Irving and Charlotte Diton had a romance fit for the stage or the screen.
It began like the movie, “Dirty Dancing,” at a Catskills resort, their family said, and flowed through decades of loving moments and a shared interest in the arts. And on Tuesday afternoon, the inseparable husband and wife died just a few hours apart, family members said.
As family members gathered to pay their final respects to Irving, 87, as he died after years of chronic health issues at VNS Hospice Center in Northport, they said they received a call from White Oaks Nursing Home in Woodbury that Parkinson’s disease had claimed Charlotte, 84.
“I have no doubt that my father passed, then took the hand of his wife of 63 years, and led her to heaven, where they will always be together,” said son Eric Diton, 52, of Dix Hills.
Charlotte, born Feb. 2, 1932 to Polish immigrants, was visiting a Swan Lake resort with her family in 1951 when she met a handsome busboy. Irving, who was three years older and working at the resort for the summer, was from Brooklyn, just like Charlotte. Their relationship blossomed over the summer and continued when they both returned home, Diton said. Though Irving couldn’t afford an engagement ring, he and Charlotte married in 1953 and moved to Queens.
Irving never forgot about the ring, or lack of one, said daughter Leigh Dillon, 59, of Manhattan. He set aside a tiny piece of each paycheck he earned throughout his career working as an electrical engineer at Grumman, Arma, PRD and Sperry, just enough so Charlotte wouldn’t notice. After more than 30 years of marriage, he called his four children to his Melville home to watch him present a diamond ring to their mother.
The couple’s children said they were always creative and giving, even when they had few resources of their own.
“I remember when I was very young . . . my mother said to me, you’re old enough now to do volunteer work. What would you like to do?” Dillon said. “I don’t know how many parents say that to their kids.”
When they weren’t volunteering, Irving and Charlotte liked to watch ballet performances at Heckscher Park in Huntington. Irving came from a family of artists and painted still lifes in his spare time, and Charlotte relished each chance to go to the opera, Dillon said.
Irving was especially creative when it came to mechanics, Dillon said.
He had an electrical engineering degree from Lawrence Technological University in Michigan and tinkered with the household appliances, his family said, keeping one washer and dryer running for more than 40 years, even as Charlotte begged him to buy a new one. When certain parts for the set went out of production, he made his own.
The siblings like to joke that their parents even invented the selfie, Dillon said. One treasured photo of the couple from Irving and Charlotte’s courtship days was taken at the beach when Irving used a string tied to his big toe to trigger the camera’s shutter.
The couple was one of the founding members of the South Huntington Jewish Center in Melville in the 1960s. They were always seen together, attending services and willing to lend a hand to other members in need when the synagogue was still only a storefront off of Route 110, said Frieda Paley, a synagogue member who knew the Ditons for nearly 50 years.
“They were really a very unusual couple, they never were separate,” said Paley, of Melville. “They were a terrific pair all their lives.”
Diton said even when Charlotte was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Irving had handrails and a lift for the stairs installed to allow her to stay in their home for 20 years after her diagnosis. She moved to a nursing home in April, but Irving had his children take him to see her as often as possible, Diton said.
A week ago, Irving’s own struggles with congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease caught up with him, Diton said, and though he and Charlotte were in different places, they died together.
“I’m just trying to wrap my arms around it, it’s just so crazy, but I’m so happy they went together,” he said.
A funeral for the couple will be held Thursday at I.J. Morris Funeral Home in Dix Hills at 1 p.m. Following the ceremony, they will be buried at New Montefiore Cemetery, West Babylon.
Charlotte and Irving are survived by their four children, Jamie Tornatori, 61, of Brooklyn; Dillon; Deborah Hoch, 56, of Huntington Station; and Diton. They are also survived by four grandchildren, Evin, Alex, Alyssa and Adam.