He might have been weak, but he was hanging on. However, even as Jeanette held his veiny hand, she knew that it was only a matter of time before he let go for good. The tiny hospital room was full of cards and balloons. Doctors walked the halls and machines beeped. He told her he would wait for her, and he did. She wiped the tears from her cheeks and whispered, “It’s alright, my love.” Then he took in a deep breath.
Jeanette and Alexander Toczko were born in 1919, in Stamford, Connecticut. Their parents were both Polish immigrants. Most people don’t really believe in love at first sight. But these two could turn the biggest skeptic into a believer. In fact, they couldn’t look away from each other since they were eight years old and they locked eyes.
What began as a crush grew into something more. They went to school and spent a lot of time together. Eventually, they realized that they had a future together. In 1940, they got married when they were only 21. Their family and friends attended. They might have been young, but they knew they had made the right choice. But after their honeymoon, they hit a proverbial bump in the road.
Alexander wanted to stay at his wife’s side, but he also wanted to keep her safe. So, in 1941, he joined the US Navy and became a telegraph operator. But that year, war was declared. It became evident that families everywhere had made incredible sacrifices during World War II. Over the next four years, men like Alexander sailed or flew to Germany and Japan to fight in the war. Many soldiers never returned home. This left mothers and other loved ones grieving. And Jeanette feared for Alexander.
Alexander “carried around a picture of [Jeanette] in her Holy Communion outfit in his wallet.” The photo provided him comfort during difficult times. But they were still young, and he promised her he would return. After all, they still had a lifetime ahead of them. Fortunately, he was able to keep his promise. In September 1945, he returned to Jeanette’s welcoming arms. But she had heard some horror stories of what happened to men after they returned from the war. Was Alexander the same man that she had gotten married to?
After all the years they’d been apart, Alexander wanted to start the life they had both wanted ever since they were little. And Jeanette was the driving force in his plans. He helped her pack and then brought her to New York City. Then he managed to work in the advertising industry. He also wanted to show her the world, and hopefully travel everywhere. But then Jeanette sprung a huge surprise on him.
The couple wasn’t alone anymore. During their younger years, Jeanette and Alexander became the proud parents of five children—Aimee, Richard, Donna, Lynne, and Andra. But as their kids went from babies to teenagers, the Toczkos realized that they didn’t want to stay in New York forever. The years had passed way too quickly, and they were itching to move somewhere new. Jeanette had always wanted to live in California. So, Alexander quit his job and did something unthinkable.
Alexander went to San Diego, California, bought a nice house, and set up a fashion-photography marketing business he called Blue Sky. He immediately made Jeanette his chief stylist because he wanted to spend every second of every hour with her. So, San Diego became the venue where they watched their kids grow into adults. As time passed, they became the grandparents of 10 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren. But time just wouldn’t slow down.
“Their hearts beat as one from as long as I can remember,” said Aimee. But Jeanette and Alexander were older now. And yet, the couple, who were each 96 years old, refused to allow the wear and tear in their bodies to keep them from having fun. So, they danced and they sang, and they looked after each other just like they always had. This had been the promise they made to one another long ago, and they kept it. But there was still one final promise to keep and miles to go before they slept.
Shortly after Alexander turned 96, he took a tumble down some stairs. Complications from the fall caused his health to get worse. But he wanted to stay home with Jeanette for as long as possible. He continued receiving specialized care. Meanwhile, Richard explained how his dad “was going fast,” and he simply couldn’t believe that things turned out this way. But Jeanette remembered the pact they had made.
Years ago, Alexander and Jeanette made a pack to live, and if necessary, to pass away in each other’s arms. But Alexander wasn’t the only one who was getting worse. Jeanette felt as if the years had finally caught up to her, and she was horribly weak. She was also experiencing bouts of confusion, and losing track of the date. “Is it June 29th?” she often asked, and her daughter Aimee decided to lie to her. “We said, ‘happy anniversary,’ and my mother was thrilled to death because [June 29] was their anniversary.” But their happiness was about to go away.
Alexander passed away on June 17. Their 75-year anniversary was only two weeks away. But shortly before he left this world, his children threw an anniversary party full of balloons and special treats. Jeanette held his hand one last time before he slipped away. “She hugged him and she said, ‘See, this is what you wanted. You died in my arms and I love you. I love you, wait for me… I’ll be there soon,’” shared Aimee. Then, something even more heartbreaking happened.
A few hours after Alexander crossed over, Jeanette passed away in her sleep. The time had finally come for her to be reunited with her one true love. “Even the hospice nurse said it was the most incredible thing to see the two of them taking those last breaths together,” explained Aimee. She was certainly heartbroken over the loss of her parents, but it brought her comfort knowing that they left this world together, which was what they always wanted. But one question remained.
If Aimee and her sibling had told their parents the exact date, would they have tried to hang on an extra two weeks? Aimee knew that Alexander loved to keep his promises. She believed that her dad held on to life because he wanted to celebrate their diamond anniversary. And Jeanette had kept her end of the bargain and joined him in the afterlife. Aimee was convinced that her parents made a pact long ago, after Alexander came back from the war. Her mom wanted the two of them to stay together forever.
Alexander and Jeanette were buried in a cemetery in San Diego on June 29, the day that celebrated their diamond anniversary. Aimee and her siblings mourned their parents’ loss, but they also celebrated one of the most epic love stories they had ever seen. Although Alexander and Jeanette were gone from this Earth, their children took comfort in one certainty. Their souls would continue to live on and remain together forever.