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'Better together': Lifelong sweethearts married 65 years die 4 days apart

Just when you were recovering from all those Valentine’s Day love stories, it’s time for another tearjerker.

This Tulsa, Oklahoma, couple pulled a real-life “The Notebook”: After 65 years of marriage, the two died of natural causes just four days apart.

Marvin Ray Riddle, 84, and Mary Frances Riddle, 85, were known to friends and family as “M&M.”

Daughter Carol Friesen described them as “truly better together,” right down to their final years in Legend at Mingo Road assisted living facility.

“When they both became wheelchair-bound, they liked to make a train with their wheelchairs so the staff could wheel them to the dining room at the same time instead of separating them,” Friesen told TODAY.com.

Carol Friesen
Mary Frances Riddle and Marvin Ray Riddle were married for 65 years. They died four days apart earlier this month.

“They held hands almost constantly,” she added — even when it was hazardous to their health.

Once, during a springtime stroll outside, the pair insisted on walking hand-in-hand, even though Marvin used a cane.

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Despite “stern warnings” from their daughter, both fell, landing them in the emergency room with heavy bruising.

"It scared me to death, but everybody who treated them thought it was an amazing love story," Friesen said.

Carol Friesen
Daughter Carol Friesen described the couple as “truly better together."

Of course, M&M’s bond went much deeper than their interlaced fingers.

Over the years, they leaned on each other; when one was feeling weak or vulnerable, the other was there to provide strength and comfort.

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Sometimes, that meant something as simple as handling dessert duty.

Carol Friesen
The couple spent their final years together at an assisted living facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“One of their favorite things was making banana splits together,” Carol recalled. “When Mom had her stroke in 2009 and was still in the ICU on their 59th anniversary, she really wanted a banana split with him.”

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But when Carol offered to bring one from a local ice cream shop, Mary frowned.

“She said that Dad made the best banana splits and she would rather have one he made,” Carol said.

“My husband and I packed a small ice chest with all the fixings, and Dad made them a banana split right there in the ICU.”

Carol Friesen
Marvin making Mary and banana split in the hospital after she suffered a stroke in 2009.

When Marvin passed away on Feb. 1, it was tough on Mary, who had suffered from stroke-related dementia for several years.

“I watched my mom, sometimes looking everywhere for my dad, other times saying she sure did miss him,” Friesen said. “We got the feeling she thought he had been gone a long time.”

Carol Friesen
The couple in an undated photo. “There is great peace in knowing they got to go so close together," their daughter said.

“I knew she would be miserable without him, and I hoped she would not have to suffer that sadness very long,” Friesen said.

Four days later, on Mary’s 85th birthday, she enjoyed a party with the staff and some of the other residents.

Around 7:20 p.m., Mary said she felt tired and asked to go to bed.

When the staff went to check on her at 8:45, she had died peacefully in her sleep, seemingly having gotten her birthday wish.

"We were so shocked when she passed away … and yet, we were not surprised at all,” Friesen said. “There is great peace in knowing they got to go so close together."

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