A DEVOTED couple who were married for 44 years died within days of each other, an inquest heard.

James Blake, 71, died first having recently being told that his beloved wife Barbara’s illnesses were likely to be terminal.

Their daughter Angela Walsh said her mother hung to life long enough to attend his funeral on a Monday - but she too died during the early hours of the Wednesday.

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“At the funeral mum walked past the coffin and said, ‘see you soon, Jimmy,” Mrs Walsh said, adding neither of her parents could cope without the other.

Deputy coroner Claire Bailey heard that Mr Blake, a retired fitter, died of a heart attack in a chair in his home in Acklam, Middlesbrough, at about 3pm on Thursday, September 26, last year  - just an hour after talking to his daughter on the phone.

Mrs Blake, 66, found him when she returned home with staff from Teesside Hospice, where she had been receiving care. Both hospice workers and later paramedics tried to resuscitate him without success.

Mrs Blake, a retired nurse, who was first diagnosed with lung problems in 2011 and was already seriously ill, deteriorated after his death and died at Tollesby Hall Care Home, Middlesbrough, a fortnight later of a chest infection and pneumonia. The coroner said she was satisfied both died of natural causes.

After the inquest Mrs Walsh explained the couple were from Middlesbrough but had lived in Billingham for many years.

Her dad was a Scout leader and had worked for the scouting movement all his life and her mother had been committed to helping the Salvation Army.

They met when the future Mrs Blake was a student nurse at North Ormesby hospital in the 1960s and Mr Blake was a patient.

“Dad said he knew straight away he would marry mum,” said Mrs Blake.

She added that her mother’s condition deteriorated after her husband’s death, adding: “Mum wasn’t going to go to the funeral because she was so poorly but I think it was a case of saying ‘goodbye’ to everyone.

"Everyone said how well she was that day, I think she’d just psyched herself up one last time.”

The couple also leave son Graeme and grandchildren Hannah, 19, Rachael, 15, Georgia, 13 and Ellie, nine.

“Mum and dad were devoted grandparents,” she added.