Many years ago, the United States military brought Isabell Whitney and Preble Staver together. They met while on a blind date and immediately felt chemistry. They were both studying in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the time and could not help but watch as their romance blossomed until it consumed their lives and made them inseparable. Their daughter, Laurie Staver Clinton, always knew her parents were deeply in love – however, their commitments in the United States military, although instrumental to bringing them together soon put a wedge between them.
Whitney was a nurse in the United States Navy while her husband was in the United States Marines. War tore them apart from each other; however, they reunited after the way and got married. Before long, they produced five children in total.
Laurie adored her father, who received a Bronze Star for his commitment to the United States Marines. She remembers her father as a tall, outgoing man, who always led with his “larger than life” personality. She described her mother as “my heart.”
Laurie told NPR, “She taught me how to be a kind person, how to be a compassionate person.”
While Preble continued his career in the Marines, Isabelle stayed home and spent most of her time raising the couple’s five children. Eventually, when the kids were old enough, she returned to the workforce as a nurse. Laurie credits her mother to keep the family together through the numerous moves around the country because of Preble’s military career and after the death of one of their sons Peter, who died in a football-related accident in 1975 while he was in high school.
The couple served in World War II and were loyal to each other – and their country – for the entirety of their lives.
Laurie remembers her mother as always having a nurse’s compassion, even when she became the patient as she was older. Isabell slipped into dementia as an elderly woman, and her husband Preble struggled to cope with the additional responsibility.
“When I would explain the need for the separation, Mom would go, ‘But that’s Daddy, that’s Preble,’” she said. “Even in her demented states, she had the compassion and understanding that my dad’s reaction to some of the disease process wasn’t really a reaction to her, and she still wanted to be with him.”
A family friend and fellow church-goer, Jim Need, recalls the couple fondly. He was there when their health started to fail.
“Sometimes he was a little frustrated because she may not recognize him. But… when she did, you could always just see him. Just smiling, like crazy,” Need said.
For Preble’s birthday recently, all he wanted was to be able to sleep next to his wife – which had not been available to him for some time. The family arranged it and then paired napped next to each other for a few hours.
On October 25, Isabelle received her last rites while Preble held her hand. She passed on, and Preble followed her into heaven just a few hours later. Isabelle almost reached her 96th birthday.