After 72-year marriage, man and wife die hours apart

A Georgia couple’s love story that lasted seven decades came to its bittersweet end the day after Christmas.

Robert and Louise Bain had promised to love, cherish and honor each other until death did them part, 72 years ago. On Dec 26 they finally fulfilled those vows, together. On Christmas Day Louise, 90, opened her eyes as Robert, 92, sat beside her in their hospital bed. Early the next morning she took her last breath. Six hours later Robert died, too.

“The moment Mom passed, daddy grasped his chest,” said their daughter Charlotte Tallent. “He knew she was gone.”

While fewer than half of U.S. marriages today survive 25 years, the Bains’ endured nearly three times that long, lasting through a world war and all the turmoil of most of one century and the transition to another.

When mourners gather today, they may well regard the virtues and values the couple embodied as echoes of an era long gone by.

They met, for example, at a Texas church camp meeting in the early 1940s. Robert came with another woman but once he caught a glimpse of Louise, “He took the other lady home, came back and got my mother,” said Tallent. They married Sept. 14, 1942.

From then the two were inseparable.

Robert worked for the International Paper Company in Bastrop, La., before enlisting in the Army Air Corps during World War II. While he worked on planes as a mechanic, Louise worked on the Mississippi base with him as a civilian driving an Army truck.

In 1954 they moved to Rome, Ga. Robert worked for the same company, Georgia Kraft Company, for 31 years, until his retirement in 1985.

“She was his perfect match,” said their grandson Bob Williams. The two complemented each other. Louise was funny while Robert was quiet. They both loved to laugh and did everything together including fishing and traveling across the U.S.

Their devotion was obvious to others, even after their move in 2011 to the assisted-living facility that would be their final residence. “She was very attentive to him,” said Geraldine Howard, staff member of the Benton House in Alpharetta. Howard said Robert would go into his wife’s room and they would snuggle facing each other.

“This couple made history to me: When you experience it yourself it’s remarkable how deep their love was,” said Howard.

“You would always find them holding hands, you could just tell they were in love,” said family friend Ann Spell, who named her daughter after Louise. “They put the other person’s needs in front of their own; they were inspirational.”

Robert built every house that he and Louise called home. Ever the handyman, he enjoyed building and taking things apart.

They were a team: He was a fisherman, hunter and a gardener; she was a homemaker who prepared the fish, game and vegetables her husband brought home. Every morning up until Christmas eve, the early riser Robert would have a cup of coffee and wait until his wife got up.

“They never had to buy a lot of groceries,” said Tallent. “And she was a fabulous cook and baker.”

“She was the secret sauce of the whole family,” Williams added.

On their 50th anniversary the couple renewed their vows during a military-themed ceremony, where even the minister came dressed in a military uniform. “It was like we were there for the wedding,” said Robbie Baker, a daughter.

One key to their lasting marriage may have been, in Tallent’s words, “Mom stayed true to who she was and never wavered from that. They knew who they were and enjoyed who they were.”

When it came to how much she adored her husband Louise often said, “He was the best-looking man, and I stole his heart.”

Wherever she went, he went: “He was always a gentleman, he let her go first,” said Spell.

Just as he did Friday, at the end.

Funeral services will be 11 a.m. today in the Mausoleum Chapel in Mulhearn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Monroe, La.

Robert and Louise Bain, of Rome are survived by daughters Charlotte Tallent of McCormick, S.C.; Robbie Baker of Rome and son Larry Bain of Juliette, Ga.; six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

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