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Couple Dies Minutes Apart From Each Other

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Tom and Naomi Shirley took so many journeys in life together, perhaps it's not surprising they took their final journey together as well.

The Southwest Ranches couple dedicated to each other and conserving the Everglades, died within minutes of each other on Saturday.

Tom Shirley was hospitalized with heart problems, and Naomi's heart stopped on her way to visit him.

The couple's combined children never imagined they'd lose both their parents so suddenly, but find it strangely comforting.

"You have to look at it in a romantic way. They did everything together," said the couple's son Troy Shirley.

The couple's daughter, Melanie Davis, added  "He never knew she left and she never knew he was gone but both left within ten to twelve minutes of each other.  They were gone."

Gone too is their 45 year love affair and love of nature, not just the Everglades but in the Amazon and Africa.

Tom Shirley had a career as a lieutenant in the Florida Game Commission for 30 years.

"I mean that was his whole life.  He lived to protect the Everglades.  He kind of molded us into what he did and we passed that on to our kids as well," said his other son, Tom Shirley.

One of the last chapters of Tom Shirley's life was writing his book, "Everglades Patrol."

In it he shares stories from his beat including tangling with gators, pursuing poachers and tracking moonshiners.

"When they first got married they were all about the family. They took us on a 6,000 mile vacation across the United States," said Davis.

"My mother loved fishing and the outdoors life and he was a game warden and that's what attracted them to each other.  They both liked the same things.  And it was over for them," remembers Tom Shirley.

"It really hasn't sunk in.  It will be hard dealing with what's to come," explained Troy Shirley.

"I have to be thankful because she's not sitting somewhere sobbing and all upset dad's not here because they were each other's whole life," said Davis.

A visitation for the couple will be held at Fred Hunter's Funeral Home, 2401 S. University Drive, Thursday 6:00 - 9:00 p.m., funeral service Friday at 11:00 am, interment Ridgelawn Cemetery in Clewiston.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Florida Wildlife Federation.

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