Chicago couple married 69 years die moments apart
A Chicago Jewish couple married for 69 years died moments apart in the same hospital room while holding hands.
Teresa Vatkin, 89, died at 12:10 a.m. April 22 at Highland Park Hospital. Her husband, Isaac, 91, died at approximately 12:50 a.m. as they wheeled his wife from the room and their hands separated, according to local reports.
Teresa Vatkin had been suffering from dementia for the past decade. Isaac was her caregiver, staying by her side even when she entered a memory care facility.
“The moment he felt we removed her hand from his, he was able to say ‘OK, I’m done protecting her. I can go and rest as well,’” their son, Daniel, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “The ultimate in chivalry — so he could go to heaven and open the door for her.”
“I saw it with my own eyes,” their daughter, Clara Gesklin, told the newspaper. “All of a sudden, when their fingers separated, he just stopped breathing.”
Isaac Vatkin had been admitted to the hospital with influenza and his wife with pneumonia. They were moved to the same room on April 21, when both were breathing shallowly and were unresponsive.
The couple grew up in Argentina, on opposite ends of the country, and wrote love letters to each other three times a week until they married in 1947. Isaac, known as Alberto in Argentina to avoid anti-Semitism, was a leathermaker.
The Vatkins moved to Chicago in 1968, where Isaac worked as a kosher butcher and invested in apartments. n
—JTA News and Features
Anita Lee Blum Cohen
Cohen, of Potomac, died on May 1. She was 69 years old.
Anita Lee Blum Cohen was born on July 7, 1947 and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. She was the loving and devoted only child of Sophie and Morris Blum. She graduated from Wingate High School in 1965 and Brooklyn College in 1969. After moving to Northern Virginia, she later received a master’s degree in education from George Mason University. She was an early education specialist, teaching children from ages pre-kindergarten through second grade, primarily in the Arlington County school system. She also briefly ran her own business, a day care center out of her own home in Springfield, Va. Cohen was a talented seamstress and cook, a lover of music and movies, and a grammar and spelling aficionado. She also devoted much of her free time participating in fundraisers for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
In Dec. 1981, Cohen was in a single car accident at nighttime at a shopping mall, during which she broke her jaw and her kneecap. The aftermath led to her ultimately being diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that eventually left her totally blind. Despite her condition, she and her husband Frank moved to Maryland, and Cohen began the first of many years working as an administrative assistant for Hillel of Greater Washington. Cohen subsequently learned to read braille, started a Low Vision Support Group housed at the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, and performed free phone counseling through a suicide hotline.
Cohen suffered from multiple forms of cancer during her lifetime, including thyroid cancer in her younger years, localized breast cancer, and, finally, uterine cancer metastatic to her lungs. She is survived by her loving and devoted husband of 32 years, Franklyn Terry Cohen of Potomac. She is also survived by her four children and four grandchildren Michelle Erin Fox Day and Barton Edward Day of Damascus; Charles Andrew “Chuck” Fox and Amy Pamela Goldenberg Fox of Atlanta, Ga.; Elianna Ruth Day, Sophia Rose Day, Sydney Bess Fox, and Benjamin Stephen Fox. Cohen was also the loving owner of two guide dogs over the past 18 year, Hyra and Valentina.
She cherished all of her dear friends from throughout the Beth Sholom Potomac community, as well as those who are spread all across the country and in Israel.
Anita is a long-standing member of Congregation Beth Sholom of Potomac. Donations can be made in her memory to: Guide Dogs for the Blind, P.O. Box 151200, San Rafael, CA 94915-1200.