James, Cynthia Craig: After 55 years of marriage, Naples couple dies just days apart

NAPLES, Fla. - Cynthia Craig could only make it 11 days without her husband of 55 years.

After moving around the country for his job, the couple retired in Naples in the late 90s. James Craig died July 30 after a brief illness; his wife died days later on Aug. 10.

Both Craigs were born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, where they attended Parkersburg High School. They lived close to one another but didn't know each other well.

The two reunited in college at West Virginia University. Jim, an engineering student, was a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity. Cindy, a Delta Gamma sorority sister, studied home economics.

The couple's son, Brett Craig, said he believed their romance started with "an interest at a fraternity party."

"They went on one date and it was love at first sight," the couple's daughter, Julie Craig Webster, said Monday.

After Jim's graduation, the two wed on Dec. 28, 1958. Jim was 23, and his bride, 20.

Craig said his dad was serious, reliable and consistent. His mother was more energetic, more sociable, more talkative.

"They had respect, compatibility, commitment and a similar mindset in terms of life," Craig said. "They were both spiritually committed, they had a commonality in approaching people with kindness and courtesy, and they both loved golf."

Jim worked for several years as a vice president at PPG Industries, a company specializing in paint, glass and optical products. The job moved the family across the country every few years, with the Craigs making homes in Ohio, Missouri, Oregon, California, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The family loved to travel, at one point taking a three-week road trip across the country in a motor home with two dogs and a pet mouse, Webster recalls.

After their two children left home, the couple spent time living in Toronto and Paris before retiring in Naples in the mid-90s. Both were heavily involved in church and social life at Vanderbilt Presbyterian Church. Jim also served as president of the Pelican Marsh Golf Club, while Cindy was an active member of the American Women's Association and P.E.O., another women's group.

In late July, just before a planned family reunion, Jim started feeling fatigued. He went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

The whole family by then had arrived in Naples and stayed by his side at the hospital. He died July 30 at age 79.

Jim was a survivor of prostate cancer, which he had beaten about three years ago. Around the same time, the family got together for a family reunion and decided to make it a yearly tradition. The couple's two children have promised to keep up with the annual gathering, as their father would have wanted.

Cindy, a homemaker, was known for her cooking and her handwritten Christmas letters, which usually took her weeks to complete. Webster said her mother was famous for her Caesar salad, which she'd planned to make for the family reunion before Jim fell ill.

"Everybody died over her Caesar salad," Webster said. "It was the most amazing Caesar salad ever."

Earlier this month, about a week and a half after his father died, Brett Craig said he was driving to Naples from his home in St. Petersburg and couldn't get his mother to answer the phone. A relative went to check on Cindy and found her on the floor. She was rushed to the hospital, where her children learned she'd had an aneurysm.

Both siblings arrived at her bedside soon after. She died the next day, Aug. 10. She was 76.

"I think she felt a little bit of the intense pressure of living alone," her son said. "I think it was a combination of cardiomyopathy — broken heart syndrome — and stress."

Webster said her parents' house was filled with hundreds of sympathy cards and bouquets of dying flowers when she entered after losing her mom.

"It was almost like a true love story, because they couldn't be apart," Webster said. "They just understood each other and totally respected one another."

The couple was cremated and their remains will be placed at a small memorial at their church. Although their deaths were unexpected, their daughter finds peace in knowing that neither had to be alone for long.

"They're just in heaven," Webster said, "and they're together again with each other."

 

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