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Gay New York Couple of 60+ Years Who Married Last Year Die Just Two Weeks Apart

Alexander Obrien

Couples in their golden years who have been together for a long time often can't survive the death of their spouse, and often dies within days, weeks, or months of each other. What's unusual about this case is that the couple was gay, both were noted and acclaimed entertainers, and they were also married.

Shaun O'Brien (right), a dancer of four decades with the New York City Ballet, died at the age of 86 on February 23. His husband (left) Cris Alexander, a Broadway actor and photographer, died on March 7, just two weeks later.

The NYT noted the cause of death most accurately:

When same-sex marriage became legal in New York last year, he married Shaun O’Brien, the celebrated character dancer with the New York City Ballet. They had been together for more than 60 years and died less than two weeks apart — Mr. Alexander on March 7 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at age 92; Mr. O’Brien on Feb. 23 at 86. They shared a Victorian house in Saratoga Springs.

“If there is a cause of death, it’s a broken heart,” his friend Jane Klain said in confirming Mr. Alexander’s death. “It’s as simple as that.”

Hopefully we'll all get to lead such fulfilled and long lives. And those long-term couples around the country will have the chance to dignify their relationship in law like O'Brien and Alexander did.

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  1. If there's an afterlife, they arec together now.

    Posted by: Andalusian Dog | Mar 26, 2012 9:12:15 AM

  2. Lovely post. Thank you. May they rest in peace as beautifully as they lived.

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Mar 26, 2012 9:28:44 AM

  3. I am glad this couple had the chance to legally marry. I only wish they had been given the right to marry earlier. May they rest in peace together as they did in life.

    Posted by: Stone | Mar 26, 2012 9:40:12 AM

  4. Chris Alexander is a figure of enormous importance to gay culture.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Mar 26, 2012 9:49:15 AM

  5. Well, thanks Andy, for turning me into a weepy mess on a Monday morning.

    Posted by: Glenn | Mar 26, 2012 10:04:59 AM

  6. Love of the lifetime.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Mar 26, 2012 10:08:20 AM

  7. RIP to both of them. What amazing people and thankfully they had the chance to be treated like any other couple of their generation. I can't even imagine how wonderful they were.

    Posted by: Sethboy | Mar 26, 2012 10:17:40 AM

  8. Glad these two were able to be together openly in their later years. I give credit to anyone, straight OR gay, who can make a relationship last for this long. And this was no small feat considering the social pressures they were up against. If the leaders of the marriage equality movement are wise, they'll spend more time highlighting couples like this and less time calling people "hateful." While this doesn't change my position on gay marriage, I can't say I'm not happy that this couple lived to see what Governor Cuomo achieved in New York last year. I realize that there would be SOME benefits to the other side winning on this issue.

    Posted by: Mary | Mar 26, 2012 11:26:26 AM

  9. Form the NY Times obituary. Isn't this just about the nicest thing that could possibly be said about someone?

    Mr. Alexander, who left no immediate survivors, had lived with Mr. O’Brien in Saratoga Springs since 1993. Each afternoon at 4:30 they had an ice cream party. In the interview with Show Music, Mr. Alexander recalled what his acting teacher, Marjorie Jefferson, once said.

    “Tell me, Cris,” he quoted her as saying, “you were such a good actor, why did you never amount to anything?” Then she paused, he said, before adding: “No that’s not true. You were about the most ambitious person I’ve ever known — ambitious to have a lovely life.”

    Posted by: Paul | Mar 26, 2012 11:41:53 AM

  10. Blessings to them both.

    Posted by: jakeinlove | Mar 26, 2012 12:06:45 PM

  11. This is how I want to go.

    Posted by: Tom Stoppard | Mar 26, 2012 12:09:43 PM

  12. Those who were moved by this story might enjoy the book, DOUBLE LIFE: A LOVE STORY FROM BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD, by another long-lived devoted gay couple, Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine. It's a really fine book, moving and inspiring, and very enjoyable.

    Posted by: Abel | Mar 26, 2012 12:49:38 PM

  13. What a handsome couple, this choked me up... I am so happy they were able to be married.

    Posted by: WayneMPLS | Mar 26, 2012 1:43:45 PM

  14. My father passed away in December, and my mom 41 days later. They had been married 64 years, and were supportive of me when I came out almost 40 years ago. I was fortunate to have them.

    Posted by: jones | Mar 26, 2012 2:50:15 PM

  15. I'm surprised no one has mentioned the couples connection to Patrick Dennis (Pat Tanner). Both were really good friends with Pat. Cris appeared in the stage and film versions of "Auntie Mame" and took the photographic illustrations for "Little Me". Cris had Shaun pose as "Mr. Musgrave". I'm not sure how long they were together -- it may be as long as 60 years!

    Posted by: mcfrank | Mar 26, 2012 4:53:27 PM

  16. AT 71 and alone, I can't help put be jealous of the life these two men had together. To imagine what it was like for them when they started their relationship and what it must have been like to finally be able to be married just blows my mind. Love, regardless of who you love, is something all humans are intitled to have. RIP and may you be back together in eternity.

    Posted by: John J. Kelly | Mar 26, 2012 9:29:50 PM

  17. Wow. Sixty years. That's,like, seven and a half times longer than the average American heterosexual marriage. Newt Gingritch has, what, four more wives to go before he can say, yep, this is the one I'll grow old with.

    Posted by: Manny Espinola | Mar 26, 2012 11:00:29 PM

  18. sail on my friends....sail on.

    Posted by: daniel malisky | Mar 26, 2012 11:49:26 PM

  19. 60 years - well, I'm working on almost half-way there.

    What a lovely story!

    Posted by: TJ | Mar 26, 2012 11:57:09 PM

  20. And MARY, if this can touch your heart but not change your mind, well, see my other comments about you.

    Posted by: TJ | Mar 27, 2012 12:00:44 AM

  21. >>spend more time highlighting couples like this and less time calling people "hateful."<<

    The truth stings, doesn't it, Mary?

    Posted by: Heh | Mar 27, 2012 4:49:05 AM

  22. What a beautiful ending to such beautiful lives. REQUIESCAT IN PACE!!!

    Posted by: jack | Mar 27, 2012 5:31:24 AM

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