“As you know I have Alzheimer’s. It is not a nice disease. So far I have held up pretty well. Dad and I are still having a pretty good life. There is no doubt where my sickness will end up for me,” Adrienne wrote in the Nov. 22, 2009, letter.
She went on: “All of our lives, Dad and I have talked over our end of life beliefs. We are both in agreement that neither one of us wants to live after all reasonable hope for a good life is over. . . . We have had such a great life together and with all of you.”
On Thursday, just over a week after their 61st wedding anniversary, Charles took his own life and his wife’s in their home, police and airport authority officials said. He shot himself, authorities said. They have not said how she died.
One of the couple’s children, Marjorie Snelling, 56, of Philadelphia, said Friday that she knew her parents had talked about a plan to end their lives but that she and her siblings were stunned that it actually happened. There had not been “any specific signs.”
Still, she said, her family believes the pair “were deliberate and thoughtful.”
“They had a plan, and they were going to execute that plan without people knowing,” Marjorie said. “They’ve seen their peers and friends languish. . . . They had really been thinking about this for some time and keeping it a secret.”
Charles, who had a pacemaker and had undergone two knee replacements, was his wife’s main caregiver, although he had hired helpers who came in about 14 hours a day, friends and relatives said. “They were always deeply committed to each other,” Marjorie said. “They had a fundamental bond. We always knew they were united at their core.”
That romance began when they met at a prom at Cedar Crest College, in Pennsylvania. Both were with other people at the time, but in a December 2011 column in the New York Times, Charles described his wife as a “simply marvelous young lady: ravishingly beautiful, bright, well-groomed, well-spoken, mannerly, disciplined and circumspect.” He “pursued her with all the vigor at my command.” He courted her by pretending to study with her at a park. They were married on March 21, 1951, the first day of their spring break, and went off for a quick honeymoon in Bermuda. The two had five children — one every two years over the early years of their marriage — and 11 grandchildren.
Adrienne, the daughter of a talented Italian marble craftsman, graduated from Cedar Crest, and photos she took appeared in two books. She later served on the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts.