By June 2015, Jeannette and Alexander Toczko of San Diego, California, had both enjoyed long, rich and rewarding lives. They had reached their nineties, having spent the great majority of their time on Earth together – 75 years of them as a happily married couple. The lucky-in-love Toczkos had also been very fortunate in getting most of what they wanted out of life. Nevertheless, there was still one item on their wish list. And it was a final request that their loving family made sure was fulfilled.
Jeannette and Alexander’s story began almost a century ago in the city of Stamford, Connecticut. Both were born in 1919, joining large families led by Polish-immigrant parents. The pair caught each other’s eye early on, in fact they coupled up when both schoolchildren were just eight years old.
And it seems that they never looked back. Aimee, one of the Toczko’s quintet of kids, told the San Diego ABC-affiliated channel KGTV in June 2015 about a pictorial reminder of those far-off days. Apparently, her father “carried around a picture of [Jeannette] in her Holy Communion outfit in his wallet.” The Connecticut couple’s puppy love eventually matured into the real deal and, by 1940, Jeannette and Alexander were married.
Very soon after their big day, there was a momentous change to their lives. Alexander joined the U.S. Navy as a telegraph operator, right around the time the country entered World War II. Between 1941 and ’45, many American ships sailed the Pacific to do battle with the Empire of Japan, while others fought Nazi German and Italian forces in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Thankfully, Alexander made it back to the States safe and sound.
When the serviceman came back to Stamford, the Toczkos were at last able to settle into their married life together. Subsequently, Alexander took a job in the advertising industry in New York City, where he toiled away for the next 20 years or so. Not that his traveling days were over; he and Jeannette enjoyed their own adventures, taking off to visit places such as Bermuda.
However, along the way, the couple embarked on a series of other adventures. Indeed, Alexander and Jeannette welcomed no fewer than five children into the world. Along with Aimee, they had a son, Richard, and three other daughters – Donna, Lynne and Andra. In time, the Toczkos would also serve as granny and grandpa to ten grandchildren and later they were blessed with six great-grandchildren.
By the early 1970s, the Toczkos decided that it was time for a radical change of scenery. The family swapped coasts and moved to San Diego, CA. Once established on the West Coast, Alexander set up his own marketing company, Blue Sky, which specialized in advertising and fashion photography.
But even at work, Alexander was keen to have his partner in life as a partner in crime. As a result, he appointed Jeannette as his right-hand woman – she served as Blue Sky’s chief stylist. With his professional life on the right track, Alexander re-engaged with his long-time passion for art and a new hobby, golf. He subsequently devoted himself to both pastimes for decades to come.
Not when he was busy with his bustling homelife, that is. But for all of that time, his children were secure in the knowledge that mom and dad were completely in love. Indeed, daughter Aimee told KGTV, “Their hearts beat as one from as long as I can remember.”
And their unified hearts beat strongly, with the Toczkos remaining hale and hearty well into their nineties. However, unfortunately, early 2015 changed all that when Alexander fell and fractured his hip bone. His accident would mark the start of a very steep and rapid decline in the 95-year-old’s health. Eventually, he needed specialized care to allow him to stay at home by Jeannette’s side.
Richard, the Tockzos’ son, remembered his bed-bound father’s final few weeks to KGTV, saying, “He was going fast.” Nevertheless, his caregivers rallied ’round to make Alexander as comfortable as possible in the San Diego home he shared with Jeannette. They even situated the dying man’s hospital bed alongside his wife’s sleeping space.
But as Alexander’s health deteriorated further, his family and carers noticed something unexpected happening. His confused 96-year-old wife began to show signs that all was not well physically and mentally with her either. Indeed, by June 2015, Jeannette had lost track of the date, and had to ask her children what time of year it was.
But when they informed her that it was June, Jeannette asked hopefully if it was the 29th. This was always a special date in the Tockzos’ calendar, being the day on which she and Alexander were married in 1940. But 2015’s entry was an extra-special date – it would see Jeannette and Alexander celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary.
In actual fact, it was a few days short of that magical date, but the Tockzo children decided to tell a little white lie. They informed their mom that it was, indeed, the day of her and her husband’s Diamond Anniversary. Consequently, the kids went to town and brought in all of the markers of a celebration – flowers and balloons decorated the failing couple’s home.
Aimee recalled the no-doubt bitter-sweet occasion to the KGTV cameras. “We said happy anniversary, and my mother was thrilled to death because it was their anniversary,” the daughter remembered. “She knew that he was going and that they had made it to 75 years.”
Nevertheless, having made it that far, the Tockzos still had one more wish to fulfill together. It seems that the couple had always envisioned dying – just as they had lived – side by side. Their final request was that they should go out together “in their own bed, holding hands, in each other’s arms.”
Sadly, the end was not to be quite as neat as that. It was Alexander who passed away first on June 17 with his family gathered around mom and dad’s bedside. But as he finally looked like succumbing, he held on to Jeannette’s hand. The children left the room so that their parents could have their final goodbye in privacy.
Nonetheless, it fell to Aimee to tell her mother when Alexander eventually passed, and she watched on as Jeannette spoke to her husband one last time. Aimee later told KGTV, “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.’”
In less than 24 hours, Jeannette had joined her husband on the other side. But it was not just the remaining Tockzos who were deeply moved by the couple’s final moments on Earth. Indeed, everyone who had cared for the nonagenarians felt the depth of their love for each other. As Aimee said, “Even the hospice nurse said it was the most incredible thing to see the two of them taking those last breaths together.”
On June 29, 2015 – the day of the couple’s Diamond Anniversary – Jeannette and Alexander Toczko were laid to rest together in their beloved San Diego. Indeed, their funeral service was the closing chapter on their remarkable love story as well as a celebration of their 75 years of wedded bliss. And that date will surely be forever etched on the hearts of all of the surviving Toczkos.