Ledford Carter knew he was dying.
But during the final months of his life, he repeatedly told friends and relatives he had only one wish — that his ailing wife precede him in death.
On June 4, he was granted that final wish when his beloved wife of 72 years, Julia Carter, died at age 94 from respiratory failure after nearly a decade of poor health.
Two days later, Ledford, one year her senior, died from kidney failure.
“He said his mission in life was to outlive her, so he would not leave her alone as a widow,” said Julia’s brother, Frank Sewell. “After she died, he was ready to let go.”
Guy Loftman, a longtime friend, said the Carters had an “absolutely devoted” relationship.
“The two of them were completely intertwined,” he said. “You couldn’t tell where one stopped and the other started.”
Ledford affectionately called her “Duba,” which represented Julia’s best attempt to pronounce her own name when she was a toddler.
Sewell said the couple loved to attend concerts and operas together; and relished traveling all over the world — to Europe, South America, the Far East.
“They loved each other from beginning to end,” Sewell said. “They just seemed to be in harmony with one another in everything they did, including passing away at nearly the same time.”
Though their lives were inextricably linked, they had individual interests. Ledford was a retired Indiana University professor who loved to do photography and genealogy work, unearthing in the process a number of genealogical nuggets — that he was related to Ralph Waldo Emerson and “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, and was President Jimmy Carter’s sixth cousin. At age 89, Ledford published a book, “My Lust For Discovery,” that was a distillation of his global travels.
Julia was a fashion consultant before she married, and later worked for 16 years as head librarian at the Indiana University Medical Sciences branch.
“Julia would sew exquisite costumes that she and Ledford would wear to costume parties,” Sewell said. “On more than one occasion they would win prizes for best costumes.”
After the Carters took up residence at the Meadowood Retirement Community, Julia established and supervised the library there, and made costumed Madrigal singer dolls that Ledford proudly put on display at Meadowood.
When Julia’s health was failing, Ledford dutifully cared for her in their Meadowood garden unit apartment. In 2004, after she became so ill she had to be moved into Meadowood’s health pavilion, he would drive a quarter mile from his apartment to the pavilion every day to have dinner with her.
“He was totally devoted to her,” said Kim White, a licensed practical nurse at Meadowood. “He would come over to talk to her every day, and he decorated the walls of her room with beautiful photos he’d taken.”
Sewell said Ledford would sometimes visit Julia twice a day.
“Even when she could no longer talk, he would sit with her and hold her hand and read to her,” he said.
During the final few months of his life, Ledford was too ill to drive, but he continued to make daily trips from his apartment to the pavilion to spend time with Julia.
“He was so weak that it would take him 2 and half to three hours to walk to the pavilion to see her,” White said. “He would stop and rest several times along the way. Then he’d sit with Julia in her room and talk to her before walking back to his apartment.”
Finally, Ledford moved into an apartment in the main Meadowood building — the same one that houses the health pavilion — so he could be closer to Julia. But shortly thereafter, Ledford suffered a heart attack and after being treated at the hospital, he moved into the health pavilion itself.
He spent the final days of his life in Room No. 30. Down the hall, not far away, was Julia — in Room No. 28.
Ledford Carter knew he was dying.
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