An elderly Florida husband and wife about to celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary both died of COVID-19 — succumbing just minutes apart, according to their family.
Former preachers and missionaries Bill Ilnisky, 88, and Esther, 92, died March 1 in the same room at a hospice in Palm Beach County, according to their daughter, Sarah Milewski.
Esther went first, dying at 10:15 a.m. — with her husband following 15 minutes later, their only child said.
“They were always, always together. So in sync,” Milewski told The Associated Press.
“It is so precious, so wonderful, such a heartwarming feeling to know they went together,” she said — adding, “I miss them.”
The couple both fell sick soon after Milewski and her husband visited them at their home on Valentine’s Day, her mother’s birthday, she said.
By Feb. 27, they were both so sick they were moved to Trustbridge Hospice, where they were put in the same room for their final days, with their daughter saying they looked like they always did while sleeping.
Because of the virus, Milewski said her goodbyes through a window, a microphone carrying her words, “I love you,” to her parents’ bedside.
“It was horrible,” Milewski said, revealing that her parents’ 67th wedding anniversary would have been this weekend.
Bill Ilnisky — originally from Detroit, Michigan — first met Indiana-native Esther Shabaz when she started playing piano at a church he preached at in Missouri.
“When my dad proposed, he told her, ‘Esther, I can’t promise you wealth, but I can promise you lots of adventure,’” Milewski said. “She had a lot, a lot of adventure.”
Their missionary work took them to Jamaica, as well as Lebanon — where Bill was almost killed by an explosion during the civil war — before settling in West Palm Beach in the 1970s.
When the pandemic hit last year, Esther took precautions, mostly staying home and getting groceries delivered, Milewski said.
But her father — who had retired from preaching three years early — occasionally went out.
“He couldn’t take it,” his daughter said. “He needed to be around people.”
With Post wires