PHOENIX — A local couple who died from COVID-19 in January passed away just seconds apart from each other, days after celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
Sally and Manny Montaño met in Phoenix in their early teens while Manny was on leave from Vietnam. They got married a few years later and had four kids.
The two were inseparable.
Their son Manuel and his wife, Debra, got to witness that love first-hand.
"Just that love that they had for each other...that's all I knew. That's what I strive for," Manuel Montaño said.
Both had underlining health conditions, so when they both got infected with the virus, they ended up in the hospital in early January. Both were on ventilators for weeks.
"We requested to have them in the same room and they had their beds close to each other. That kind of helped them a little. They said his vitals went up when he realized she was there," Manuel said.
On Jan. 28, just five days after they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, Manny and Sally both passed, just seconds from each other.
They were holding hands at the time.
"It was amazing," said Manuel. "They lived for each other."
She was 68 years old. He was 71.
"It was the way they would've wanted it, and it just showed the depth of their love for one another," Debra Montaño said.
The family has since found letters, birthday and Valentine's Day cards they wrote each other filled with jokes and love.
"He wasn't a talkative person, he didn't say more than was necessary at any given time. So to see his heart on his sleeve like it was on those letters, it was very touching," Debra Montaño said. "It showed how deep he loved his family and how they were everything to him."
Debra and Manuel Montaño don't know how the couple contracted COVID-19 since they were careful and took precautions. But they hope that others in the Phoenix area will remember to take care of one another.
"Family is so important. You gotta keep them close. You gotta love them unconditionally," Debra Montaño said.
The Montaño family said no one will be able to fill the void that Manny and Sally left behind, but they've found comfort in hearing from friends and community members who were touched by them.
They've created a GoFundMe to help pay for funeral costs, and thanks to those who donated, they met their goal in about a day.
This story was originally published by Claudia Rupcich on KNXV in Phoenix.