were the best of friends . . . We used to walk all over Tuakau, it didn't matter where, we would just walk and walk and walk," Williams said, as she began to cry. 

"We made a concrete fish pond because dad taught us how to do it and we made a small retaining wall because dad taught us how to do [that too]."

The couple will share a funeral service, which will be held on Friday, September 15 at  Grahams Funeral Home Chapel in Tuakau.

"We loved them dearly and we are going to miss them so much," said Williams. 

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback