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Texas couple of 30 years die of COVID-19 moments apart, side by side

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AMARILLO, Tex. (NBC News) - There is shock after the deaths of a husband and wife from virus complications in one Texas town. Rose Mary and Paul Blackwell died moments apart, in the hospital, side by side.

On the campus of Fannin Middle School in Amarillo, Texas, Coach Paul Blackwell was often one of the first people that students saw when they walked in the door each morning.

"He stood in an area where he was able to greet all of the students on campus to say good morning to them, hi to them," said Principal Roberto Lopez.

A coach of football, basketball and track, Blackwell's presence was felt both on and off the field.

"He was a coach who inspired a lot of us students and encouraged us even if we wanted to give up and always wanted us to do our best," said Vicente Vasquez, the 8th grade football captain.

Paul's wife, Rose Mary was the longest-tenured teacher at Travis World Language Academy in Grand Prairie, Texas where she has taught bilingual education for the past 20-years. But just a few days before Thanksgiving, she tested positive for COVID-19 and the decline for both of them came quickly.

"They were bad, their chills, I said, call an ambulance," said Jane Ortiz, sister.

For the couple's two sons, news of their parents' illness hit especially hard.

"That was our mom and dad. They were the best parents in the world, the best parents in the world, I will tell you that," said their son Shawn Blackwell.

Both Paul and Rose Mary declined quickly the boys asked to join their parents in their hospital room while other family members joined via Zoom to say good-bye.

"Exactly when my mother gave her blessing and we were all done talking to them and they were gone, five minutes later they were gone," said Jane Ortiz.

Now the Blackwell's family members hope others will see how important it is to take the virus seriously.

"It's real and it hit home and it hit us and I just want everybody out there to know that you need to do your part, or you're going to end up being in the same position as us with your loved one or yourself," said Brandon Blackwell.

NBC News

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