Paulding County

Metro Atlanta couple married 50 years dies of COVID-19 just hours apart

PAULDING COUNTY, Ga. — A school nurse and her husband of 50 years died just hours apart of COVID-19 on Thanksgiving day.

Nurses and doctors set Willard and Wilma Gail Bowen up side-by-side in the ICU in their final moments.

Channel 2′s Chris Jose was in Paulding County, where he talked to the couples’ daughter.

Karen Kirby said she rushed to the hospital just in time to say goodbye. The couple had only been in the hospital for a week.

“They called and said, ‘I think it’s time to come see your parents.’” Kirby said. “That’s something I can never be more thankful for.”

[SPECIAL SECTION: Coronavirus Pandemic in Georgia]

Kirby said she was allowed in the room wearing PPE and following strict protocols.

“I just told her I loved her. Told him l loved him,” Kirby said. “And I think they knew it.”

Willard was known around town as a local antique dealer. He died first. Wilma, a school nurse at Hiram Elementary School, died a few hours later.


“When she realized he wasn’t going to come home, she decided she wanted to be with him in eternity,” Kirby said. “I’m just so thankful that their bodies are healed. We’re struggling down here. They’re not. They’re OK.”

A purple bow now hangs outside Wilma Bowen’s office. Kirby said she doesn’t think her 70-year-old mother got infected at school. She had been off since early November. Kirby isn’t sure how her parents contracted the virus.

Kirby said she’s happy for the community support.

“It’s a beautiful thing to realize how your community can react, and how your community can come to your aid, Kirby said.

She finds comfort knowing that he parents are together.

“Dad was probably standing at the gates saying, ‘Come on, Gail. Lets go. I’m waiting on you.’” Kirby said.

A few weeks before Kirby lost her parents, she also lost her grandmother, who tested positive for COVID in early November.

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