GRAY — Robert Skilling, 83, known as Bob, died April 24, a Tuesday.

His wife of 62 years, Cora, 83, died Friday.

Both lifelong Gray residents well-known in the community, neither had long-term illnesses. Their deaths were unexpected.

“She died of a broken heart,” said one of their sons, Blaine Skilling. “They were inseparable. They were an absolute love story.”

In the days before he died, Robert was hospitalized with a bowel obstruction, his son said. On Sunday he was doing well. Monday morning the doctors said he’d be released soon.

“Three hours later we got a phone call he had taken a turn for the worse,” Blaine said. Within 24 hours he was gone. The official cause was heart failure.

“Mom was in shock. She had lost the love of her life. She said she couldn’t believe it,” Blaine said.

Her sons saw a change in their mother. She was there physically but became withdrawn, “very reflective,” Blaine said. “She began talking to herself. I asked what was she doing, she said she was praying. She knew. She was talking to dad, ready to join him.”

Several weeks prior Cora had suffered a broken collarbone and had discomfort in her shoulder. After her husband died, the discomfort turned to pain that began to radiate throughout her body.

“By Wednesday night our mother had a total change in her health,” Blaine said.  They took her to the hospital where she was treated and released.

“By Thursday mom lost the ability to walk. She had severe pain. All she would say is, ‘Why am I hurting so bad?’”

She was taken again to the hospital, this time by ambulance.

She died Friday. The official cause of death was respiratory failure and sepsis, an infection doctors said had been brewing. But her family said it was the loss of her husband.

“The spark was gone. The twinkle in her eye was gone,” Blaine said.

Her sons aren’t surprised they lost both parents within days of each other.

“My father always told us that if anything happened to my mother, he would be gone within 24 hours,” Blaine said. “My mother would say, ‘Bobby! That’s not going to happen!’ But 72 hours later, it was her who followed him.”

His parents were a couple who showed their love, Blaine said. “They always held hands. Riding in the car, strolling along, sitting in the living room watching the Red Sox, they were always hand in hand.”

Both were born in Gray and met in grade school. Gray used to have four one-room schoolhouses, Blaine said. When the schools consolidated into Pennell Institute, they met when they were about 12 or 13, Blaine said.

Initially she wasn’t impressed with Bob. Cora came home from school and told her grandmother, “I met the homeliest red-haired boy I’ve ever seen in my life!”

After she married him, her grandmother used to tease her and retell the story, a story later retold by her husband after the grandmother died.

When Bob and Cora first married they planned on having one son and one daughter. They had five boys.

They named the first Bruce. When more boys came along they continued the first name that started with B: Brad, Barry, Brian and Blaine.

Bob started his own business, Robert A. Skilling and Sons Excavation, today still a family business. Cora worked for banks, the Gray school superintendent’s office, and was bookkeeper for the family business.

In their later years they were regulars at bean suppers. She loved to dance. They enjoyed daily outings to the Gray Market Place, the post office. “They were pillars in the community,” Blaine said. “Everybody loves them.”

The couple was a fixture at not only their sons’ sporting events, but at the Gray/New Gloucester High School games. When the girls’ basketball team won the state championship this winter, “they had front-row seats,” Blaine said.

After Cora’s death, she was taken to Wilson Funeral Home in Gray. There she was placed side by side with her husband, Blaine said.

They are survived by their sons, daughters-in-law, 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, and many friends.

Their lives will be celebrated Sunday, May 7, appropriately at the Gray/New Gloucester High School gymnasium.

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Robert Skilling, 83, died April 24. His wife of 62 years, Cora, died three days later. “They were inseparable,” said their son, Blaine. “They were always holding hands.”

Bob and Cora Skilling, 83, were married for 62 years. “They were an absolute love story,” said one of their five sons, Blaine. Bob died April 24; Cora died three days later.


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