Anthony Mason profiles Wall Street pioneer Carole Brookins, chemist Dr. Changkiu Keith Riew, pulmonologist Dr. James Mahoney, corrections officer Inez Gonzalez and mental health counselor Torrin Howard.
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, longtime White House staffer
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, a White House employee whose tenure saw 11 different presidents, died of coronavirus, on May 16, his granddaughter, Jamila Garrett, told Washington, D.C. station WTTC. He was 91.
Jerman started his career as a White House cleaner under President Eisenhower in 1957, and retired as a butler during the Obama administration in 2012.
“My grandfather was a family-loving, genuine man,” Garrett told WTTG reporter Shawn Yancy. “He was always about service. Service to others. It didn’t matter who you were or what you did or what you needed, whatever he could provide he did.”
She said her grandfather’s friendship with Jackie Kennedy Onassis helped him get promoted to butler.
“She was instrumental in ensuring that that happened,” she said.
Garrett also recounted her grandfather’s tenure under President George H.W. Bush, and said Jerman would often sit with a young George W. Bush when the latter had trouble sleeping while adapting to life at the White House.
“He always taught us that there will always be obstacles in your life. Always. They won’t disappear. It doesn’t matter your status, it does not matter your role or what you do, there will always be obstacles. But you keep pushing forward,” she said.
Charles “Rob” Roberts III, police officer
Charles “Rob” Roberts, a senior New Jersey police officer, died of COVID-19 complications on May 11. He was 45.
Raised in Livingston, New Jersey, Roberts joined the Glen Ridge police force in 2000 and settled in the area with his wife and raised three children. He was called the “face” of his department, and a “shining example of an officer dedicated to serving the community.”
“It was his lifelong dream” to be a police officer, his wife Alice said. “He was the cop everyone wanted to show up on the scene because he’d make a connection, make people feel like humans.”
As a father, Alice said he was “always supportive” and volunteered as a local baseball and soccer coach. “The other kids and parents appreciated that he was never a yeller, never put kids down. He was always positive,” she said.
The night before he collapsed during his battle with COVID-19, he had bought and assembled a hockey shooting game for his children.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Roberts was “the officer most likely to be seen working with and reading with kids or raising money for one worthy cause or another.”
His 10-year-old son, Gavin, led his mother and two sisters, ages 15 and 12, in Roberts’ funeral procession, while wearing his father’s police hat.
Roberts was posthumously promoted and buried as Sergeant Roberts.
Roy Horn, legendary illusionist and half of “Siegfried and Roy” duo
World-renowned illusionist Roy Horn died of coronavirus complications in Las Vegas on May 8. He was 75.
Horn, who was half of magic duo Siegfried and Roy, performed for over a decade at The Mirage in Las Vegas. The team was known for incorporating endangered animals into their $30 million production.
Born in Germany in 1944, he met Siegfried Fischbacher while working on a cruise ship. From there they began a 50-year career as a magic duo, according to a statement from Horn’s press team.
Horn’s last performance was in 2003, when he had a stroke on stage and was dragged off by one of their white tigers. Five years after the incident, he and Fischbacher opened a wildlife sanctuary called the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. The sanctuary provided a home for their white tigers and Komodo dragon, among other exotic animals.
“From the moment we met, I know Roy and I, together, would change the world. There would be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried,” Fischbacher said upon Horn’s death.
Jimmy Glenn, beloved bar owner and boxing icon
Jimmy Glenn, owner of the famous New York City bar Jimmy’s Corner, died of complications related to the coronavirus on May 7. He was 89.
Glenn, a former amateur boxer and a boxing trainer himself, opened Jimmy’s Corner in Times Square in 1971. The New York Times said he made it a “shrine to boxing,” filled with posters and photos of Glenn with Muhammed Ali, who was a friend. He opened a now-defunct boxing gym nearby just seven years later.
The bar, however, survived through decades in which the neighborhood around it changed drastically. Thanks to cheap prices and friendly landlords, Glenn stayed in business and attracted boxing fans, promoters, athletes and celebrities for years.
Upon news of Glenn’s death, tributes from in and out of the boxing world poured in.
Comedian Amy Schumer posted a photo of herself with Glenn on Instagram, writing “Rest In Peace Jimmy. Covid took beloved boxing trainer and Jimmy’s corner owner Jimmy Glenn. I will miss seeing you and love you.”
While Jimmy’s Corner was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, his son, Adam Glenn, said it would reopen.
Michael Halkias, Grand Prospect Hall venue owner
Michael Halkias, the owner of an opulent catering hall in Brooklyn, New York, died of complications relating to the coronavirus on May 6. He was 82.
Halkias’ “Grand Prospect Hall” was made famous for long-running commercials he starred in with his wife, Alice, which were spoofed by “Saturday Night Live” and comedian Jimmy Kimmel. The couple bought the venue in 1981 and spent two years renovating it before opening.
“He wanted to fix it for everybody,” Alice said.
A lover of Greek culture and his family, Halkias met his wife while managing a travel agency in 1966. He had sold her a ticket to Greece for a profit, and proposed to her when she returned. They had been married from 1967 until his recent death.
“I was the most fortunate wife I could be,” Alice said. “He always told me several times a day that he loved me.”
His daughter, Josephine Halkias-Tsarnas, confirmed the news of her father’s death on Facebook.
