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Wabasha husband, wife married 63 years die hours apart

WABASHA, Minn. -- A Wabasha husband and wife, devoted to each other for 63 years, died within hours of each other last weekend.

Joe Ahlers, 91, of Wabasha, died Saturday at St. Elizabeth's Nursing Home, and his wife, Alta Ahlers, 88, died Sunday at St. Eliz abeth's Medical Center in Wabasha.

The couple died within 12 hours of each other.

"It was bittersweet," their daughter-in-law Valerie Ahlers said of the Valentine's Day weekend. "It's hard for David to lose both of his parents, but at the same time it just feels right for them to be together."

A double funeral for the couple was held Wednesday at St. Felix Catholic Church in Wabasha.

The couple had lived at St. Elizabeth's Assisted Living in Wabasha for the past couple years.

"They would get into little fights about when to go to dinner or when to turn the TV up to watch the news, but they always had a special passion for each other," their granddaughter Mandy Ahlers said Friday.

Mandy remembers her grandmother spoiling her grandchildren with homemade applesauce. Her grandfather, who nearly always wore cowboy boots and a vest, had an infamous saying: "Use it up, wear it up, make it do, or do without."

Joe served in the Army during World War II. The couple married on April 18, 1947, while he was home on leave. He was discharged from the Army about six months later.

The couple farmed near Conception for a few years, and then decided to purchase the family farm near Dumfries. He liked to raise dairy cattle and continued to help his son on the farm until he was 90.

Joe and Alta also have a daughter, Joanne Kolter, of Onalaska, Wis.

Valerie Ahlers said Joe had been in the nursing home for a while due to his failing health. Alta had been at Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester because of complications related to kidney dialysis.

On Friday, the family feared that Joe was dying, so they asked that Alta be brought back to St. Elizabeth's to see her husband.

"It was like he was waiting for her," Valerie said. "We took her to his room so they could see each other. Before she left for dialysis, he waved a little goodbye."

Joe died Saturday afternoon.

Valerie said Alta seemed at peace with his death. She was tired, so the family left to go home. Alta spent the night at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center.

The family was surprised when they got a call at 2:25 a.m. Sunday saying that Alta had died in her sleep.

"I guess she was ready to go, too," Valerie said.