PLANT CITY — Leroy and Dorothy McLeod had always wanted to die together. It would solve the only problem associated with their marriage — the near certainty that one of them had to die first.
"When one of them got hurt," said granddaughter Melissa Brown, "the other would say, 'It's not time yet. We're supposed to go together.' "
They met as children in a Lakeland elementary school. The relationship had deepened by the time he left for the Army during World War II. In the Philippines, Mr. McLeod, a medic, took shrapnel out of his ankle.
He also found silver-colored metal and pounded out a bracelet for Dorothy Bray.
After their marriage in 1946, Mr. McLeod worked as a medical technologist for two area hospitals, then started his own laboratory.
His wife was the more talkative of the two. She helped him farm 3 acres of beans, sweet onions, mustard greens and green peanuts on their property.
Some of the produce wound up in her kitchen.
"You haven't eaten until you have eaten my mother's cooking," said Diane Weltzbarker, her daughter.
During a heart attack Mr. McLeod sustained in 1992, Mrs. McLeod urged him to fight on. Mr. McLeod recovered, then sold the laboratory to South Florida Baptist Hospital. They saw California and Oregon out the window of their motor home, and stood in the mist of Niagara Falls.
Eventually, they sold their tractor and scaled down the garden. Several years ago, Mrs. McLeod underwent an operation to put a stent in her heart. Her husband insisted she recover.
More recently, Mr. McLeod began to experience dementia and heart trouble. Mrs. McLeod remained mentally sharp, but broke her hip in a fall earlier this year. In October, her doctors found late-stage lung cancer.
She entered LifePath Hospice House on Dec. 1. Meanwhile, Mr. McLeod seemed to be undergoing increased swelling in his limbs.
On Dec. 8, after discussions with the family, hospice staff evaluated Mr. McLeod. "They asked the family, 'Is it okay if we keep him for the night?' " recalled Brown, 37.
"We said, 'Are you kidding me?' "
They even had a room available right next door.
On Saturday, Mrs. McLeod was unresponsive. Against medical advice, Mr. McLeod shuffled into her room using a walker.
"The next time I see you will be in heaven," he told her, according to family.
Mrs. McLeod died at 2:20 p.m. Saturday, her husband and family at her side. She was 82.
Mr. McLeod seemed confused after her death, asking if his wife was all right. But deep down he knew, said Judy Amlong, a LifePath nurse who cared for the couple.
"People who are devoted to each other for that period of time, they have an inner sense," Amlong said. "He knew she was gone, and he wanted to be with her.
"There was a lot of love (between them)," she added. Mr. McLeod died at 2:10 a.m. Monday, 36 hours after his wife. He was 87. A joint service and burial for Mr. and Mrs. McLeod will be held today at Hopewell Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens.
"Of course we're sad, losing them both," their granddaughter said. "But I think it really helps a lot knowing they were together, because that's the way they wanted it."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2248.