On August 22nd, Jean and George Spear celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary with family and friends. Last Friday, each unexpectedly passed away in a Ottawa hospital within hours of each other.
While the couple’s children said the suddenness and timing of the deaths “defies any sort of logic,” there certainly appears to be an element of divine intervention.
It was World War II, and George was serving in the Canadian military when he first crossed paths with Jean, an young English woman, at a dance hall in London in August 1941. According to the Ottawa Citizen, George was 21 years old and Canada’s youngest sergeant major with the 1st Corps Field Survey Co., Royal Canadian Engineers when they met. Jean, meanwhile, was 18 and working as a firefighter, an air raid warden, and a corporal in the Home Guard.
“When you met a boy, you made the most of every moment because you just didn’t know when or if you’d meet again,” Jean said in a 2006 interview. “There was a stimulation about it, a wonderful, wonderful excitement that is hard to describe and hard to understand if you weren’t there. The worry sharpened your senses.”
The two married in her hometown of Kingston Upon Thames in 1942, and they later settled in Ottawa. They had two children, a daughter and son, and Jean made headlines in 2006, when she was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire. The Ottawa Citizen reported that the couple was invited to a private reception with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, at which time George showed Kate Middleton a photo of his wife dating back to 1942 that he kept tucked inside his beret when he was a solider.
“There was a respect for each other’s interests,” their son Ian told the Ottawa Citizen. “Each recognized that the other needed those interests to make them happy.”
Last Tuesday, 94-year-old Jean was admitted to Queensway Carleton Hospital after developing pneumonia. George, 97, reportedly spoke with his beloved wife on the phone on Wednesday. A day later, he too was admitted to the hospital after falling into a “deep sleep.” Hospital staff was planning to move both Spears into rooms on the same floor, but, before anything could be done, Jean passed away in her sleep at 4:30 a.m. on Friday, and George followed soon after at 9:45 a.m.
“We tell stories to make ourselves feel better,” their daughter Heather said. “But this defies any sort of logic. We were overwhelmed by the suddenness of it.”
While both Ian and Heather are still coming to terms with the deaths, they are planning to honor their parents long and happy life together in a way they know would make them proud.
“I think we’ll have one more Spear party,” Heather said.