John and Betty Ware were inseparable.
They met at school in Acton in their teens and married shortly out of high school, John just turned 20, Betty a year younger. They would be together for 68 years.
Shortly after they moved to Guelph. John worked for years at Hammond Manufacturing while Betty worked at a law office in town, then at the University of Guelph.
Their growing family eventually grew to three sons – Dave, Tom and Ken – and eventually seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
The two owned a home, lived for a time at Guelph Lake Commons then eventually in their own apartment.
“They were inseparable their entire lives,” says middle son Tom. “They were always together.”
In late January Betty phoned her son one day to tell him John had taken a tumble at home. When it happened again shortly after, an ambulance was called.
John, 87, was diagnosed with COVID. He quickly slipped into a coma and died at Guelph General Hospital four days after being admitted.
Betty, 86, was tested and also diagnosed with COVID but showed few, if any, symptoms.
She was admitted to hospital but seemed to be doing fine. She talked about replacing a couch back at the apartment and wanting more appropriate footwear for when she left the hospital.
But Betty’s condition quickly worsened over an eight-day stay in hospital. Her lungs ravaged by COVID, she was eventually given oxygen, but there was little that could be done.
As things worsened, the doctor told Betty that there was nothing more they could do.
When there was no hope of her being able to breathe on her own again, they asked what she would like, and she asked for her family to be with her at the end. Some family joined via a zoom call and some were in the room behind a glass wall because of COVID protocols.
Betty passed away at Guelph General on Feb. 12, just 13 days after her husband.
“Right to the end, she made all her own decisions,” says Tom, who was at his mother’s bedside, separated by a protective shield. “She took the mask off, said ‘is this for real?’” and that was it.”
No one knows how the couple came down with the virus.
They were careful. Rarely saw anyone. When Betty went to get groceries, John would wait in the car.
John dealt with some mild dementia, but the couple functioned well living on their own.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I figure I’d be cleaning out their apartment a month later,” Tom says. “When it hits, it hits hard. Both of them? Never in my wildest dreams."
Tom, had been staying away from his parents, as had the rest of the family, to help keep them safe.
The Ware family shared their story so people realize that it can happen to anyone and it can happen in an instant. And that it's devastating.
"In just 13 days our lives changed completely. We are heartbroken, and devastated to have lost both to COVID 19," said grandaughter Kristen Ware.
They also deal with the ‘what ifs.’
As a couple in their 80s, Betty and John would be near the top of the list to be vaccinated and if there hadn’t been an interruption in vaccine delivery, they very well would have already been vaccinated.
“If things had gone the way they were supposed to they probably would have made it,” Tom says.
“But there’s no point dwelling on that now.”