Grand Rapids: Husband and wife married 76 years die 3 days apart

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -- A West Michigan couple whose children say they were inseparable in life were nearly so in death, dying three days apart this past week.

Richard Bromley died last Sunday and Mabel Bromley on Wednesday. Both were 98. They had been married for 76 years.

"They held on for each other," their daughter, Lynne Reimann, told The Grand Rapids Press. "I think she waited for him to go."

The couple lived in several locations around Grand Rapids but spent most of the past 40 years in Kentwood. Both died at Sunrise Assisted Living Center in Cascade Township, where they had lived for the past year.

When the two were born, women weren't yet permitted to vote and the Titanic had sunk just a year before.

Growing up in the era of the Depression, Richard Bromley graduated from Grand Rapids Central High School in 1931. Mabel Schroeder graduated from Grandville High the same year. He was the youngest of three kids from a Rockford-area family. She came from a family with nine children in Grandville.

The two met through mutual friends and were married in 1934 on the way to the World's Fair in Chicago. They stopped in Michigan City, Ind., where they were wed by a justice of the peace.

That was the start of a life spent side by side.

"Wherever one went, the other followed," said Reimann, 58, of Alto, one of the Bromleys' seven children. The couple also had 22 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.

"It wasn't all bliss," said another daughter, Carol Beia, 53, of Ada. "They learned how to argue and move on."

Richard worked for Consumers Energy most of his life, starting in 1936 and retiring in 1976 as steam-heating plant superintendent. Mabel was a stay-at-home mother.

"They were very resilient people," said Raymond Bromley, 66, of Holland, who also worked at Consumers. "They had a kind of pioneering spirit. There was no quit in them."

For their first home, in the 1940s, Richard dug the septic system out by hand and installed the electrical and plumbing systems himself. The Bromleys moved to Monroe around 1950 for about 10 years before returning to western Michigan. They lived in Wyoming for a period before settling into the Kentwood home in 1965.

"They never sat still," Reimann said.

Even after retirement, they kept busy gardening, repairing whatever needed fixing, golfing or traveling. The two traveled between Florida and Michigan until they were in their mid-90s. They took up horseback riding in their 50s and became members of a local club.

Richard, who quit smoking cold turkey in his 50s, had quadruple-bypass heart surgery in his 80s, and Mabel had work done on her liver and knee, but otherwise "they really weren't sick much," Reimann said.

Steve Baron, funeral director at Metcalf & Jonkhoff funeral home, said in 38 years, he has only seen three other couples die so closely together.

"It's sad, but what a wonderful thing after 76 years of marriage -- to not leave your other behind very long," he said.

Family members were gathering Saturday to celebrate the Bromleys' life together.

Published: Tue, May 24, 2011


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