“I never imagined my trip to Aruba in Feb. would be the last time I’m with my parents,” she wrote, adding that she had been her father’s secretary at age 14 and saw him as her idol. “I write this with an empty heart, a void which will never be filled.”
Kevin Thomas Tarrant, Native American community leader
Kevin Thomas Tarrant, former executive director of American Indians Community House NYC, died of complications of COVID-19 on May 4. He was 51.
Born in New Jersey as a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and the Hopi Tribe of Arizona, Tarrant dedicated his life to preserving his Native American community, according to an online obituary.
Tarrant was musically-inclined, and founded an internationally-known Native drum group called The SilverCloud Singers that has performed at notable venues such as Madison Square Garden and the Apollo Theater. As a solo performer, he performed with various a cappella groups and artists and was also a composer and percussionist for the Broadway production, “Ajijaack on Turtle Island.”
In 2016, Tarrant sought to amplify Native American voices by founding Safe Harbors NYC along with his wife, playwright and director Murielle Borst-Tarrant. The arts initiative focuses on the development and production of Native Indigenous theater and performing arts.
A friend said Tarrant and his wife met as teens when they both performed at pow wows, and the entire family performed to gather and “truly were intertwined in each other’s lives.”
Tarrant is survived by his wife, daughter and father.
Kendall Rene Pierre, Sr., pastor
Pastor Kendall Pierre, Sr., who preached at Mt. Zion Baptist church in Ama, Louisiana, died of coronavirus complications on May 2. He was 45.
In addition to being a pastor, Pierre was a basketball coach for the Southeast Louisiana Warriors and ran a barber shop called Pierre’s Barber and Beauty Salon.
“A lot of people got a lot of free counseling sitting in that barber chair,” his wife Sabrina Pierre said.
The couple met working at McDonald’s, marrying in 1996 and raising three children together.
“My husband was awesome,” she said. “He was everything — he had me and my children spoiled.”
She called Pierre a “happy” and “purpose-driven man” who “spent all of his life serving others,” especially his children.
“He was our handyman, cable man, jack all trades. He grew up without a father, so he poured everything. He made sure he was any every event they had,” she said.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Pierre taught Bible study by video before he fell ill.
“Today is a little bit different for me. I’m in the church and felt like I needed to come to the house of the Lord to give this particular presentation,” he can be heard saying in a video.
More than 800 cars attended Pierre’s drive-through wake at Mt. Zion.
Krist Angielen Castro Guzman, nurse
Krist Angielen Castro Guzman, a Chicago nurse who gave birth to her third child in December 2019, died of COVID-19 complications on May 2. She was 35.
As a nurse at the Meadowbrook Senior Facility, Guzman worked on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, doing everything she could to ensure her elderly patients were safe.
Her cousin, Jeschlyn Pilar, said Guzman liked the excitement of her job and helping people.
“She liked being considered a healthcare professional. She was proud of her job,” she said.
With a father in the U.S. Navy, Guzman moved around the world while growing up, living in Japan, California and Iceland before meeting her husband, who also worked at Meadowbrook as a CNA, in Chicago.
The two had three children together — Livvy, age 6, Xavi, age 5 and baby Leandro, who was born in December and named after Guzman’s uncle, a surgeon in the Philippines who also passed away from COVID-19 complications in March.
“[Her kids] were her pride and joy,” her sister, Kayla Aleksei Clayton, said. “She loved her husband so much. They idolized each other.”
Marion Welenz Hedrick, Air Force veteran
Marion Welenz Hedrick, a great-grandmother and an Air Force veteran, died of complications from the coronavirus on April 30. She was 89.
Hedrick served in the U.S. Air Force as an Airman Second Class before being appointed to work at the Pentagon in the 1950s. She then moved to the White House, where she was an assistant to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
As a member of the Oklahoma Women Veteran’s Organization, Hedrick designed the official emblem on the group’s flag.
She married her late husband, Edward, in 1960, and the couple raised five children together.
“They did pretty much everything together in their later years,” their daughter Catherine Armstrong said. “He would always tell her [she was] so beautiful.”
She called Hedrick a “champion for her kids.”
In addition to her impressive resumé, Hedrick was classically trained in piano and loved to sing and sew. She took an interest in art later in life, and earned awards for her paintings.
Hedrick will be buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in November.
Johng Kuk Pyun, South Korean immigrant and business owner
Johng Kuk Pyun, who lived the immigrant’s story of the American dream, died from the coronavirus on April 29. He was 82.
Pyun worked as an interpreter for the American military in South Korea. In 1976, at age 39, he immigrated to the United States with his wife and four kids.
“He sacrificed so much to give us a better life,” said his daughter SuJean Sackin. “He was just so tenacious.”
Arriving with $500, Pyun built a thriving dry cleaning business in Los Angeles and mentored other South Korean immigrants, helping them learn how to operate their own businesses, Sackin said.
“A lot of them in fact worked at the business for a few weeks or a couple months until they gained that knowledge and expertise to own their own businesses,” she said. “My dad was kind of like an unsung hero.”
James A. Mahoney, pulmonologist
Dr. James A. Mahoney, an intensive care unit pulmonologist, died of complications of COVID-19 on April 27. He was 62.
Mahoney, nicknamed “Charlie,” started as a student at SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s teaching college in 1982 before working there as a pulmonologist and professor.
“He would bring the best out of you, and he would not give up on you,” said Dr. Julien Cavanagh, who was his former intern, resident and later colleague. “He had this ability to make you feel safe, to make you feel reassured.”
