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Couple married for 57 years died side-by-side during Tennessee tornadoes

Tennessee's deadly tornado outbreak
Tennessee's deadly tornado outbreak 03:24

Jim and Donna Eaton had been by each others' sides for nearly six decades. More than 57 years after the couple made a vow to be together "'til death do us part," they died by each others' side when a massive tornado destroyed their home in Tennessee. Jim, who was 84, and Donna, 81, were among at least 24 people killed by the tornadoes, CBS affiliate WTVF reports

The couple died when their mattress was thrown from their bed, according to the Tennessean. They were "about as close as you can get," Mt. Juliet Police Department Capt. Tyler Chandler told the paper. 

‪Tragically, 3 individuals lost their life in Mt. Juliet’s tornado, & our hearts go out to their families & loved...

Posted by Mt. Juliet Police Department on Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The tornado leveled their home in Wilson County, Tennessee, just one day before what would have been Jim's 85th birthday.

"The best earthly example of what a marriage should look like," their 24-year-old grandson Jake Hardy-Moore told the Tennessean. "They showed Christ's love and his sacrifice. They both loved our families through challenging times of life." CBS News has reached out to the Mt. Juliet Police Department and the Eaton family for more information on the couple.

james-eaton-nashville-tn-obituary.jpg
"The best earthly example of what a marriage should look like," Jake Hardy-Moore said about his grandparents, who were together for 57 years. Eaton family

According to an obituary written for the pair, they are survived by three children, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. They moved to Mt. Juliet in 1977, joining First Baptist Church, according to the obituary posted by the Woodlaw-Roesch-Patton Funeral home.

 For 43 years, they both taught many Sunday school classes and Jim served as a deacon. "They were a true example of God's love in their family, their marriage, the community of Mt. Juliet, and beyond," the obituary reads. "They were humble, kind and lived life fully. Whether they were on their daily walks, cheering on the Cincinnati Reds, Bunko or card night, church fellowship or supporting their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren through any activity they exemplified the love of God."

Services for the couple will be held on Friday and Saturday. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to First Baptist Church "to help with cleanup and restoration from the tornado," according to the obituary. 

The tornadoes destroyed dozens of buildings and left about 50,000 customers without power, according to officials. The National Weather Service estimated that the tornado that hit the area was "at least" an EF-3, which indicates a "severe" tornado with 136- to 165-mile-an-hour winds.

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