Norman Hendrickson died just steps from the funeral home where his wife Gwen Hendrickson’s funeral was already scheduled. Norman was known for telling jokes and never wasting money. So when he died suddenly, the couple’s daughters knew there was only one thing to do: Hold a double funeral service.
The 94-year-old World War II veteran’s impromptu wake was held Saturday. Gwen was 89 when she died on Feb. 8.
The daughters said it was a fitting way to say goodbye to a couple who had been together since meeting in Europe during World War II and who had been married for nearly 66 years. “After we had a little time to process the shock and horror, we felt we couldn’t have written a more perfect script,” Norma Howland said. “My sister said the only thing he didn’t do was fall into the casket.”
Norman, a former assistant postmaster in Cambridge, was being driven in a limousine to the Ackley and Ross Funeral Home for his wife’s service when he stopped breathing. After the limo pulled up, funeral director Jim Gariepy, who is also the local coroner, and funeral home owner Elizabeth Nichols-Ross helped move Norman to the sidewalk outside the business.
Nichols-Ross said daughter Merrilyne Hendrickson then requested that her father’s body be put into a casket and placed in the viewing room with her mother’s cremated remains, which had been placed in an urn. Mourners who started arriving soon after for Gwen’s funeral were greeted by a note Merrilyne posted at the entrance: “Surprise — It’s a double header — Gwen and Norman Hendrickson — Feb. 16, 2013.”
Nichols-Ross said she didn’t charge the family for Norman’s wake. On his prayer card, she jokingly wrote that Hendrickson got the idea to die in the limo headed to the funeral so he could get “a buy-one-get-one-free deal.”
Norman met Gwen when he was serving overseas with the U.S. Army. Gwen was serving in the British Royal Air Force. She immigrated to the U.S. and they were married in May 1947. Howland said her parents had jokingly promised to never leave one spouse behind. After her mother died, Howland said she overheard her father say aloud, “We have had a good long life together. I love you. I’ll miss you and watch for me.”
Reported by Nigel Boys