Mahoney was a mentor for other minority doctors, colleagues said.
The celebrated doctor had been contemplating retirement when the coronavirus pandemic hit, but instead continued to treat patients. Even after coming down with the illness, he would call patients to monitor them.
Mahoney died at the same hospital where he had worked for nearly 40 years.
Henri Kichka, writer and Holocaust survivor
Henri Kichka, one of Belgium’s last Holocaust survivors, died of coronavirus complications on April 25. He was 94.
Kichka was born to a Polish Jewish family in 1926. In 1942, when Germany invaded Brussels, he and his father were sent to a slave labor camp while his mother and two sisters were sent to Auschwitz, where they were soon killed.
In 1945, towards the end of World War II, his father died at the Buchenwald concentration camp, making Kichka the lone member of his family to survive.
After years of silence, Kichka began sharing his experience in Belgian schools. He even accompanied school children on trips to Auschwitz, making it his mission to educate youth on the atrocities that happened during the war. He wrote a memoir about his experiences in 2005.
Illustrator and cartoonist Michel Kichka, Henri Kichka’s son, posted on Facebook about his father’s death.
“A small microscopic Coronavirus succeeded where the entire Nazi army had failed,” he wrote. “My father had survived the March of death. But today has ended his March of life.”
Samantha Wissinger, nurse and cancer survivor
Samantha Wissinger, a Michigan nurse, died of coronavirus complications on April 24 at age 29.
Wissinger worked at Beaumont Hospital, where her husband Markus said she had a “cult following.”
“Everyone there loves her,” he said. “Her final day in the hospital when she passed away — her unit has six, seven nurses. Half the nurses were allowed to take a break and come be with her. Even her boss came down.”
A survivor of stage three breast cancer and stage four brain cancer, Wissinger met her husband on a dating site. Markus described her as forward, confident and brave. They were getting ready to celebrate their one year anniversary in June.
Her good friend, Sam Baughman, said Wissinger was “very kind and compassionate” and a “great, caring person.”
“We were best friends for over 20 years. More like sisters,” she said.
Markus said the couple had been working on converting a bus into an RV when she got sick and passed away.
“I’m still going to do that and make it a shrine to her,” he said.
Joyce Pacubas-Le Blanc, nurse
Joyce Pacubas-Le Blanc, who worked as a nurse in Chicago for over 30 years, died of coronavirus complications on April 23. She was 53.
A colleague and friend said Pacubas-Le Blanc, an ICU triage nurse at the University of Illinois hospital, was “nurturing to whoever needed it.”
Pacubas-Le Blanc arrived in Chicago at age 7 from the Philippines. She and her husband, Lawrence Le Blanc, raised two boys — now 19 and 21 years old.
“She is the best thing that ever happened to me,” Le Blanc said. “I went to sleep the luckiest man alive and woke up the saddest man alive.”
He described Pacubas-Le Blanc as “the type of person that would feed you, clothe you, whether she knew you or not.”
“The mold was broken after she was born. There will never be another like her,” he said.
Robert Stevens, bookseller
Charles Gregory Ross, an Emmy-nominated hairstylist known for his frequent collaborations with Tyler Perry, died of complications from COVID-19 on April 8 after a two-week battle at an Atlanta hospital.
In addition to working with Tyler Perry, Ross’ impressive resume includes the 2000 film “Remember the Titans” and Lee Daniels’ upcoming movie, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”
He also served as Perry’s personal hairstylist on Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” and worked on a host of the media mogul’s other films.
The renowned hairstylist was mourned by celebrities like Perry, Daniels, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington, who all expressed their grief on social media.
Davis in particular posted a moving tribute to Ross, writing “RIP Charles Gregory. He did my hair for the Academy Awards, Lila and Eve and Madea Goes to Jail. Another loss from the deadly Coronavirus. Rest well. May God’s peace be with your family. You were a jewel.”
Perry used the news of Ross’ death to highlight the virus’ outsized impact on black Americans.
“I love everything about who we are. All of us,” the star wrote. “And I love us all too much to watch us die on the vine because we are the last to know and we are not taking this pandemic seriously.”
Prea Nankieshore, ER clerk and mom of twins
Prea Nankieshore, a New York City emergency room clerk, passed away due to COVID-19 on April 8. She was 34.
Nankieshore was the first person people saw in the emergency room, registering patients at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, a hospital in Queens, New York.
A mother of 8-year-old twin boys, “Prea was a walking angel,” said her fiancé Markus Kahn, who’d known her since high school. “She’s the most unselfish person I ever met in my life.”
Nankieshore “wanted to help people,” her colleague Dr. Rachel Bruce said.
“Even when it became difficult and even frightening in the last month to come to work, she wanted to be somewhere she was needed,” Bruce said.
Ronald Verrier, trauma surgeon
Dr. Ronald Verrier, a New York trauma surgeon, died of coronavirus complications on April 8. He was 59.
The son of a surgeon, Verrier was born and raised in Port au Prince, Haiti, where he met his wife. They later moved to the U.S., but Verrier returned to help after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti in 2010.
“He was the stalwart of the family, our advisor, our pride,” his younger sister, nurse Pascale Verrier, said.
Verrier, who was the director of the general surgery department at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, was married for 25 years and shared two sons and a stepdaughter with Dr. Joanne Verrier, program director of the dental residency program at a Harlem hospital.
