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Death graces couple with brief separation

Margaret Dee dies as her husband, Jimmy, lies in the hospital. Less than a day later, he joins her.

BRADY DENNIS
Published November 6, 2003

TAMPA - The high school sweethearts barely left each other's side for 54 years.

Their sons remember the day this past summer when, after all these years together, their parents shuffled through an amusement park still holding hands.

So when Jimmy and Margaret Dee died less than 24 hours apart over the weekend, it seemed fitting. How can you live with only half of yourself intact?

"They always wanted to be together, and now they still are together," said their son David, a 46-year-old Tampa attorney. "Most of us would be lucky to experience that kind of love."

David Dee had gone to visit his mother Friday afternoon and found her dead in her bed. She had a history of heart troubles and breast cancer and had been in the hospital recently. At 73, she had died in her sleep.

Dee and his brother, Michael, a 49-year-old employee of Clear Channel Worldwide, decided not to break the news to their father that night. He had been in and out of intensive care at St. Joseph's Hospital, battling leukemia. They decided to wait until Saturday morning to tell him.

They never got the chance.

Hospital officials called the brothers early Saturday to say their father was fading fast. They rushed to the hospital, and by 6:30 a.m., he was gone. He was 75.

No one ever told him his wife had died.

"Somehow he knew," David Dee said. "Our feeling is that our mother is the one who told him, that she came and got him. Neither one of them wanted to live without the other."

Jimmy Dee grew up in Charleroi, Pa., and moved to Tampa at age 15. Margaret Dee was a Tampa native. They starting dating while he attended Jesuit High School; she, Sacred Heart Academy.

They married on May 7, 1949.

Margaret worked most of her life as a bookkeeper, primarily for Tampa Sheet Metal Co. Jimmy worked for Sears for 25 years, then went into real estate. But he refused to retire. Until his hospitalization, he sold shoes at Red Wing Shoes on 2377 E Fowler Ave.

They had two sons, David and Michael; and two granddaughters, Danielle, 12, and Meagan, 17.

The brothers on Wednesday remembered their parents as "extremely loving people" who loved more than anything to take family trips. They took their family to visit most of the states east of the Mississippi River and into Canada.

When it was just the two of them, they explored the West. They took trips to Ireland, dear to Jimmy because his family came from there.

Back in Tampa, they made their home in Riverside Heights and attended Sacred Heart Church. They volunteered at church and at schools. Jimmy Dee loved picking his granddaughters up from school.

The sudden loss of their parents has been "a total shock," David and Michael Dee said. But even so, the brothers seem content and at peace.

They walked together Wednesday through the Myrtle Hill Cemetery, where their parents will be buried side by side. On the same day.

Their funeral is scheduled for noon Saturday at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, 4522 S Manhattan Ave. The brothers say it will be as much a celebration of love as a mourning of loss.

"I could only hope for that, to have 54 years with my wife and neither of us have to live alone," David Dee said. "It's a perfect ending to a perfect love story."

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