Leah in the News

The following newspaper article has information and quotes from my daughter, Leah Dowdy.

Couple parted by death within hours

It was difficult for family members of William Leroy and Marianne Ortwein Kollenberg to find suitable decorations for the Goshen couple’s 50th wedding anniversary last May.

Not many couples make it to 50, the store clerks told them– and on Derby Day, most party stores were swamped with last minute requests for mint julep mixers and noisemakers.

But with ingenuity, and some finds on the Internet, family members of the Kollenbergs converted the North Oldham Lions Club on U.S. 42 into a chapel of love, reminiscent of the Holy Cross Church in Covington, where the couple


Pink and white roses dressed up an arched proscenium. Balloons and candles were moodmakers. And in front of guests who attended their 1958 wedding, Marianne – holding a bouquet from her wheelchair – again exchanged vows with the man she promised to love and cherish, in sickness and in health, until death did they part.

Marianne Ortwein Kollenberg, 74, died just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008, of kidney failure at Meadowview Health & Rehabilitation in Louisville.

Her husband, William Leroy Kollenberg, 75, died Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008, hours after the couple’s children broke the news at his bedside at Louisville’s Baptist Hospital East.

Sisters Laura Simpson and Angie Revell stood by their father’s hospital bed, each holding one of his hands just before he died. Their instructions: When mom comes for you, go with her.

On morphine, Simpson said their father looked up, squeezed her hand and slipped away.

“I don’t think he died from a broken heart,” Simpson said. “They were just totally connected. They couldn’t live without each other.”

Still, it was almost poetic for a couple who’d taken care of each other for half a century.
The couple met at a Catholic dance and it was nearly love at first sight, Simpson said.
“Actually, my mom was supposed to hook up with another man,” Simpson said. “But dad asked if he could take her home.”
That was the beginning of the love story.

After they married, Marianne played housewife, while William worked for more than 30 years at Lucent Technologies, installing telephone wires.

“She adored him and waited on him hand and foot,” Simpson said.
Together they had their first daughter, Debbie, then came Simpson, followed by a son, Tim and their youngest, Revell.

William retired in 1991 and the couple remained happy and healthy until about four years ago, when Marianne suffered a heart attack, then a stroke. It left her paralyzed and confined to the wheelchair.

Their roles reversed, Simpson said, and William began taking care of Marianne with help from home health workers and their daughters.

He’d cook her meatloaf and stuffed peppers and “tell her she was the most beautiful person ever,” Simpson said. “He always said that about her.”

Leah Dowdy, a caretaker with Home Instead Senior Care, cared for Marianne in the Goshen couple’s home after William was hospitalized with a rare form of lymphoma in July. She said the couple was so sweet to each other.

“He was very sick,” she said. “But he would call from his hospital phone and talk to her every night before she would go to sleep.”

Dowdy said she was emotionally moved by the man, who tried to carry out his promise of taking care of his wife to the very end.
“It was almost God’s timing how it worked out,” she said.

About a month ago, Marianne moved to a room at Meadowview to prepare for her death, while William spent his days in a hospital bed across town. And when William heard the news his wife had died, family members say it made it easier for him to move on, knowing his beautiful wife was waiting in heaven.

“We feel that they were a match made in heaven and they had a true love story here on Earth,” Revell said. “They met by their faith and God put them together and decided they needed to leave together so they wouldn’t be lonely.”

Survivors include their son, Timothy W. Kollenberg; three daughters, Debbie (Rick) Melton, Laura (Rick) Simpson and Angie (Tom) Revell; 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Marianne is also survived by two sisters, Freida Legner and Rosie Brown; and a brother, George Ortwein.
William is also survived by a brother, Jerry Kollenberg; and a cousin, Barb Horner.
Services were Monday at St. Bernadette Catholic Church, Goshen. Burial took place in Calvary Cemetery.