She called him a “presence” with a “booming voice,” who was “imposing and knowledgeable.”
“He was committed to his patients. His patients always came first,” she said. “The residents that he advised loved him so much.”
Verrier had survived a heart attack in 2014 and went through extensive rehab before being able to perform surgery again two years later.
“That’s why this is so devastating,” Joanne said. “He escaped death once already.”
His niece, Dr. Christina Pardo, said the family hopes to establish a scholarship for medical residents in his name.
Mario Araujo, firefighter
Mario Araujo, a member of the Chicago Fire Department, died from complications of the coronavirus on April 7. He was 49.
Araujo joined the department in 2003 and spent most of his career on Truck 25.
“I went to one of my worst fires with him, and he was aces,” said Jon Kataoka, a lieutenant in the department. “He’d go through a brick wall for you.”
Araujo came to the United States with his family from El Salvador at age 6.
“We all supported him being a firefighter because he wanted to help people,” said his cousin Christina, “and that made us happy too.”
“He was someone that all of us looked up to because he loved his job so much,” she said.
Torrin Howard, mental health counselor
Torrin Howard, a mental health counselor serving at-risk children, died of complications from COVID-19 on April 7. He was 26.
Standing at 6’3″, Howard was a “gentle giant” and “just so giving,” his girlfriend Tiesha Teasley said. The pair had met a decade ago, and were going to celebrate their 10-year anniversary in May.
“He was by far, like, beyond what I could have wanted for myself,” she said. “So having to experience him no longer being here has been very, very, very difficult. This is the type of man that women only dream about.”
Before becoming a mental health counselor at the Boys & Girls Village in Milford, Connecticut, Howard was an all-city tackle on Wilby High School’s football team. Howard also played bass in his family gospel group, the Spiritual Souls, and hoped to pursue a Masters in psychology to work with urban youth.
“He was very serious about his job and about the kids, and he absolutely loved them,” Teasley said. “Torrin was so motivated to get the best out of these children.”
Satash Deonarine, father of three
Satash Deonarine, a Guyanese-born immigrant and father of three, died of the coronavirus on April 7. He was 38.
Deonarine and his family moved to the United States in 2000, and he found work as a plumber. He met his wife, Menkashi, during a summer trip back to Guyana in 2007, and they married a year later.
His cousin described him as a dedicated family man, whose kids were “his world.”
“He supported his family and friends by always being there for us when we needed him,” she said. “He has 38 first cousins that he grew up with as closely as siblings would.”
She described Deonarine as a fun-loving person who didn’t have “a serious bone in his body.” He frequently took trips with his wife and children, including summer adventures to nearby theme parks and Disney in Florida. He had also been planning to take his children back to Guyana to see where he was raised.
According to his cousin, he was “the epitome of a perfect dad.” He had been planning his daughter’s upcoming first birthday in August.
“There was so much love… it was clear his kids adored him,” she said.
Allen Garfield, actor
Veteran character actor Allen Garfield died of coronavirus complications on April 7. He was 80.
During his decades-long career, Garfield appeared in over 100 films and shows, including memorable roles in the films “The Conversation” and “The Candidate.” He often played nervous or anxious characters.
Born Allen Goorwitz, he started out as a reporter and a Golden Gloves boxer before discovering his love for acting and studying at the Actor’s Studio in New York City.
Ronee Blakley, the actress who played his wife in the film “Nashville,” posted the news of his death on Facebook.
“I hang my head in tears; condolences to family and friends,” she wrote.
Hailey Herrera, Masters student
Hailey Herrera, a student at Iona College, died of coronavirus complications on April 7. The 25-year-old was one class away from earning her Masters degree in marriage and family therapy.
Herrera’s mother, Valerie, said her daughter had a 4.0 grade average and had “so much to offer.”
She described Herrera, who was her only child, as “vivacious, energetic, full of life,” but was also “a caretaker.”
“Everyone wanted to get her advice. Friends would go to her, she’d make them feel better and say the right words,” Valerie Herrera said.
According to her mother, Hailey Herrera was healthy and had no preexisting conditions.
Her friend Aaron Cruz said that Herrera was not only training to be a therapist in school, but also acted as a therapist for her friends and those around her. He said that was “where he passion lied.”
“I’m in a similar career path and feel I’ll physically keep carrying her with me as I continue my career,” Cruz said.
Herrera’s mother said Iona College would be honoring her degree in her memory.
John Prine, songwriter
Celebrated songwriter John Prine, who Rolling Stone once called “the Mark Twain of American songwriting,” died in Nashville, Tennessee from coronavirus complications on April 7, according to his family. He was 73.
Prine, an army veteran and two-time cancer survivor, won a lifetime achievement Grammy earlier in 2020 for a career spanning four decades during which he was lauded by music giants like Bob Dylan and Bette Midler. His songs have been covered by old and new artists such as Johnny Cash, Carly Simon, Miranda Lambert and Old Crow Medicine Show.
“The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert honored Prine earlier in the week when he was hospitalized, sharing a previously unaired duet between the two from 2016. The comedian also mourned the musician’s death in a Tuesday tweet.
Carolyn Martins-Reitz and Thomas Martins, mother and son
Carolyn Martins-Reitz and her son Thomas Martins died from COVID-19 nine days apart. She lost her battle on March 28 at the age of 55, and he died on April 6, his 30th birthday.
Carolyn’s number one passion was making sure her son, who had Down syndrome, was happy and active, her husband and Thomas’ stepfather Rudy Reitz said.
“Thomas loved everything and everyone. He loved playing basketball and spending time with friends. He loved movies. He loved his Pokémon and just loved life in general,” Reitz said.
Carolyn was “a tremendously talented artist” who loved to paint, Reitz said. She worked as a graphic designer for the Archdiocese of Newark and several magazines in New York City, he said.
Raymond Copeland, sanitation worker
Raymond Copeland, a sanitation worker and single father, died of complications of coronavirus on April 5. He was 46.
Copeland, who lived in New York City, raised three girls on his own after their mother died. His oldest daughter, Naeemah Seifullah, said he took on three jobs at one point to provide for them.
“He loved to put smiles on other people’s faces,” she said. “He would do small acts of kindness, take you out to eat, give little mementos, always thinking about someone else.”
Seifullah said Copeland was “over the moon” being a grandfather to two young boys, and always tried to spend time with them.
In 2015, Copeland joined the sanitation department and met his future fiancé, Tameka Robinson.
“He treated me like a queen,” Robinson said.
She said Copeland was “kind and generous,” and the two loved to travel together.
“He was a great guy, he was hard working, he took care of his family and friends,” she said.
Lee Fierro, actress
Lee Fierro, who died Sunday, April 5 in Ohio from complications of COVID-19 at age 91, was a stage actress who had only a handful of film credits, but her first was a scene-stealer: Mrs. Kintner, mother of a boy who is killed by a shark, in Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster “Jaws.” With a steely fire, she confronts Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider), whom she blames for her son’s death, with a slap across the face.
Fierro had stepped away from acting to raise her family, and at first she turned down the part because, she said in a 25th anniversary documentary interview, she wasn’t happy about saying “four-letter words” in her confrontation with Scheider. So, it became a physical scene. “It was a quiet scene,” Fierro said. “Everybody was real quiet. Even the birds.” She repeated her role in the 1987 sequel “Jaws: The Revenge.”
As a resident of Martha’s Vineyard (where “Jaws” was filmed), Fierro worked with the local theatrical company, Island Theatre Workshop, appearing and directing in productions and instructing hundreds of young people. For 25 years she served as its artistic director.
“She was my teacher and mentor,” Kevin Ryan, the group’s current artistic director and board president, told the Martha’s Vineyard Times. “She was fiercely dedicated to the mission of teaching. She, no matter what it was, would stay at it and get the job done.”
Kimarlee Nguyen, writer and teacher
Kimarlee Nguyen, an English teacher at the Brooklyn Latin School in New York, died of COVID-19 on April 5. She was 33.
Born to Cambodian immigrants Vy Yeng and Hai Van Nguyen, Nguyen played rugby at Vassar College before going on to be a teacher and writer. Her works have been published in literary journals and she was made an Emerging Writer Fellow at the Center for Fiction in 2018.
Her cousin, Tina Yeng, said Nguyen “could brighten up any room she walks in” and she “loved her family more than anything.”
“Every chance she got to come home she’d come always be with us,” she said. “She was more than just a cousin to me. She was a sister I never had.”
At school, Nguyen was a “beloved teacher” who was loved by her students.
Michael Caputo, a fellow teacher at Brooklyn Latin, described her as being “the kind of teacher students feared as much as they loved” because of her fierce work ethic.
“She pushed them and embraced them and criticized them and celebrated them and laughed with them and was there for them always,” he wrote on Facebook.
One of her students wrote on a tribute page, “You saw something in me that I didn’t see… I know you are watching over all of us and still believe in us.”
Vitalina Williams, grocery store worker
Massachusetts resident Vitalina Williams died on April 4 after contracting the coronavirus, her husband told CBS News. She was 59.
Before succumbing to her illness, Williams worked at both Walmart and the grocery store chain Market Basket as an essential employee. She last worked at the grocery store on March 26, when her husband, David Williams, said she had begun feeling ill. Two other associates at Salem’s Market Basket store had also tested positive for COVID-19.
Growing up in Guatemala during a civil war, Williams immigrated to the United States with the intention of making enough money to return before meeting her husband. The pair dated for three years and were married for 19.
David Williams said his wife gave him “purpose,” and described her as “extremely hard-working.”
He said she loved gardening and cooking, and “always had energy” despite working two different jobs.
“Before I met her I was basically aimless,” he said. “I was in love with her but I was just following the crowd, because everyone loved her.”
Julie Butler, veterinarian
Dr. Julie Butler, a veterinarian who ran Harlem’s 145th Street Animal Hospital for three decades, died from coronavirus complications on April 4. She was 62.
Butler was a “remarkable woman,” said her husband, Claude Howard. “Very strong, fierce, very determined.”
The only African-American graduate in her class at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, she became president of the Veterinary Medicine Association of New York City.
“My mother chose to build her business in Harlem, which was grossly underserved, and was always committed to serving the people of Harlem, even in a time when many were not interested in providing care to those living and working there,” Butler’s daughter Zora Howard said.
After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, she also led efforts to stabilize veterinary care.
“She had so much more to give, especially in times like now,” said Dr. George Korin of NY SAVE, the nonprofit Dr. Butler co-founded.
Tom Dempsey, legendary NFL kicker
Tom Dempsey, a former New Orleans Saints kicker who set a field goal record that stood for over four decades, died of coronavirus complications on April 4. He was 73.
Dempsey, who suffered from dementia in his later years, was an NFL legend. The football star was born without most fingers on his right hand and no toes on his right foot. He went on to play 11 seasons in the league, and the special shoe he used during his record-setting career is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After the news of his death broke, Saints players past and present took to social media to remember Dempsey and his incredible career.
Lila Fenwick, lawyer and former United Nations official
Lila Fenwick, the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Law School, died of COVID-19 on April 4 at the age of 87.
Fenwick broke barriers in 1956 when she graduated from Harvard Law, just six years after women were first admitted to the school. She went on to have a career as a human rights official at the United Nations and specialized in fighting discrimination.
Her friend and former neighbor, Thomas Alamo, described Fenwick as a “very intelligent, bright, witty person.”
“She could talk to you about anything,” he said.
Fenwick’s cousin David Colby Reed, who was also appointed as her guardian when she suffered from dementia in her later years, said her “entire estate” would be going to support future students and scholars.
“Lila Fenwick was an extraordinary leader who devoted her career at the United Nations to protecting the human rights of all people across the globe,” said John F. Manning, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean of Harvard Law School. “Her leadership, humanity, and wisdom will be sorely missed.”
Patricia Bosworth, best-selling writer and actress
Patricia Bosworth, known for writing the acclaimed biographies of Jane Fonda, Marlon Brando and other stars, died of complications of the coronavirus in New York City on April 2. She was 86.
Though Bosworth had some early film credits, starring on Broadway and in the 1959 film “A Nun’s Story” alongside Audrey Hepburn, she found lasting success in journalism and as the biographer of complex but high-profile figures. Vanity Fair, where she had been a contributor since the 1980s, announced her death and published a moving tribute to her life on their website.
Nick Jesdanun, journalist
Anick Jesdanun, a longtime Associated Press journalist who went by “Nick,” died of the coronavirus on April 2 at age 51.
Jesdanun was a deputy tech editor for AP who had been writing for the news agency for two decades. An avid adventurer and runner, Jesdanun participated in marathons all over the world.
His cousin said Jesdanun “always helped his fellow runners if they were in distress,” and “he tirelessly helped young AP writers improve their pieces.”
Lysa Dawn Robinson, percussionist
Lysa Dawn Robinson, a Philadelphia percussionist, died of coronavirus complications on April 2. She was 55.
Nicknamed “Lady Rhythm,” Robinson toured with Pink and played drums behind soul singer Billy Paul for over a decade.
“He loved the way she played for him,” Paul’s widow, Blanche Williams said. “They were tailor-made for each other.”
Robinson’s father was a guitarist with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and her own music talent appeared early, according to her sister, Dr. Pamela Chambers.
“As a toddler, she started banging on things,” Chambers said. “And she was mentored by some of the greats in Philadelphia, and she started touring internationally.”
Robinson performed until a massive stroke in 2012 left her paralyzed on her left side, though she worked hard to become independent again.
“She was very determined to just live life to the best of the hand that was dealt her,” longtime friend, singer Shirley Lites, said. “She just never gave up.”
Chambers said Robinson was her “little diamond,” and the two were “close as sister would be.”
“We were just Michele, Lysa and Pam,” Chambers said, including their oldest sister. “Three musketeers growing up.”
Jack Zoller, doctor
Dr. Jack Zoller, an obstetrician and gynecologist in New Orleans, died from COVID-19 on April 2. He was 91.
In his long career, Zoller delivered more than 3,000 babies. His son Gary said he has “countless memories” of his dad getting up in the middle of the night to go deliver a baby.
Zoller left an impact on his patients and others. “If I could count the number of people in the Jack Zoller fan club, it would take a while,” Gary said. “He was pure and not judgmental and gave that to everyone as a gift.”
A lifelong New Orleans resident, Zoller graduated Tulane and LSU Medical School. He married Linda Malkin and together they raised four kids before she died of cancer in 1994.
At his second home in Telluride, Colorado, Zoller loved to fish and volunteered at the Telluride Film Festival.
He spent his last years in Lambeth House Retirement Community in New Orleans. Last month, the facility became the center of the city’s deadliest coronavirus cluster.
“He was the prince of Lambeth House,” Gary said. “If you knew him, you loved him.”
David Driskell, artist and scholar
David Driskell, an artist and scholar of African American art, died on April 1 at age 88 from complications relating to the coronavirus.
Awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2000 by President Bill Clinton, Driskell pushed for black art to be seen as American art. Clinton had called him a “modern day dream keeper.”
As an artist, Driskell is best known for his 1956 painting, “Behold Thy Son,” which depicts the Virgin Mary wrapping her arms around the crucified and mutilated body of Emmett Till. The University of Maryland named its David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora in his honor in 2001.
Mohammed Jafor, Bangladeshi immigrant and NYC taxi driver
Mohammed Jafor died from the coronavirus on April 1 at the age of 56.
Jafor came to New York City from Bangladesh in 1991 to make a better life for his family.
He took a job at McDonald’s, then as a restaurant deliveryman and finally driving a yellow taxi. Jafor also helped fellow Bangladeshi immigrants get on their feet after coming to the U.S., inviting people from the town he grew up in to stay with him while they got settled, according to one of his sons.In 2016, his first wife and mother of his three children died of cancer.
Through hard work, his two sons became the first in the family to go to college. The oldest, Mahbub Robin, graduated from City College. The youngest, Mahtab Shihab, is now at Harvard.
“It’s the immigrant’s dream come true,” Mahtab said. “He was so proud.”
Leilani Jordan, grocery store clerk
Leilani Jordan, a Maryland grocery store clerk who wanted to keep working even though her front line job put her at high risk, died of the coronavirus on April 1. She was 27.
Jordan’s mother, Zenobia Shepherd, said her daughter, who had cerebral palsy, worked at Giant Food in Largo, Maryland for six years as part of the store’s disability program, and that she “loved her little job.” When the risks of the coronavirus had become clear, Shepherd said Jordan was adamant about going to work and continuing to help, especially because others were not showing up.
Jordan’s stepfather, Charles, told CNN that he had discovered a goodbye message Jordan had recorded on her phone before she died. In the message, he said Jordan addressed them, as well as her sisters, friends and service dog, Angel.
“She told them, ‘See you on the other side,'” Charles said.
Ellis Marsalis Jr., famed jazz family’s patriarch
Ellis Marsalis Jr., jazz pianist, teacher and patriarch of a New Orleans musical clan that includes famed performer sons Wynton and Branford, has died after battling pneumonia brought by the coronavirus, one of his sons said on April 1. He was 85.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced the musician’s death in a somber news release Wednesday night. The elder Marsalis had continued to perform regularly in New Orleans until December.
“Ellis Marsalis was a legend. He was the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz,” Cantrell said in her statement. “He was a teacher, a father, and an icon – and words aren’t sufficient to describe the art, the joy and the wonder he showed the world.”
Jesus Roman Melendez, chef
Jesus Roman Melendez, a cook at one of New York City’s most acclaimed restaurants, died from complications of COVID-19 on April 1. He was 49.
For 20 years, Melendez worked at Nougatine, run by renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
“He was part of the glue that held everything and everyone together,” Vongerichten said. “We lost an amazing person, and the world’s best breakfast cook.”
Melendez, who came to New York from his native Mexico City in 1994, “was the best dad,” said his daughter Yustin. “He would come home from work tired, but always spend time with us no matter what.”
In the kitchen, he was known for nurturing other young cooks.
“He taught so many of us not only to cook, but to have fun doing it,” said chef Mark Lapico. “He had a love for music, a razor sharp wit and a presence only wisdom and experience can afford a man.”
Richard Passman, aerospace pioneer
Aeronautical engineer Richard Passman, whose top-secret work helped change the course of the Cold War, died of coronavirus complications on April 1 in Silver Spring, Maryland. He was 94.
A Navy training pilot in World War II, Passman would go on to be chief aerodynamist for the Bell X-1A, the first plane to break the sound barrier in 1947. He also worked on the Bell X-2, the first to achieve Mach-3.
Passman then worked at GE Re-Entry Systems where he developed the first spy satellite, which flew 100 missions. He also pioneered technology on ICBM warheads.
After several high-profile positions working with the government and military, he helped redesign the International Space Station in the late 1980s. The station was later successfully assembled in orbit.
He and his wife, Minna Passman, had season tickets for the Philadelphia Eagles as well the Philadelphia Symphony, which they had kept even after moving to Maryland.
Passman’s son, Bill, remembered his father as “a Renaissance man” and “just a really nice guy.”
“He played piano. He baked bread. He painted a little,” Bill Passman said. “He was always interested in what other people had to say, you know, what they were doing. And he was able to have a good laugh.”
Bucky Pizzarelli, jazz guitarist
During a career that spanned eight decades, jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, who died from the coronavirus on April 1 at age 94, performed for presidents and played alongside such artists as Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and Michael Feinstein.
He’d learned banjo and guitar at an early age, and was already touring at 17. He was a longtime band member with Skitch Henderson, and played for several years on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” He also recorded frequently with his son, singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli.
In a 2019 interview with Jazz Times Pizzarelli talked about adapting to the seven-string Gretsch guitar, after a musical hero, George Van Eps, demonstrated it for him. The next day he went to Manny’s, near Times Squares, with some friends, and they each bought seven-string Gretsches. Was it hard to switch from a six-string? “It’s actually much easier,” said Pizzarelli, “because on the six-string you run out of notes. You’ve got no D-flat. I could never play ‘Lush Life’ until I got a seven-string.”
“Jazz guitar wouldn’t be what it is today without Bucky Pizzarelli,” jazz guitarist Frank Vignola told the Associated Press.
In 1992 “Sunday Morning” visited with Bucky and his son, John:
Adam Schlesinger, Fountains of Wayne co-founder
Adam Schlesinger, the New Jersey native who co-founded music groups Fountains of Wayne and Ivy, and was known for his work on the TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” died April 1 from coronavirus-related complications at 52.
Schlesinger, a father of two, has been a career musician since the ’90s. He formed rock band Fountains of Wayne with college friend Chris Collingwood in 1995. With Schlesinger on bass and backup vocals, the band had a hit just one year later with “Radiation Vibe.”
In 1997, Schlesinger received an Academy Award nomination for writing the title song to the movie “That Thing You Do!” — the first film Tom Hanks directed. He has also been nominated for 10 Emmy awards for his song-writing work on TV shows, three of which he won. The 2003 Fountains of Wayne hit “Stacy’s Mom” was nominated for a Grammy.
