Melissa Gunter told me she will never forget the endless love her parents had for each other.
In the early 1960s after Clyde Hartley’s wife left, Gunter’s dad found himself raising his two young boys, ages 6 and 5. He met Gunter’s mother, Shirley Ann Loveless, in 1965. They fell in love and married on July 24, 1965. Together they had an instant family. Gunter said her mother began raising the boys as her own. Hartley and Loveless then had two children together.
Gunter said they had two of the best parents any child could ask for. She said her parents were very faithful, loving and giving people. Both her parents worked full-time jobs and raised four children. They lived in a small three-bedroom house with one bathroom. They lived paycheck to paycheck, but there was always food on their table and clothes on their backs. She said they always had necessities and never wanted for anything.
They always put God first, their children second and then worried about themselves — which was not very often, with four children.
In the late 1980s, Gunter’s dad became a diabetic. He slowly lost his eyesight and in the late 1990s became legally blind.
At this point, he depended on her mother for everything. Her mother cared for him full-time and continued to work full-time.
In 1990 tragedy struck their oldest son, Clyde Jr. at the age of 35. He was severely burned in a house fire and was not expected to live. He died within a few hours after being transported to a burn center in Nashville.
This was a difficult time, but her parents stayed faithful to God and depended on each other and their love to get them through it. Their faith was unwavering.
Gunter said her mother continued to care for her dad and work full-time for years. On October 9, 2010 her mother wasn’t feeling well and went to bed early. She had worked all day at the hospital and said her leg was hurting.
Later that night, Gunter said her dad checked on his wife and discovered she had passed away in her sleep. He sat for hours begging her to wake up. He couldn’t call anyone because he couldn’t see to dial the numbers on the phone. He finally managed to go to a neighbor’s house for help. During this time he had a heart attack. Family and friends gathered around him that night, asking him to go to the hospital, but he refused.
Gunter travelled to Tennessee to be with her father. When she arrived, she was told the doctors estimated her dad had suffered three heart attacks in the span of a few hours. He didn’t want to live without his wife and begged God and his family to let him die with her. Gunter convinced him to let them call 911.
Her family remained in the ICU for nearly a week, still waiting to bury her mother. His doctor didn’t want Hartley to attend the funeral for fear he would not survive another heart attack, but finally he was allowed to attend the funeral if a paramedic was with him.
Approximately 600 people attended Gunter’s mother’s funeral.
Her dad visited his wife’s grave every day for the next week, still begging God to take him home so he wouldn’t be a burden to anyone.
Gunter begged him to come live with her in North Carolina, but he wouldn’t. She said she needed to return home to see about her own family, and with much reluctance she left Tennessee. After driving for three hours she received a call that her dad had suffered another heart attack.
Gunter drove back to Tennessee that night and never left her father’s side from that point on.
His body began to shut down and he went home from the hospital with a home health nurse and deteriorated quickly. All he wanted was to be with the love of his life and 30 days after his wife died, God granted his wish to be reunited with his wife.
Paulette Ballard collects interesting, funny and unusual stories from people in and around Lincolnton. If you have a story you would like to submit for her column, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line type “For your column.” Include your name and phone number for her to contact you.