Son Remembers Den and Dot Schwabenbauer, Couple Who Died 6 Hours Apart After 72 Years of Marriage
(PHOTO: Dennis and Dorthea Schwabenbauer on their wedding day provided by the family)
After 72 years of marriage, Dennis and Dorthea, also known as “Den and Dot” or simply as “D & D” died around six hours apart on January 2, 2020.
As their obituary states: “Dennis, being the gentleman he was, let her go first.”
Dorthea, 94, had been in declining health; Dennis, 97, had the beginning of dementia.
“He physically seemed to be in pretty good shape,” Tom Schwabenbauer, the couple’s son, told exploreClarion.com. “He (Dennis) looked to my mother to tell him what to do. Without her telling him what to do, he was kind of lost.”
The Schwabenbauers lived in their Shippenville home until last August when they agreed they needed an assisted living environment.
It wasn’t the first time they had moved to assisted living. The first time was about a year earlier.
“Dad did okay,” Tom said. “But, every time I went over, Mom was just sitting there crying.”
So, the couple moved back home until August. This time they agreed it was the right decision.
Dennis was a World War II veteran.
“He was in Germany at the Battle of the Bulge,” Tom recounted. “He never talked about it much.”
However, friendships Dennis forged during that time remained strong. In particular, a man named Michael Seery who lived in Toledo, Ohio.
About five years ago, the two veterans attended the reenactment of the crossing of the Ludendorff Bridge in Remagen, Germany, which occurred at the end of World War II. The reenactment was held each year in Tidioute, Pa. They, of course, got to sit in the VIP section.
“The bridge (in Tidioute) resembles the bridge in Germany,” Tom explained. “My Dad was in that campaign. It was pretty exciting.”
After the war, Dennis worked as a truck driver, often getting his sons to help when they got out of school. He also worked at Knox Glass Containers until the plant closed in 1986.
(Photo of Dennis and Dorthea Schwabenbauer on their 60th anniversary provided by the family.)
Many in the community knew Dorthea from her work at First Seneca Bank in Shippenville.
“Of course, being a bank clerk, she got to know everybody,” said Tom. “Everybody knew her, too.”
She also worked at the Spindler and Starr Chevrolet dealership in Clarion and Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company in Marble.
Dorthea was very talented at embroidery, something in which she really immersed herself after her retirement.
“She was a stitcher. That’s what we called her, a stitcher. She got involved with a lot of really fancy stitching.”
She was a charter member of the Nydill Chapter of the Embroiderers Guild and the Pennsylvania Ohio Needlepoint Guild. She also taught embroidering classes at the Sawmill Center of the Arts in Cook Forest.
“There’s a number of her pieces that she donated to the Clarion County Historical Museum,” Tom said. “The alter cloth at the Immaculate Conception Church in Clarion is something that she made and donated to the church.”
While they maintained their separate interests, they also did a lot of things together.
When the couple retired, they traveled.
“When they were in their 70’s, they did a lot of traveling. They took a 30-day Alaska tour. They also went to Germany.”
Dennis enjoyed riding a motorcycle and became a member of the Gold Wing Touring Association.
“Mom never rode with him,” Tom said with a chuckle. “She would get into a car, and if they were going to an outing, she would follow the bikes just so she could be with him.”
“We called them ‘the biker people.’ A lot of them came to the wake.”
Dennis rode his motorcycle until he was 89, deciding at that age to quit while he was ahead.
Just before Christmas of 2019, Dennis developed pneumonia and was hospitalized.
On Christmas Eve, he was transferred to a health center in Brookville.
On Christmas Day, he was accepted into hospice care.
The day after Christmas, Tom visited his Dad and found he was having a good day.
“That day, he was talking with us, and I remember him looking at us and saying ‘Boy, this is a heck of predicament that I’ve gotten myself into.’”
“He kept asking about Mom….When we’d go to visit Mom, she’d ask how Dad was doing. We never did tell Mom that Dad was dying.”
“She ended up going first. We got the call about 4:30 in the morning (on January 2). When the phone rang, I felt sure it was going to be Brookville calling to say that Dad had passed.”
Around six hours later, that call from Brookville did come.
Knowing that they went together is a comfort for the family.
“How those two pulled this off, I still can’t imagine. They were married for more than 72 years. Evidently, they had a communication that we didn’t understand.”
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