Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wellsville couple makes picnic of love, life, death

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 8/30/2013

WELLSVILLE — Their love story has been compared to Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook.”

Carol and Don Fleming, Wellsville, spent 71 years by each other’s side, Judy Bono said. So when the two passed away just hours apart earlier this week, it was their final act of true love for one another, she said.

It wasn’t a typical love story though, Bono, one of the Flemings’ daughters, said, but it turned out to be a special one.

“[Mom and dad] were both on dates with other people — they were double dating,” Bono said. “Mom was actually dating [dad’s] cousin.”

That meeting was all it took to spark their romance, Bono said, and the rest is history.

A lifetime together

Don and Carol Fleming were married Aug. 7, 1942, in Ottawa. During their 71 years of marriage, the two took up many hobbies, Bono said.

“In their earlier years they liked to take trips,” she said. “All of us always had picnics. Always, even when we were kids and into even the last couple years probably, we did picnics. They loved to eat outdoors.”

Spending time outside was an almost every day occurrence, Becky See, another of the Flemings’ daughters, said.

“When Dad worked on the grain elevator about every day Mom would pack him a lunch and take him his lunch and they’d go to the park across the street and have a picnic,” See said. “They were just always together. They did everything together.”

Bono said some of her fondest memories were of time spent outdoors with the family and with her mother teaching her and her sister how to cook.

“I remember a lot of memories of Dad helping us with homework and mom with the cooking,” she said. “She was always trying to help us girls learn how to cook because when she started her married life, she didn’t know how to cook.”

Homemade ice cream was one of Don’s many talents, Bono said, and he would make it as often as he could.

“We did it by a hand crank ice cream maker,” she said. “He and I entered a contest in Wellsville and won first place for our homemade ice cream. My dad just loved homemade ice cream. He made it every chance he could get.”

Together to the end

A little faith and a lot of patience went a very long way for the two, Bono said.

“It was my dad that kept them together so long,” she said. “He was so patient and kind, and he just had a demeanor about him that nothing ruffled his feathers. And he spoiled my mom, and he really, really loved her and in her way she loved him and it was just a mutual thing between them. I think their faith and religion kept them together as well.”

The two lived together at the Wellsville Retirement Community, Bono said. Other than the normal symptoms of old age, she said, the Flemings were in relatively good health until Carol got sick.

“Mom had been sick for about a week or so,” Bono said. “It was strange because [Dad] came down with the same symptoms a week after she did. She really went downhill fast.”

Carol, 91, died Tuesday just hours before Don, 93, Kelly Fleming, the Flemings’ daughter-in-law, said. It was his way of making sure his wife was all right, she said.

“Don and Carol were very close, and Don always made sure that Carol was taken care of,” Kelly Fleming said. “He wasn’t about to go first because he needed to make sure Carol would be taken care of. It’s just the old love story. Everybody compared it to ‘The Notebook’ movie where they just curled up in bed and that was it.”

Honoring their commitment to each other up until their last moments together is something that doesn’t happen very often, David Fleming, Carol and Don’s son, said, and is something he’ll cherish.

“I think that just the fact they were by each other’s side for so long through thick and thin,” he said. “I think that’s probably what I’ll have with me forever.”

Don died Wednesday, 18 hours after Carol, See said. Her dad was being a gentleman, letting Carol go first, she added. See’s son shared Don and Carol’s story on her coffee shop’s Facebook page, beginning with a quote she said perfectly described their life together.

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you,” the A.A. Milne quote from “Winnie the Pooh” read.

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