Arno and Myrtle Birdsong undoubtedly always knew what their final words to each other would be.
They just probably hadn’t imagined how they would be delivered.
After 71 years of marriage — compassionate, caring companions to each other to the very end — there was only one way it could, should, end.
The pair put a final touch on one of Fort Meade’s ultimate love stories in late February. Myrtle passed away on Sunday, Feb. 23. After the family informed Arno of her death, he died two days later, Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Both had been hospitalized in their final weeks, in separate facilities, but they could still share a few moments with each other over the phone.
“He called her at the hospital and told her he loved her,” recalled their son Mike. “I remember her saying, ‘I love you too, honey’ and that’s the last time they spoke.”
That they died two days apart did not surprise the family.
“He told everybody he was going to only live one day after she died,” he recalled. “He made it two.”
It was one of Arno’s doctor’s who convinced the family to tell him of his wife’s passing.
“The doctor told me he might be hanging on just for her,” Mike said. At that point, the only way the family could communicate with him was by having Arno blink his eyes.
“I asked him if he would like to be with her,” Mike said. “And he blinked his eyes.”
Arno was born in Boaz, and moved to Plant City at young age. Myrtle was born in Plant City, and attended Turkey Creek High School, graduating in 1943.
“They got married the night she graduated,” Mike recalled. It was obviously a good day to get married. The Birdsongs were married at the same time with another couple, and Mike said that they had talked with that pair just about a month ago.
Being born in the Depression era, and going through World War II together, gave the couple a faith and resolve for service to others that lasted a lifetime.
“My mother was always in church, she stayed busy doing something, and he was too,” Mike recalled, “doing for other people. If someone was sick, she’d go see them. When you love each other, life brings you closer together, and then God takes care of the rest.”
After eventually re-locating to Fort Meade, Arno was a co-founder of B&B Electronics in the 1950s, located where the pharmacy on West Broadway is now in business today.
Among Arno’s claims to fame, Mike said, was having Fort Meade’s first ever television set, which he would switch on and place in the window of his store.
The couple served the community, and its residents, in innumerable ways. Arno was a member of the volunteer fire department for 25 years, eventually serving as assistant chief. Many enjoyed Myrtle amazing voice, which was featured often as the church’s choir director and Sunday School teacher, not to mention dozens of weddings and funerals. Rarely did they do things apart, but she had a love of quilting, and he enjoyed fishing as well.
“It’s just something a person does when they have Jesus Christ in their lives, that’s what people do when God is in their lives. That’s what we’re all supposed to do, but we don’t do it as much,” Mike said about their service to others. “You either have it in your heart or you don’t. They never lost their faith.”
Joint funeral services were held Saturday morning at the First Church of God, complete with military and fire department honors.