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Tennessee tornado victims died side by side after 58 years of marriage

James "Jimmy" Eaton, 84, and Donna, 81, died at their home on Tuesday morning in a tornado.
/ Source: TODAY

James and Donna Eaton had been married for 58 years when they died side by side in a tornado that ripped through their Middle Tennessee town.

Their mattress was thrown from the bed as the twister moved through Mt. Juliet, a suburb of Nashville about 30 minutes east of the city center.

“The home of that family, the Eatons, was probably [in] the worst part of the damage,” Mt. Juliet Police Department Capt. Tyler Chandler told "TODAY."

The Eatons were longtime residents of Mt. Juliet. They had been married for 58 years, the Tennessean reported, and James “Jimmy” Eaton would have been 85 on Wednesday.

Their grandson, Jake Hardy-Moore, told the newspaper his grandparents were the “best earthly example of what a marriage should look like.”

“They showed Christ’s love and his sacrifice. They both loved our families through challenging times of life,” Hardy-Moore told the Tennessean. "They were the ones we looked to when times were difficult, and they kept us pointed toward God and to be dependent on God."

James and Donna Eaton.Donna Eaton / via Facebook

The Eatons were longtime members of First Baptist Church Mt. Juliet, and the church’s Twitter account said it will hold the funeral on Saturday.

"To know them was to love them. They carried with them a happy spirit, and their love for their church family was a model to all of us,” Pastor Phillip Dunn told the Tennessean. "To know that they were taken from us so quickly in a storm shocks all of us. We can also rest assured that Jim and Donna loved Christ and woke up with their faith becoming sight."

Later Wednesday night, Dunn tweeted about the Eatons, saying they were “Always supportive. Always there. Always cheerful.”

“We will cherish their lives,” he wrote.

Four tornadoes wreaked havoc on Tennessee Tuesday in what state officials say was the second deadliest tornado event in state history, killing at least 24 people.

In Mt. Juliet, Chandler said, one tornado touched down for about seven to eight miles within city limits, killing the Eatons and one person working security at a warehouse.

“I personally continue to drive through the damaged areas and see how everyone has a great attitude and come together to help each other,” Chandler said on Wednesday afternoon. “Sometimes it takes a major incident to bring a community together, and our community has always had a strong bond but this has brought us even closer.”

He added the police department offers its “condolences, support and prayers” as the community rebuilds together.