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Lindsay Children Recount Life, Love of Parents Elise and Gregory

The 62-year-old high-school sweethearts died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The Lindsay children say "neither of them would have wanted to survive the other."

Elise and Gregory Lindsay’s three children say their parent’s happiest moments were spent together, sharing a glass of wine, watching the sunset over Lake Chautauqua.

On Saturday nights, back when they had a house full of teenagers, they escaped into the living room with pizza, wine and a movie.

Gillian Whittlesey, 30, said when she’d go and check in on her parents, her dad would simply say, “We’re on a date.”

“They always made it work. They put each other first, like any good couple should, and they were always there for us as a team,” Gillian said.

When they were found in their Cleveland Heights home Thursday afternoon, they were in their kitchen. Greg had cooked dinner for his high-school sweetheart the night before. There were wine glasses on the table. 

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office said carbon monoxide poisoning was to blame, and their deaths were accidental. Cleveland Heights Fire Chief William Freeman said the chimneys were clear, but the boiler in their East Monmouth home, where they had lived for 30 years, was in bad shape.

“We’ve gone back to the house, and even though there was the accident, I think we all agreed it still feels like home. It’s not scary,” said Greg and Elise's son, Dan Lindsay, 33, who lives in Shaker Heights with his wife, Courtney, and their children Ben and Megan.

Visits and calls from friends, family and neighbors have been “constant and beautiful,” he said. There wasn’t a free spot on his countertop — it was covered with food. They had to bring in extra refrigerators to keep up with it. At least a dozen flower arrangements were displayed throughout the house.

“I know for a fact that neither of them would have wanted to survive the other. We all could probably agree that the timing is horrible, but they wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” Dan said.

Gillian chimed in.

“If they had to go too soon, it was that it was together, and we couldn’t imagine one without the other. Our only complaint is timing,” she said. “We knew we were so lucky, luckier than most, for the family we had.”

Spending time at the house has brought them comfort and helped them relive memories.

Greg, a longtime LTV Steel employee who worked in upper management in electrical and mechanical maintenance, told his kids they could be anything they wanted for Halloween, so long as it included a light. He wanted to make sure his kids were safe.

He rigged their costumes with battery packs. They dressed up as traffic lights, Christmas trees, and “a firefly with a glowing rump,” Gillian said.

When Gillian played field hockey at Miami University in Ohio, her parents would go to every game within a 10-hour drive.

Dan said his father, who was retired, was the best babysitter, teacher and grandfather. He’d walk down the street with his grandson, Ben, pointing out every animal, type of tree and bird.

Dana Lindsay, 24, the youngest of the Lindsay’s three children, said though she went to Stanford, she never went more than a month without seeing her parents.

They were at every lacrosse game when she played for Cleveland Heights High School, where the kids all went, her dad armed with a video camera.

“We spent our whole lives on video. Everything from school concerts to Christmas to family trips to sports games,” Dana said. “When I was in college, (Gillian) came out to visit me, and she brought a DVD from my dad that had three chapters. One was the family Christmas party, one was ‘Big snow in Cleveland’ and the third was ‘Tree down in St. Clairsville' … just to give me an idea of what was going on back home.”

He filmed every moment, big or small.

Greg made his daughters’ recruiting videos. Word of how good they were spread, and he continued recording videos for other young athletes aspiring to play in college.

Greg and Elise, 62, met in St. Clairsville. Greg, one of 10 children, moved there when he was a junior, and he told his kids that with Elise, it was love at first sight. He played basketball and football, and she was on the cheerleading squad.

Dana said growing up, she “was convinced my parents were the smartest people in the world.” Both would brag about their spouse’s talents.

“They just had a tremendous love for each other and for us and for life in general, family and friends,” Gillian said.  “We kept saying over and over we knew and they knew how lucky we are to have that family, and we’d all often joke about how well we get along. … They were just the most devoted, supportive parents.”

Elise was director of International Student Services at Case Western Reserve University. The night she died, she had gone to the store to prepare for an event.

She was as dedicated to her job as she was to her kids.

Elise gave her home number to students, and they called for help and advice often.

“If someone walked in at 5:30 or six and it would take until 10 to get it done, she’d get it done,” Dan said.

Gillian agreed.

“We’ve heard over and over, some students have reached out to us, and feel they’ve lost their second parents. She attended the students’ weddings, got to know their babies.”

She organized the big International Student Services Dinner each year, where students would prepare food from their countries and perform dances and more from their cultures.  

But Dana said you wouldn’t know from talking to her how hard she worked.

“They were both so incredibly humble. (My mom) wouldn’t come home talking about work,” Dana said.  “You’d have to ask about what was going on, keep questioning her. She was always asking about us.”

Dan said they both had a “certain affinity for helping others.”

Greg would help older neighbors paint and teach them how to use their computers and how to send an email. He didn’t just plow his driveway — he made sure his house up to Church of the Saviour, and the other sidewalks across the street were clear, “just to be fair,” Dana and Gillian said at the same time.  

Gillian, who lives in Chicago with her husband, John, and Dana, who lives in San Francisco, were supposed to come in for Thanksgiving next week.

Elise had already bought food.

“We have all of these emails about how excited she was and getting things ready,” Gillian said.

Dana had recently told her mom how homesick she was.

“The last text message I have from her is 'Thanksgiving is not far away.'”

But the siblings didn’t talk about the fact they couldn’t spend one last holiday together with their parents.

“It’s such an unfortunate testament to mom and dad that the night we found out, the night I flew home, that even then, right in the shock of it, we just kept saying we’re still really lucky,” Dana said. “We have each other, and they did everything they could to teach us everything.”

“They knew we were on the right track,” Gillian said.

About 10 years ago, Elise and Greg bought a house on Lake Chautauqua.

“Mom had wanted a place by the water her whole life, and they finally achieved their goal,” Dan said. “There was nothing better for them than to enjoy a glass of wine, the sunset. Just the two of them, sitting at the end of the dock.”

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The family will receive friends from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15 at Maher-Melbourne Funeral Home, 4274 Mayfield Road, South Euclid (216) 382-4500. The Memorial Service will be at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16 at Church of the Saviour, 2537 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights. In lieu of flowers, please contribute to an organization or charity that holds significance in your memories of the Lindsays. Condolences at www.mahermelbourne.com.

Laurie Rogers November 14, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I have only the utmost respect for this couple. So involved in their children's lives, as well as others. Especially, towards my daughter Jessica, whose been very distraught of the news. The many days and nights she had spent with them, the kindness they gave May God bless you all, at this most difficult time.
Debbie Schaafsma November 14, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Dear Lindsay Family, Your parents were classmates of mine. What a lovely article you have written about them. Thoughts and prayers are with all of you at this time.Debbie Taddia Schaafsma, Class of '69.
Dan and Teruko Nesbitt November 14, 2012 at 06:49 PM
A very difficult and sudden loss for their children, family and friends. We shared with Greg and Elise the opportunity to watch our daughters Jamie and Karen play Cardinal lacrosse with Dana at Stanford over the years, and to see them all grow into responsible adults and good citizens. Our heartfelt prayers for encouragement and support are with Dana, her brothers, and the family. Dan and Teruko Nesbitt
Cinda Loyer November 15, 2012 at 03:12 AM
Dear Lindsay Family, We knew both of your parents while growing up here in St. Clairsville. I have such wonderful memories of both of them and most of all your mothers dynamite smile--she could light up a room. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and I know I speak for many people here in St. Clairsville when I say we have all lost an incredible couple, but that we are all so glad they were in our lives. Vernon and Cinda (Rosenberry) Loyer
Tim Sherwin November 15, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Dear Lindasay Children, I am so saddened by this shocking news. I just found out today Nov. 15th. I am so proud and glad to see how strong and positive you are in light of such devastating circumstances. We lived next door to you for 8 years and every description you give of your parents Missy and I can attest is true. Being our first home your Dad helped out with so many things. He even took hours to install a ceiling fan for us in our bedroom. They were so amazing and so kind. Our deepest thoughts are with you. Tim and Missy Sherwin

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