Every so often it happens.
A pair of individuals who have devoted their lives to each other in marriage take it all the way to the end and go out the door of life within hours of each other.
Mary Hanson of Bloomington died on May 16, and her husband, William Hanson, died on May 17. Both were 79. The two were buried last week on their 53rd wedding anniversary. By all accounts they were inseparable, so they probably wouldn’t have minded sharing an obituary.
Mary was born in Nassau, Minn., on Jan. 4, 1939. Bill was born in Willmar on Oct. 18, 1938.
He was a planner, organizer and record-keeper, and he kept an immaculate lawn that friends jokingly called “Augusta National in Minnesota” after the golf course in Georgia. She was very involved with St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Bloomington and loved Princess Diana, ice skating, Tiger Woods and how-to shows on HGTV.
“They were sincere, trustworthy, very hardworking people,” said their daughter Lisa Hanson Smeed of Victoria, Minn. “When you describe my parents, it’s like one word: Bill-and-Mary. The one does not go without the other, kind of like peanut butter and jelly, or milk and cookies.”
They met in Richfield at a stoplight in 1956. “He was riding in a car and glanced over and saw the beauty in the car next to him in a white jacket,” Smeed said. After the light turned, he ordered his buddy to catch up to her car so they could meet.
After marriage in 1965, two children and a move from Richfield to Bloomington, Mary spent a career as a sales associate at Dayton’s, Marshall Field’s and Macy’s, where she retired in 2012, three years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Bill served in the U.S. Navy for six years and worked at Control Data and other companies as a project manager before suffering a massive heart attack. He went back to work in a less stressful job in 1994 and dealt blackjack at Mystic Lake Casino for 24 years. He ended work on May 6 after the return of esophageal cancer.
Son John Hanson of Woodbury said that his dad loved hosting an annual backyard tournament called the Zipper Open for family and friends each July. It included a nine-hole golf course in his plush backyard that was played with croquet mallets and balls. The winner received their name and date on a zipper sewn onto a plaid jacket, a takeoff on the green jacket awarded at the Master’s golf championship each year in Augusta.
After retirement, Mary received assistance from a home-care agency during the day, and Bill cared for her at night. She was transferred to a long-term care facility in 2015, where Bill visited her every night after work to walk, talk and share photos of grandchildren.
Bill’s visits continued despite his cancer treatments and declining health. He was in a hospital when his children brought news of her death on May 16. “It was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my entire life, telling my dad that his lovely Sweetpea had gone to heaven,” said Smeed.
A few minutes later, she said, a nurse came into the room and asked Bill how he was doing, and he replied, “My heart really hurts.”
Even though Bill had a history of heart problems, said John Hanson, this seemed different. “It really was more of an emotional heart-hurting moment for him when we had to tell him about Mom,” he said. “He took it well, but it definitely affected him.”
“He just knew that his heart was broken and he didn’t want to live without her,” said Smeed.
Bill died the next day, within 24 hours of his spouse.
In addition to their children, the Hansons are survived by several brothers and sisters, and four grandchildren. Services have been held.