JACKSON, MI – Leslie and Patricia McWaters built a full life in the nearly 50 years they were together.
They loved spending time with each other and their friends, from dancing where they met at Julie’s Bar in 1971 and hosting pool parties and family functions, to driving on backroads in their 1959 Corvette or watching their great grandchildren in quarter midget auto racing.
It breaks the heart of their family members to know they died together as well.
Leslie, known as LD, and Pat died on Nov. 24 after battling COVID-19 at Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson, their hometown. Hospital staff recorded their deaths at the same time that Tuesday before Thanksgiving, according to their obituary.
“Those of us that know them, know that mom went first and said, ‘LD, it’s time to go!’” the obituary reads.
Pat, 78, was a surgical nurse for 35 years at Henry Ford Allegiance Health, while LD, 75, was a truck driver and veteran of the U.S. Navy Reserve.
They were known for their opposite personalities. Pat was a no-nonsense person, while LD was a jokester. If someone was sick or injured, Pat would take care of them without a thought. LD’s goal was to make them laugh, his daughter Joanna Sisk said.
“Before he could tell us the punch lines, he was laughing so hysterically,” Sisk said. “I don’t think we ever heard a punch line to one of his jokes. He’d giggle and giggle and giggle, tears streaming down his face.”
The two were competitive, Sisk said. They loved to play the domino game Mexican Trains and card game Hand and Foot.
LD loved bodybuilding, too. He was the first Mr. Rose City bodybuilder, Sisk said, and continued to train bodybuilders or athletes at the high school and preaching an all-natural approach to muscle gain. His impact was so wide in that community that Pat’s nurse at Henry Ford Allegiance Health had previously trained with him – they joked they were the only steroid-free builders in Jackson.
Pat and LD were first diagnosed with COVID-19 on Nov. 12 and 14, respectively, Sisk said. They were taken to the hospital on Nov. 17, riding in the same ambulance together. They were never intubated, but Sisk said her dad thought the effort it took to breathe and get oxygen was “excruciatingly painful.”
“At the end he said, ‘I don’t have any fight left in me. I try so hard but it’s painful and exhausting,’” she said.
Sisk said her parents suspect they caught the virus at a restaurant outside of Jackson, where they observed many people without masks and walking between tables to speak to others.
While they took the virus seriously at first, they let their guard down as the months went on and as they became flooded with the breadth of misinformation and opinions from news channels and social media, Sisk said.
“That’s why people are so skeptical and not taking this as seriously as they should,” Sisk said. “We were those people as well. They feel that (news channels) really need to get on the same page.”
Now, Sisk hopes the family’s painful loss of two parents in one moment can be a lesson to others.
As their story goes viral and is featured in multiple news outlets, Sisk said she hopes her parents can be an example of love and fun, but also a warning to take the necessary precautions to avoid transmitting COVID-19.
“It gave us a whole new purpose,” she said of the media attention. “In hope for somebody else to not have to feel what we’re feeling now. That’s how my parents were – they helped everyone with anything that they needed at any time.”
MORE JACKSON NEWS: