JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Johnny and Teresa Nelson spent the better part of four decades deeply in love with each other. They would often affectionately argue over who would die first, with each saying they couldn’t live without the other.
Early Thursday morning, the couple died after a fire blazed through the hunting camp they owned in Greene County. Until his very last breath, Johnny fought to save Teresa. Despite 98 percent of his body being burned, he managed to get out of the camp and make it to a neighbors for help. Unfortunately, it was too late. Teresa died in the fire. Johnny died shortly after at a Mobile hospital.
“Their love story was simply amazing,” said the couple’s daughter Keri Wiggins in a written tribute to her parents. "They always said their favorite place was the camp and that’s where they wanted to go when they did, and they did.”
Now, their family and friends are left devastated by the sudden loss. But there is comfort in knowing that they are still together.
“They are together at peace," Wiggins continued. "They always fought on who would go first because they couldn’t live without each other. They always said they hoped they went together, and they were able to.”
“It’s almost not possible yet to sink in that Johnny and Teresa aren’t here," said Mike McLaughlin. Mike and his wife Lee were longtime friends of the Nelsons.
The couple, who spent most of their married life living in Gautier with their two daughters, bought their dream home and moved to Cumbest Bluff in the northern part of Jackson County about a year ago.
The hunting camp was their refuge, their place to go to enjoy spending time together. The couple loved being outdoors and doing things together, said those who knew them.
“I can’t find a picture that we were not outside, mostly on the water, on boats with Johnny and Teresa or in Destin on the beaches," said Lee McLaughlin.
On Wednesday - the last day the couple would spend alive - Johnny risked his own life to save someone else. His daughter Keri Wiggins said he rescued an 80-year-old from drowning near the couple’s camp. It’s just the kind of selfless person he was, said the couple’s loved ones.
Part of that selflessness showed itself throughout Johnny’s long career in the medical field in Jackson County. For decades, he was a certified registered nurse anesthetist with Singing River Health System. Recently, he worked with Jackson County Anesthesia Associates providing anesthesia at local surgery centers. Teresa was a longtime realtor on the Coast, helping people find their own dream homes.
“They would want people to rejoice in their lives, and not lament about their death,” said Lee McLaughlin. "They argued about who needed to go first because the other one couldn’t live without their spouse...And the Lord is good and He took them both because whoever He left behind in this couple would have died of a broken heart.”
The couple leaves behind their two daughters, Keri and Tia, and four precious grandchildren who they loved more than anything else in this world: Brittney, Lauren, Klaire, and Mo Wiggins.
A remembrance ceremony will be held for Johnny and Teresa on Feb. 16 at Hickory Hills Country Club. The couple’s daughters chose that day to bring people together because it would have been Johnny and Teresa’s 39th wedding anniversary. Anyone who would like to come remember them and share memories is welcome to attend.