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.


  1. Sethboy says

    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.

  2. Mary says

    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.

  3. Paul says

    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.”

  4. Abel says

    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.

  5. jones says

    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.

  6. mcfrank says

    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!

  7. John J. Kelly says

    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.

  8. says

    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.

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