WNYT.com

Husband dies as he arrives at late wife's funeral

Posted at: 02/21/2013 6:08 PM
Updated at: 02/21/2013 6:20 PM
By: Mark Mulholland

CAMBRIDGE - This is the story of a man and woman who spent most of their lives together.

Gwen and Norman Hendrickson were married nearly 66 years ago, vowing to never leave each other's side.

When Gwen passed away earlier this month at the age of 89, Norm, who was 94, was heartbroken. His daughters overheard him say to her, "I love you. I'll miss you and watch for me."

On the day of Gwen's funeral, Norm, dressed in what he called his funeral suit, left their Cambridge home in a limousine. When the limo arrived at Ackley & Ross Funeral Home, Norm was unresponsive.

"And Jim Gariepy, who is an EMT and the Washington County Coroner, he reached over, checked his pulse and said, 'I don't feel much of one.' We immediately called the rescue squad," said Elizabeth Nichols-Ross, funeral director.

Norm had a do not resuscitate order, so he was allowed to pass away at the funeral home where people were about to pay their final respects to the love of his life.

"Merrilyne, the oldest daughter, said to me, 'Elizabeth, do you think we could put dad in a box and put him in the room with a mom?' I took a little bit of a breath and said sure," said Nichols-Ross. "People were starting to come in for the calling hours. We got Norm in the back and got him ready."

His adult daughters, not skipping a beat, posted a sign on the front door of the funeral home, saying "Surprise, it's a double header!"

Those who knew Norm say he also appreciated a good bargain.

But it's his sense of humor that he'll always be remembered for.

By all accounts, Norm Hendrickson's sense of humor was infectious. And it was certainly hereditary. His daughters came up with this for his prayer card. It says, 'Did you hear the one about the guy who was in the limo on the way to his wife's funeral and got the bright idea that if he died before he got there, he could get a buy one get one free deal?'"

"There's no way I could charge. I already charged for her calling hours. I couldn't charge again," said Nichols-Ross.

Norm and Gwen were pillars of this small community and will be missed by all who knew them.

"Just a real all-around good guy. Great sense of humor. Always had a joke to tell. No matter what," said Chief George Bell of the Cambridge-Greenwich Police Department.

But the way they lived and especially the way they were reunited in death, will never be forgotten.

"It could not have been more perfect if a script had been written," said Nichols-Ross. "It was amazing."