ELWOOD, Ind. — Steve Vincent briefly stepped out of his wife’s hospital room, but it was long enough for her to take her last breath.
Rushing back to her bedside, Steve dropped to his knees begging God to take him, too.
Less than 48 hours later, God granted Steve’s wish. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack.
Patty Vincent was 58 and Steve was 62.
In the wake of their grief, the couple’s six children are spending this Christmastime with not just one but both of their loving parents gone.
Sarah Vincent, 27, carefully laid out dozens of photos of her parents across her desk at E&M Machining in Frankton, a town of about 1,800 in central Indiana. Several family members had gathered to talk about the Elwood couple, who were known in the community from their time working there.
Patty worked at the Gas America, formerly Speedway, for more than 20 years, and Steve worked for the city of Elwood, population 8,400, for more than 28 years, according to the family.
James Vincent, 23, the couple’s youngest son, pulled a carefully folded and aged letter from his pocket that was written Dec. 27, 1976, shortly after the couple was married.
The letter was written by Patty’s parents, who were worried about their 15-year-old daughter who ran away to Florida to marry Steve, who was 19. Patty had to lie about her age on the couple’s marriage certificate so they could marry without her parents’ permission.
The couple’s oldest daughter, Dusten Payne, 41, said her father promised Patty’s parents if they sent $60 he would bring her back home to Elwood.
“He used that money to get married,” Payne said with a laugh.
Terry James, 65, said her sister Patty had always been smitten with Steve.
“He was good looking and really outgoing,” she said with a laugh looking through photos of Steve.
Two years after they were married, the couple’s first child was born.
“She was at the Elwood hospital and having complications and the doctors came up to Dad and said you need to make a decision,” Payne said of her birth. “You either need to save your wife or the baby and my dad said, ‘I want them both and I want to take them to another hospital.”
Payne said her father’s love for his wife and refusal to lose her is why she was born in Muncie.
“My dad was really in love with my mom,” said Sarah Vincent. “I remember telling us when he got mad at one of us kids he would always say – ‘I can have more kids. I can’t have another Patty.”
In August, Patty was diagnosed with cancer, but doctors said with treatments she could live for several years. What doctors did not know was Patty had suffered several mini-strokes following the treatments and suddenly took a turn for the worse at the end of November.
“It was very hard for him,” said Sarah Vincent. “He was her 24-7 caretaker. All of us kids tried to help as much as we could, took her to her appointments, all her blood work and whatever she needed, but the cancer was just stronger than anything we could do to help her.”
Steve stayed at his wife’s side in the hospital only leaving occasionally to change his clothes or to go home to feed their animals.
Sarah Vincent said she did not tell her father his wife died without him. She said her mother would not have wanted him to see her go.
“I told him you made it just in time,” she said. “We all cried and said our goodbyes to our mom and he said ‘I need a few minutes by myself with her.’ ”
That’s when Steve got on his knees overwhelmed with grief and begged for God to take him, too.
“I’ve never seen anyone pray so hard in my life,” Sarah Vincent said. “He wanted to be with her.”
Patty died Monday, Dec. 2.
Late the next night, Steve was told his oldest son’s girlfriend had hit a deer. Being an avid hunter, Steve went looking for the animal to process it for meat.
“He retrieved the deer and got it all the way back to the back of the truck and the coroner said it looked like he had stopped to take a break, walked over to the side of the truck to smoke a cigarette and had a heart attack,” said Sarah Vincent.
Payne said her father did not want to live without his wife.
“He knew we all needed him, but I think my mom needed him more,” said Sarah Payne. “They were soul mates whether they were on Earth or in heaven."
The couple was cremated on their 43rd wedding anniversary, Dec. 9.