Harold and Marion Wernig, Together Until the End, Die at 87 and 85

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This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Harold and Marion Wernig had what their three daughters described as a “fierce” love. They could argue like the Bickersons one minute, and in the next be holding hands like teenagers. They might get frustrated with each other, but woe to anyone else who criticized one of them.

“They would defend each other until their dying day,” said their oldest daughter, Margaret Ann Kern.

Their youngest daughter, Linda Maynard, recalled her mother telling her, “The reason our marriage lasted is because we fight.”

They met on a blind date at an ice cream parlor in Richmond Hill, Queens, and were married in 1953. He was 20. She was 18.

Like so many who came of age in the Eisenhower era, the Wernigs left the city for the suburbs, raising their children on Long Island. They lived in a three-bedroom ranch house in Blue Point, N.Y., with cedar shake shingles, a big bay window and a fireplace. Mr. Wernig, a master craftsman who worked as an electrician, built the house himself.

Mr. Wernig set up a workshop in the basement, where he kept his tools meticulously organized. Ms. Wernig, who worked as a secretary for the Internal Revenue Service, was famed in her family for her cooking. He took care of all the outside stuff, she took care of the inside stuff.

Decades passed. The couple retired and moved to Florida. The family grew to include nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. But through it all, the Wernigs were never apart.

In February, when they moved into an assisted living facility in Sayville, N.Y., to be closer to their children, they were handed a questionnaire. Asked what is the most important thing to know about you, Ms. Wernig replied, “I don’t want to be away from my husband.”

Only death, on April 19 at Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue, N.Y., could separate them. He was 87. She was 85. The cause was the coronavirus, said their middle daughter, Patricia Johnson.

Harold Herbert Wernig was born on Aug. 18, 1932, in Queens. Marion Isabel Sganga was born on July 29, 1934, in Brooklyn.

In later years, they loved to watch tennis and golf on TV, and to play cards, especially a game called Hand and Foot. It became a family tradition. They taught the game to their children and grandchildren.

Mr. Wernig began showing signs of sickness in early April. Days later, he was taken to the hospital. Ms. Wernig followed him there the next day. Soon both were on ventilators.

When Ms. Wernig was taken off the ventilator, her family expected her to die right away. But she held on for 60 hours, dying at 2 a.m. Mr. Wernig’s ventilator was removed later that day and he stopped breathing within a half-hour.

Their children eventually made peace with losing both parents at once.

“Now, we tend to feel comfort in that,” Ms. Johnson said. “And comfort in the sense that they were together. It was their day. They stayed together, they went together.”

That day, April 19, was the couple’s 67th wedding anniversary.


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