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Death can't part Holdenville couple's long-lasting love

Barbara and Bob Pettis, of Holdenville, Oklahoma, had a bond so strong, even death couldn’t seem to part the married couple of 63 years.
by Heather Warlick Published: July 7, 2014

It seems even death couldn’t part Bob and Barbara Pettis, of Holdenville. At least not for long.

For more than two years, Clay and Jana Pettis acted as caregivers to Bob and Barbara Pettis, Clay’s parents, who had been married for 63 years.

Clay would visit the dream home his folks had built on 40-acres in Holdenville in the mid-1990s, twice a day, to make sure his parents had taken their medications and were doing OK.

Bob Pettis had been in poor health for some time, recovering from a quadruple bypass, a stroke and a bicycling incident in which he broke his pelvis in 13 places.

Barbara Pettis’ illness snuck up on the family, Clay Pettis said. “I didn’t realize she was going downhill until she was well on her way.”

Needing a lift

Barbara’s two home health workers had so much trouble moving her, eventually, Pettis had to make a decision he knew his mother never wanted him to make. He had to put her in a nursing home.

“That broke my heart because Mama had always made it very clear she never wanted to go to a nursing home,” Clay Pettis said. “I remember that day, driving there, I was just sick in my heart. I don’t know if she really comprehended what was going on.”

But Pettis started thinking, if lifting his mother was the main problem, he probably could find a way around that. So online he looked and found a patient lift that operated like a jack, pumping her up to be lifted.

“We got her a lift, and a month later to the day, we were able to bring her home. And oh, I was thrilled to death,” Clay Pettis said.

The day they left

Clay Pettis’ father’s health slipped again. Bob Pettis developed a bad case of pneumonia and had to be admitted, released, then readmitted to the hospital.

Barbara Pettis’ night nurse turned her about 3 a.m. June 30, to help her avoid bed sores. When the nurse checked in at 6 a.m., Barbara Pettis had died.

Clay Pettis called the funeral home and stayed with his mother until she was picked up.

Later that day, Clay and his son went to the hospital to visit Bob Pettis.

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by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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