Just minutes after fulfilling his wife's final wish – scattering her ashes in Stone Lake in Indiana – Ralph Seichi Miyata collapsed in the water and later died, joining her first into the lake and then into the afterlife.
Married for 64 years, the couple lived most of those years in LaPorte, Ind., where they enjoyed Stone Lake, part of the larger Pine Lake. There, Margie Miyata logged many miles of swimming, enjoyed slalom water skiing, and loved the challenge of wind surfing. Ralph, proud captain of his chartered boat the Banzai (a Japanese battle cry), loved to fish with Margie and their four children.
"To this day, he is a legend to the fishermen," states his obituary, written by the couple's daughter, Jill Miyata Spencer.
The couple met in Chicago, tying the knot June 5, 1955, and living in Illinois until 1965 when they moved to Indiana. In 2012, they moved to Florida, but obviously their hearts never left LaPorte, where they dropped anchor as a family.
During World War II, Ralph's family was housed at an internment camp in Arizona for Japanese-American citizens, forced to give up all their possessions but not their pride, Spencer said.
"My father was one of the proudest people to be an American. He always proudly displayed the American flag despite what America did to his family," his obit states. "It's amazing how resilient and forgiving my father was... he did not hold a grudge against the country he loved so much."
Ralph had an even fiercer love for Margie.
"My parents' story is a beautiful bond of deep love," Spencer said.
On April 21 of this year, Easter Day, Margie died while in hospice care at a nursing home in Florida. She was 87. Ralph knew what he had to do – spread her cremated ashes in her "happy place" of Stone Lake.
"Dad was very adamant, he did not want any of us kids to be with him. This was something he wanted to do in private," Spencer said.
On June 3, with her cremains in tow, Ralph flew from Florida to South Bend, then drove to LaPorte. He had arranged to use the boat of old friends, another married couple who still live lakeside.
"My mom's best friend, Betty Sprecher, her cohort in crime in the trio of water sports, and her husband, Dr. Sprecher," Spencer said.
On June 4, while clutching Margie's ashes, they launched the boat into the middle of the lake, toward her final resting place. Betty Sprecher placed a white peony on the water as a marker before returning to the dock.
While covering the boat, Ralph suffered ventricular fibrillation and fell into the lake.
"Dad literally dropped dead," Spencer said.
When Spencer received the call, she was making flight plans to visit her father at his Florida home for Father's Day weekend. She instead went to the lake his parents loved so dearly.
"I stood in the exact spot where dad passed," Spencer said.
She quietly took in all the sights, sounds and smells that surrounded her father in his last moments – crisp air, calm waters, blue skies, familiar boat and a beautiful view of the 140-acre lake near Soldiers Memorial Park.
"It was perfect," Spencer said. "I will forever cherish the memory of the happiness that was in my dad's voice when I talked to him just the night before."
According to the LaPorte County coroner's office, Ralph's body was retrieved from the lake by his old friend, Dr. James Sprecher, who called 911 and began CPR. Ralph was transported to a hospital where he died. He was 88 years old.
"It was a natural death so we didn't do a drowning report," said Lt. Shawn Brown, an Indiana conservation officer.
The next day, the couple would have celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary.
"They didn't miss a beat in being together for their special day," Spencer said. "Happy anniversary in heaven mom and dad."
"It's a back home again in Indiana love story. Sometimes real life is better than any ending Hallmark could have scripted!" his obit states. "Go be guardian angels and watch over us, your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren."
According to the couple's son, James Miyata, of Tucson, Ariz., his father's body was cremated, just like his mother's. And, yes, his ashes will also be spread in the couple's treasured little lake. Together again, swirling amid decades of loving memories.
(The Post-Tribune is a publication of the Chicago Tribune.)
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