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They complemented each other — he the bookworm, she outgoing and charismatic. One without the other seemed unthinkable. So when they died minutes apart of covid this month at a Palm Beach County hospice, it may have been a hidden blessing, their only child, Sarah Milewski, said — even if it was a devastating double loss for her.
Her father was 88, her mom Their 67th wedding anniversary would have been this weekend. He preached at nearby churches and needed a piano player. Friends suggested Esther Shabaz, a fellow student from Gary, Ind. They fell in love.
In the lates, the Ilniskys took congregants to Jamaica for a mission, fell in love with the island, and stayed on to run a church in Montego Bay for a decade. It was during that time they adopted Milewski, then 2, from a Miami foster home. Inthe family moved from Jamaica to Lebanon, where Bill Ilnisky ministered to college students and taught. His wife started an outreach center and had a Christian rock band.
Twice, bombs exploded outside their apartment — the first knocking Milewski out of bed, the second slamming her father to the ground. They fled in when U. Marines evacuated Americans, catching the last plane out. His wife started Esther Network International, aimed at teaching children to pray. Tom Belt, a retired missionary in Oklahoma City, was a teenager at Calvary Temple when the couple arrived. His wife still ran her prayer network and did Zoom calls. When the pandemic hit last year, the couple took precautions, Milewski said. Her mother stayed home and had groceries delivered, but Bill Ilnisky occasionally went out.
A few days later, her mom became ill, and not long after the couple were diagnosed with the virus and hospitalized. While the prognosis was initially good, the disease overtook them. The decision was made Feb. Jacqueline Lopez-Devine, chief clinical officer at Trustbridge hospice, said in her 15 years working with the dying, no couple had arrived together.
She said there was no hesitation about putting them in the same room for their final days. They looked like they did when sleeping, her father lying on the right side, her mother facing him. At a. Fifteen minutes later, her husband followed. TribLIVE's Daily and Weekly newsletters deliver the news you want and information you need, right to your inbox. Local Front - - - -. Sports Front - - - -. Duquesne Robert Morris District Colleges - - - -. Other Local U. News Front - - - -. Opinion Front - - - -.
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