Coronavirus Florida: Married nearly 60 years, Boynton couple dies two days apart
He was from Queens. She was from Brooklyn. They met at a dance in the late 1950s.
Vincent and Edna Daddario were inseparable, bonded by love, Italian heritage and Catholic faith, a closeness underscored by their birthdays — two days apart, even though Vincent was three years older.
Married in 1960, they started a family in Queens and commuted to Manhattan for work. Thirty years later, they moved to Boynton Beach and became fixtures at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, the Kravis Center and Sunday family dinners prepared by Edna, the “strong as an ox” matriarch so full of energy her grandkids wondered if she might live forever.
They were looking forward to their 60th wedding anniversary in October.
Then came the coronavirus.
Vinny, as friends called him, probably got it first. A day later, Edna came down with symptoms. They spent their final days together at Bethesda Hospital West, at first in side-by-side rooms until Edna was transferred to intensive care.
Vincent died March 28, a week shy of his 88th birthday. Edna passed away two days later, about a week shy of her 85th.
It happened so fast, they shared the same obituary.
“It seems like they couldn't be without each other apparently," said Michael Daddario, their son. “It gives me comfort to know they're still together.”
Of the 80 people in Palm Beach County who have died from coronavirus complications, the vast majority are over 65, a grisly testament to the toll COVID-19 wages on senior citizens and people with compromised immune systems.
How the Daddarios contracted the deadly respiratory disease is still a mystery to their children and grandchildren. The couple didn’t contract it in New York, the coronavirus’ epicenter in the United States; Vincent and Edna hadn’t been back there for about three years.
It could have been on a trip to the grocery store or at doctor appointments Edna drove Vincent to early last month, the family said, before the county shut down the beaches, restaurants and parks.
“Didn't see this coming," said Michael, who lives in north Georgia. “I just didn't know it was going to kill them."
‘Just going on with life’
When Vincent fell at home twice during the third week in March, his family assumed it was related to his glaucoma or early dementia. Or maybe an infection from a recent dental procedure?
“I was thinking, ‘There's just no way they have coronavirus,’” said Michael’s daughter, Diana Daddario, 28, who remembers her grandmother “so active and so full of life” in the days before the disease took hold.
Vincent, a retired New York City sanitation worker and Palm Beach County school bus driver, struggled in recent years with slowly declining health. But the Daddarios, active in their 80s, still enjoyed life.
Edna, a retired secretary, took pride in caring for her orchids and sweeping the leaves from the driveway at their beige house, the one with the angel figurines out front, in the Le Palais community off Gateway Boulevard.
Diana, whose parents are divorced, said she lives 15 minutes from her grandparents’ house. She was so close to Vincent and Edna, she considered them “like a second set of parents.”
In February and early March, as the disease started dominating the news cycle, Diana said she talked to her grandparents about coronavirus.
“Grandma was not overly concerned about it," Diana recalled. “She’s very independent. She was still going to the grocery store. They still had dinner plans with friends."
The second week in March, Edna was at Costco one day when she spoke to her son on the phone. “She said she was looking for toilet paper. I told her, ‘What are you doing at Costco? You need to be home,’” Michael recalled. “I think they were just going on with life."
When Vincent suffered another fall at home on March 21 and couldn’t get up, he was taken to Bethesda West with a fever of 104 degrees. He was tested for coronavirus, but he would die before his positive result came back more than a week later.
The next day, Diana stopped by her grandmother’s house to pick up medication that she planned to take to Vincent at the hospital and to check on Edna, who was home alone.
“I noticed she didn't look right. She was dizzy. She had no energy. She was dragging her sentences. Very unlike her,” she said.
She took her grandmother to the emergency room at Bethesda West where Edna was admitted and given a coronavirus test.
“I think maybe in the back of our heads we were concerned about (the possibility of coronavirus), but maybe we were in a little bit of denial," said Diana. “I mean, this stuff doesn't happen to my family. I know that it's really naive to say, but this kind of stuff just doesn't happen to us.”
A chance to say goodbye
Vincent’s fever went down on March 22. But his condition slowly worsened. Told a few days later that Vincent was terminal, the family was allowed to visit but only through a glass partition. Michael’s sister, Lisa, joined the family on FaceTime, where they said their last goodbyes, even though Vincent was unconscious.
Edna, who had been transferred to intensive care, was alert and breathing with help from an oxygen mask and waving to relatives on FaceTime.
The family told the hospital not to inform Edna that Vincent had died. “We didn't want her to give up, if that was the reason. Maybe she knew," Diana said.
When Edna took a turn for the worse, the family went back to the hospital. They prepared a note that they planned to give to the nurses to read to Edna while her children and grandchildren smiled at her through the glass partition.
But when the family arrived, the nurses gave Diana — the youngest and healthiest in the family — the option to sit at her grandmother’s bedside after covering up in a protective gown, mask and gloves.
“It meant everything to me," Diana said, holding back tears. “I did what I needed to do so she knew she wasn’t alone."
Reading from the note, Diana made sure not to say goodbye.
Instead, she told Edna “just that we loved her, we are all fine and that we can’t wait for her to come home," Michael said. “We wanted to keep her hopes up."
‘It's not a joke’
The family said final goodbyes in person on April 3, when Vincent and Edna were buried at Boynton Beach Mausoleum after a graveside service by their favorite priest, Father Julian Harris of St. Thomas More Catholic Church.
“Maybe it was God's plan that they were supposed to be together," said Diana. “That gives me a teeny bit of comfort in a situation there’s nothing pleasant about."
Their children and grandchildren all have self-quarantined since their hospital vigils and everyone is healthy, Michael said. But they are still shocked by how fast the disease killed their grandparents.
“From the time they were admitted to the hospital, it was one week for my grandpa and nine days for my grandma," Diana said.
“I just been telling people stay away from your grandparents, stay away from your parents. Do what you have to do and stay home. It's not a joke," she said.
“There are worse things happening to people besides being stuck at home for a month. I would give anything for this not to have happened to my grandparents."
The family has no criticism about the way government and health leaders have reacted to the pandemic. But they lamented the long wait for testing and for the results.
“We didn’t get my grandpa’s (result) until after he died," Diana said. “Maybe if we knew sooner, they could have done something sooner? It’s a scary time when you can die before you find out whether you had coronavirus."
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.