Couple Of 45 Years Dies Minutes Apart Unaware Of Each Other's Passing

03/20/2014 05:09 pm ET | Updated Mar 21, 2014

They spent decades together as a married couple and died just minutes apart in a sad but symbolic ending. Tom and Naomi Shirley of Southwest Ranches, FL both passed away on Saturday unaware of each other's death, within 15 minutes of each other.

Naomi was on her way to visit Tom, who had been hospitalized earlier that day for heart problems, but she died of a heart attack before she reached him. Unknown to her, Tom had died just minutes earlier. "It's profoundly sad, but except for being so sad it's truly romantic," family friend Barbara Jean Powell told the Sun-Sentinel.

While their children are devastated by the sudden loss of both parents, they say, in a sad way, it's good that the couple never had to mourn losing each other. "They were each others whole life," their daughter, Melanie Davis, told CBS Miami.

Tom, 83, and Naomi, 75, were both passionate about the Everglades and wildlife. Tom spent 30 years as a lieutenant in the Florida Game Commission and authored the book, "Everglades Patrol." He even appeared in a 1960s issue of "LIFE" showing off a 12-foot alligator he caught on a research project. Naomi was a retired nurse. It was their shared interest in the outdoors that brought them together and friends say they were inseparable.

"He lived to protect the Everglades," son, Tommy Shirley said. "He kind of molded us into what he did and we passed that on to our kids as well." The couple leaves behind four children and eight grandchildren.

This isn't the only couple to die in such a manner.

North Carolina couple Frank and Eleanor Turner were married for nearly 65 years before they died six hours apart in late November 2013 -- unaware of each other's passing.

CONVERSATIONS