They lived a lifetime together, and on Sunday Dr Victor Sterling (96) and his wife Jane (93) were buried together, she having survived her husband by just two days.
Relative newcomers to Banbridge, with a home at Thornwood, the two were buried in their native Dromore, where Dr Sterling retired some 36 years ago.
The popular and highly respected one-time Dromore GP, latterly resident at Bannview Nursing Home, died in hospital on Friday after suffering a heart-attack.
His wife died - after a long illness - just hours before his funeral was due to take place.
Daughter, Jan, said: “We thought mum would have died about a week ago but when she heard that dad had gone into hospital with a heart-attack, she began to fret for him.
“Then when she heard he had died she relaxed and succumbed too.
“The undertaker called us this morning [Sunday] and asked would we like to bury them both at the same time. I asked my daughter and she said, ‘mum, that would be lovely’ so that was it, we decided to go ahead and do it.
“Most people who turned up to the funeral were shocked to see two coffins instead of one.”
The couple, who had six children - Gaye, James, Charles, Jan, Paula and the late Ian - were buried after a funeral service at First Dromore Presbyterian Church, in the adjoining burying ground.
Prior to his retirement at age 60, when he and his wife moved first to Newcastle (where he played golf until his knees gave out at the age of 87) Dr Sterling was regarded as a very good and attentive local doctor. “In those days the GP had to diagnose what was wrong before they sent patients to hospital,” said Jan, who told hhow her father had diganosed cases of leukaemia and polio some 50 years ago, while the symptoms left other doctors at a loss.
“Dad had wanted to be a surgeon, but on the day he graduated the Dromore GP had to leave for war and they asked him to step in.
“He went to go back to surgery but the people of Dromore did not want to let him go.”
Dr Sterling’s father also operated a pharmacy near the corner of Bridge Street, Dromore, just a couple of doors away from another, run more in co-operation than competition by Mr Norman Weir, who himself passed away in recent weeks.
The Sterling pharmacy passed to Victor’s son James, who would later relocate to Gallows Street and at one point opened a second pharmacy in Banbridge. Jan, whose daughter, children’s specialist Jenna Stevenson, is one of two grandchildren in whom Dr Sterling’s medical expertise lives on, the other being consultant microbiologist Aaron Nagar, was on hand in Banbridge to offer support to her parents when they moved there three years ago.
She said of her mother Jane: “Mum worked in fashion retail in Lisburn and had been invited to set up her own business by the bank, who offered her a loan, but she turned them down, saying she did not have any debt.
“Then she had six kids one year after each other.”
Donations if desired may be sent to R J Poots & Co. Funeral Directors, 6 Circular Road, Dromore, BT25 1AL for Children’s Hospice.