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Thursday, May 23 2013 2:36 PM EDT2013-05-23 18:36:42 GMT
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VAN, TX (KLTV) -
After 66 years of marriage, an East Texas man passed away just days after his wife. Family members say the two had never been apart and death wasn't about to change that.
Married in 1946 at ages 20 and 15, Leonard Darrel and Betty Ayers were embarking on a love story that would outlive them both.
"He was robbing the cradle, you know," says their daughter Pat Ammons while smiling. "It was just a love story from there."
Now the memories come flooding back as photos pour onto their kitchen table. Three generations and their beloved dog gather around remembering the two people who taught them what love is.
"They didn't have money to give us, but they had time to give us and they gave us their time and their love," says their grandson Nat Ayers.
It was a self-sacrificing love that their own children can hardly explain, but know is very rare.
"You faced life like it was, straightened things out and you tried to live it the best way you knew how," says their son Ken Ayers.
As the two grew older, Betty became ill, but her husband never left her side and never wavered in his commitment.
"The last several weeks he was there constantly until it just wore him down, and he wanted to go with her. They had never been apart and this was not a time to do that so he decided he'd go too," says Pat.
"This is what love is. Marriage is a tough thing and through the good times and the bad times, you hang in there and you make it to the end. You have no regrets. They loved each other until the end and that's what love is. It's what marriage is supposed to be," says their son Phil Ayers.
They were never apart in life and separated in death by only hours. While Mr. Ayers was in the hospital, Betty passed away at their home.
"We went as a family and told him and he was peaceful. He knew at that time... I could see it on his face that he had finished his job," says Phil.
"At the end, as much as we told Pop we wanted him to stay with us and to be with us for a little longer... as much as they loved us, he loved MawMaw more," says Nat.
Now, loved ones will celebrate their lives and find peace knowing that MawMaw and Papaw will always be together.
"I'm not saying it's not hard. My heart is broken, but I'm glad they're together. Very glad," says Pat.
A service for Leonard Darrel and Betty Ayers will be held Wednesday afternoon in Ben Wheeler. They will be buried together in Canton.