Together Until the End

When John and Martha DeMucci were married in 1946, the wedding gown Martha wore was stitched from a silk parachute John used in World War II.

John was a ball turret gunner positioned in the belly of a B-17 Flying Fortress. His was considered one of the most dangerous assignments in the war. Protected from enemy fire and flak only by a sheet of domed glass, many perished before completing their mission.

The parachute was a lifesaver for many airmen. For John and Martha, the parachute wedding gown was not only a cheap alternative to a store-bought original, but also a metaphor for the safety and security their marriage would bring them. The marriage bore two children – Angelo and Annamarie – 68 years of happiness and devotion, and togetherness up to the very end. Literally.

After they were married, John and Martha settled in South Philly and later moved to a neighborhood in southwest Philadelphia, where they remained 40 years. John worked in construction, Martha worked as an administrative assistant at Saint Agnes Hospital in South Philly.

When they retired, the couple moved to Egg Harbor Township, where they lived for another 20 years. John had his power boats, and Martha went along for the ride even though it wasn’t really her thing.

As they aged, their health naturally began to fail. John had heart surgery in his early 70s and high blood pressure. Martha cared for him until she developed a heart condition as well. When she was 84 years old, she received an implanted defibrillator and all was fine, until one day she fell and hit her head. That’s when her health began to decline.

She developed breathing problems, used oxygen and started to show signs of dementia. “She couldn’t do what she used to do,” Angelo says. “Then the roles were reversed, and my father took care of her.”

Both parents moved in with Angelo and his wife, Mary, when the load became too much for his father. For eight months, they all lived together under one roof. Then in February 2015, John went into the hospital for a heart catheterization. After the surgery, he developed a wheezing cough and remained in the hospital.

One day Martha insisted on going to see her husband, and when she returned, she said she couldn’t breathe, either. So both of them ended up in the same hospital.

Soon their conditions worsened. Their doctor encouraged the family to move them to the Crozer-Keystone Hospice Residence at Taylor Hospital, where they were placed in adjoining rooms.

Their stay was short. Knowing the end was near, one of the staff members suggested that they move the couple into the same room. She died first, and four hours later, holding his wife’s hand, he died, too.

More than two years later, Angelo still chokes up when he tells the story.

“I can’t tell you how much those people in the hospice do and how they do it day in and day out,” Angelo says. “They’re like angels. They honor all your wishes.”

He takes consolation in the fact that they lived a good, long life, and he is thankful for the way they were allowed to spend their final hours.

“People say we were very lucky they went at the same time,” he says. “As crazy as it must sound, I consider myself a lucky man.”

Thanks to the generosity of donors who give in memory or honor of loved ones, the Crozer-Keystone Community Foundation is able to assist Delaware County caregivers and residents experiencing economic challenges as a result of their need for home care or hospice services.  Donations are also used to provide training for hospice and home care workers in the county, and to enhance the field of service in general.