Wednesday was going to be the day that Jim and Dorothy Foulkes finally, sadly, moved into a retirement center. Instead, it became the day they died together at home.
It was their wedding anniversary.
With their belongings packed for the move, James Foulkes Sr., 85, and his wife, Dorothy, 86, were found by their son when he came to pick them up.
Foulkes had shot his wife in the head with a .32-caliber handgun and then shot and killed himself, said Marianne Pasha, Pinellas County sheriff's spokeswoman. The couple was found dead in their bedroom at 10:15 a.m., clad in pajamas, Pasha said.
"He didn't want to go to the retirement home," said Bob Hughes, 70, who lives next door to the Foulkes. "He was very adamant about it."
When James Foulkes Jr., 55, arrived at his parents' home to take them to the retirement center, he found the place uncharacteristically quiet, said Louis Jahncke, a longtime friend of the Foulkeses.
"They were early-risers," said Jahncke, 75, who lives around the block from the Foulkeses. "But when he got to the house, he found it locked up. He came over here and called the Sheriff's Office."
Jahncke waited with the son until authorities arrived. The deputy and the son went into the Foulkes house together as Jahncke waited outside.
"When they came out, I knew what had happened by looking at his face," Jahncke said. "He was in shock."
The Foulkeses had spent win
ters in their home at 277 Maple Ave. for 20 years. They lived in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in summer. They were friendly, pleasant people, said Vera Hughes, 72, who lives next door.
"They were very active when we first moved here four years ago," Mrs. Hughes said. "They would bring covered dishes to the clubhouse. But in the last two years, they'd gone downhill."
The couple depended on their son, who was devoted to his parents, Hughes said. James Foulkes Jr. did their grocery shopping and drove them to the doctor's office.
And Mrs. Foulkes, who was sometimes disoriented and was losing her eyesight, depended heavily on her husband.
"She got to the point where he had to lead her around to the mailbox and such," Hughes said.
Dorothy Jahncke, 74, knew the Foulkeses for nearly 19 years. She said nothing seemed amiss when she visited them Tuesday. Mrs. Jahncke had brought a cake to celebrate the couple's wedding anniversary the next day.
Mrs. Jahncke said she didn't know exactly how long the couple had been married. Pasha, of the Sheriff's Office, said it was more than 50 years.
The Jahnckes had joined James Foulkes Jr. at his parents' home Tuesday, helping them pack for the trip to the New Port Richey retirement center. He was asking his parents whether they wanted to take their favorite armchairs.
"Jim was becoming resigned to it, I think," Jahncke said. "He didn't talk that much about it, but I could just see."
The only hint the Jahnckes had that Foulkes might consider suicide was something he often said as he described the limitations age had placed on the couple.
"He felt that the two of them had lived too long," Mrs. Jahncke said. "He said that many times."