A doting husband has died from COVID-19 less than three weeks after he visited his wife of 30 years in the hospital one last time before she succumbed to the virus.
Sam Reck, 90, passed away on August 1 at Florida’s Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center – in the same room where his wife JoAnn died aged 86 on July 12.
Sam’s loved ones have said they are sure he contracted the virus from his wife, but that he knew the risk he was taking when he visited JoAnn on her death bed.
‘There wasn’t anything any of us could have done to have talked him out of that,’ Sam’s daughter Holly Reck told USA Today. ‘He would have gotten himself there one way or the other to see her. I do believe that.’
Sam and JoAnn came to be known as the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ of their nursing home in Lakeland, where quarantine restrictions forced them to hold socially-distant visits after the pandemic hit the area.
Sam Reck, 90, died of coronavirus on August 1 at Florida’s Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center – less than three weeks after he visited his wife JoAnn hours before she died from the virus on July 12. The couple are pictured during their last meeting together
After he was diagnosed with COVID-19, Sam said he had no regrets about having visited JoAnn even though he likely contracted the disease during their final meeting (pictured)
But when JoAnn fell ill from the virus, Sam was determined to say his goodbyes to her in person, despite doctors’ warnings about the high likelihood that he too could become seriously sick as a result.
JoAnn’s son from her first marriage, Scott Hooper, recalled speaking to Sam after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and asking him if he regretted the hospital visit.
‘Without pause he replied: “Not one second,”‘ Hooper wrote in a Facebook post.
‘He said no matter what happens, he was very happy he had the opportunity to say goodbye and hold her hand one more time.’
Sam and JoAnn made headlines back in May after they described their frustration with pandemic restrictions in an article by The Ledger.
At the time JoAnn, who was diagnosed with dementia last year, was living at a skilled nursing area of Florida Presbyterian Homes while Sam lived at an apartment at the same campus.
Staff at the care home helped Sam and JoAnn come up with a safe way to visit each other, with him sitting on a balcony outside his apartment while she sat in a dining area below.
Their meetings three times a week inspired their nickname as ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the protagonists in Shakespeare’s romantic comedy about a couple who had to meet in secret over a balcony due to family conflict.
Sam and JoAnn (pictured) were married for more than 30 years before they died within weeks of each other due to the coronavirus pandemic
Sam and JoAnn are pictured before coronavirus restrictions forced them to stay apart. The couple came to be known as the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ of their nursing home in Lakeland, where quarantine rules meant their visits had to be socially distant
Holly Reck said that the separation took a heavy toll on JoAnn, who’s dementia made it difficult to understand why Sam couldn’t spend more time with her.
‘I think they had gone through so much emotional stress the prior three months because they couldn’t see each other, really, they couldn’t touch each other,’ Holly told USA Today.
‘Even though they were able to see each other from the balcony, it wasn’t the same. My father would go every day and spend eight hours or more with her, and then COVID happened.
‘I think it really took an emotional toll on both of them.’
The reasons for the separation became clear in July, when JoAnn began experiencing a cough and fever and was hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19.
The family opted not to put her on a ventilator and instead moved her into a palliative care unit, where they were allowed to visit her as it became clear she didn’t have much time left.
Scott Hooper shared a heartbreaking photo of Sam and JoAnn’s final meeting, showing the loving husband decked out in protective gear as he gazed down at his wife, who died just hours later.
Less than two weeks later Sam himself tested positive and was hospitalized in the same room JoAnn had been in.
JoAnn’s son Scott Hooper shared a heartbreaking photo of the couple’s last meeting, showing the loving husband decked out in protective gear as he gazed down at his wife
Sam is seen grasping JoAnn’s hand during their final meeting hours before she passed away
Holly was unable to visit her father for fear of bringing the virus into her own home, where she cares for her elderly mother.
Instead Holly video chatted with Sam every day, and then asked Scott Hooper and his wife Julie to stand in for her at her father’s side when he passed.
‘I was very appreciative because I didn’t want my dad to be alone when he passed, and thankfully they were there with him when he passed,’ Holly told USA Today.
‘So that meant a lot to me, that they were willing to risk that and be with him.’
Holly also recounted one of the last conversations she had with her father, who spent the majority of his career working with the National Park Service.
‘He told me he had lived a good life,’ she said. ‘He never expected to live to 90, and the most important thing to him was that he had taken care of his family.
‘He let me know how much he loved all of us and I let him know how much I loved him and how much I appreciated everything he had done for me as a father through the years.’