Husband dies of broken heart just eight hours after his wife of 54 years

Yvonne and Robert Stickland died on Friday, just eight hours apart. Photo / Supplied
Yvonne and Robert Stickland died on Friday, just eight hours apart. Photo / Supplied

When Robert Stickland first set eyes on his wife Yvonne as she zoomed past on a motorcycle he thought she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen and didn't stop searching for her until he found her again.

On Friday when his wife of 54 years died at 10.18am from an aggressive tumour pressing on her kidney and spine, the 78-year-old was not going to let her go again.

He died just eight hours later of what the couple's four children believe was a broken heart.

About 10 years ago, Yvonne moved to New Zealand so she could receive better treatment for her bi-polar disorder and so her children could help look after her.

Robert remained working in Niue, but eventually followed his wife over. Ever since the couple had lived in a cottage behind the house where two of their children live.

In 2015, when Robert was in hospital after a car accident an X-ray found he had lung and liver cancer. And, last year, Yvonne was diagnosed with an aggressive tumour.

On Friday morning the family called St John after Yvonne's breathing became laboured. When the paramedics arrived they told the family the 73-year-old was in the last moments of her life.

Robert  and Yvonne Stickland on their wedding day in 1963. Photo / Supplied
Robert and Yvonne Stickland on their wedding day in 1963. Photo / Supplied

"We tried to get him to come to her bedside because we knew she was going to pass away, but he couldn't do that - he wasn't fast enough," the couple's older son said.

Ken had also noticed his father had not been well that morning so also asked paramedics to check on him, and they suspected he had pneumonia.

Robert gave his dead wife a final kiss before he was taken to Middlemore Hospital.

But several hours later while he was still in the hospital's medical assessment area, he also died.

Ken, who had been at home organising his mother's funeral, said his son called him and told him to get to the hospital urgently, but he arrived 20 minutes too late.

"That was a real shock for us - we thought he was okay.

When Robert Stickland first set eyes on his wife Yvonne as she zoomed past on a motorcycle he thought she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen and didn't stop searching for her until he found her again. Photo / Supplied
When Robert Stickland first set eyes on his wife Yvonne as she zoomed past on a motorcycle he thought she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen and didn't stop searching for her until he found her again. Photo / Supplied

"He was also quite unwell of his own cancer so it was too much for him to be apart. He didn't die of his own cancer, he died of a broken heart."

The couple's youngest son Russell said after his father first set eyes on Yvonne riding past on her motorcycle while he was working as a mechanic in Niue, he made it his mission to meet her.

"He finally found one of her uncles and said can I please meet your niece and get introduced. Apparently when he approached her to go on a date she burst into tears because she was so nervous."

But with the encouragement of her parents, she went on a date and they were married in a chapel on a cliff in Niue when Robert was 22 and Yvonne 17.

A year later their first son Ken, now 53, was born, followed shortly after by Marion, now 51, Kathleen, now 50 and Russell, now 49.

The family moved to New Zealand for about seven years while their children were young, before returning to Niue.

The couple's children said they only had fond memories of the couple and that they were the best parents they could have ever had.

Kathleen said her father kissed Yvonne every morning and night and told her he loved her. While her mother never stopped worrying about her husband - even trying to peel potatoes for her husband when she could barely stand.

"Regardless of how they were feeling or if they could barely walk - they still wanted to do things for each other."

Despite being born in the UK and immigrating to New Zealand with his family as a young boy, Robert's family said his heart would always be in Niue.

The couple's funeral will be held at the Manukau Memorial Gardens Chapel at 10am on Wednesday. The couple's ashes will later be taken to Niue to be scattered there.

- NZ Herald

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