Marylou Armer, detective
Detective Marylou Armer, a 20-year veteran of the Santa Rosa Police Department in California, died on March 31 of COVID-19. She was 43.
“She was an example to other detectives on how to complete investigations, and at the end of the day, be a person and show empathy and professionalism,” said Detective Stephen Bussell, who was Armer’s longtime friend and worked with her in the domestic violence and sexual assault unit.
A solemn procession of 250 police and public safety vehicles escorted Armer’s body to the cemetery on April 3.
Her sister, Mari Lau, described Armer as a “very caring person.”
“My sister was known for her charisma and her ability to be compassionate,” Lau said. “I’m really going to miss hugging her.”
Frank Gabrin, ER doctor
Dr. Frank Gabrin, an emergency room doctor at East Orange General Hospital in New Jersey, died in his husband’s arms on March 31. The two-time cancer survivor first developed coronavirus symptoms on March 24 before succumbing to his illness. He was 60.
“He never complained about anything, he just wanted to work and help people,” his husband Arnold Vargas told NJ.com.
Many people are now sharing Gabrin’s last social media post. “Don’t forget about these tools people! They can be the most powerful drugs we have to use in this pandemic!” Gabrin wrote, sharing an image of a word cloud that included positive words like “tolerance,” “empathy,” “good will,” “human dignity,” and “open heart.”
Andrew Jack, “Star Wars” actor and dialect coach
“Star Wars” actor and dialect coach Andrew Jack died in the U.K. on March 31 as a result of the coronavirus. He was 76.
For several years during the 1970s, Jack worked as an airline steward, which not only exposed him to countless accents, dialects and cultural differences around the world, but also the importance of putting people at ease. They were skills that served his career as a dialect coach on an array of films, including “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Chaplin,” “Mansfield Park,” “Troy,” “Eastern Promises,” “Sherlock Holmes” (for which he also supplied the voice of Moriarty), “Robin Hood,” “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and several of Marvel’s “Avengers” films.
Jack also worked in front of the camera, appearing as Resistance figure Caluan Ematt in two “Star Wars” films: “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi.” His last project was “The Batman,” starring Robert Pattinson.
While he was in an ICU unit at a hospital near London, Jack’s wife, dialect coach Gabrielle Rogers, was in quarantine in Australia and tragically could not be with him. After he passed, Rogers tweeted: “We lost a man today. Andrew Jack was diagnosed with Coronavirus 2 days ago. He was in no pain, and he slipped away peacefully knowing that his family were all ‘with’ him.”
“Lord of the Rings” star Elijah Wood tweeted about the “heartbreaking news,” describing Jack as “a kind and lovely human being.”
Wallace Roney, jazz trumpeter
Jazz trumpeter Wallace Roney, who died from COVID-19 on March 31 at 59, was a member of a classical quintet at the age of 12. A student of Dizzy Gillespie, he would be mentored by Miles Davis (whom he met after Roney performed at a 1983 Radio City Music Hall tribute concert). He joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the Tony Williams Quintet.
Roney, who began his recording career at age 15, played on more than 250 recordings, performing with such artists as Chick Corea, Dizzy Gillespie and Herbie Hancock. He won a Grammy for participating in the 1994 album “A Tribute to Miles.”
An unabashed acolyte of Davis’, Roney also defended his own contributions to a continuum of jazz music. In a 2004 interview with Jazz Times, he described honing his skills, having played with the masters, as “opening the door to the universe. It didn’t spell out an ‘era.’ It spelled out the connection from this world to that world. There’s probably a whole lot more out there.”
New York Times critic Stanley Crouch once said of the artist, “Mr. Roney’s music embodies the essence of jazz, both taking advantage of and building on the past.”
Ben Luderer, teacher and coach
Ben Luderer, a special education teacher and baseball coach in New Jersey, died on March 30 after battling coronavirus. He was 30.
Luderer was a catcher on his high school baseball team. He went to Marist College on a baseball scholarship, and that’s where he met his wife, Brandy, who is also a special education teacher.
Known for his goofy sense of humor, Luderer “just opened up” with children, his former teammate, Dan Zlotnick, said. “His kindness and his smile really shone through when he was with the kids.”
Another former teammate, Eric Helmrich, commended Luderer for the work he did as a teacher.
“Being a special education teacher takes a special person. Being able to continue that and coach. It’s a lot to be so selfless and kind of give yourself — all of yourself — to as many people as you can,” he said.
When Luderer had coronavirus symptoms in March, his wife drove him to the hospital for treatment. He was sent home and seemed to be improving, but then he took a turn for the worse.
Madhvi Aya, physician assistant
Madhvi Aya, who worked on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic at a Brooklyn hospital, died of COVID-19 complications on March 29. She was 61.
Aya was born in India, where she worked as a doctor before moving to the U.S. in 1994 to join her husband, Raj, and to raise their daughter Minnoli.
“There was nothing that her hugs, that her voice couldn’t make me feel better. Everything about her just made me feel like I was safe, and that I was at home,” Minnoli, a college freshman, told Reuters.
A tireless healthcare worker, Aya worked 12-hour shifts at Brooklyn’s Woodhull Medical Center. Robert Chin, chief of emergency services at Woodhull, said Aya was a “much respected member” of their team and “is missed greatly.”
She was also a dedicated mother, according to Minnoli, who said they would sit and talk every night about how things were going — sometimes even until 2 a.m., two hours before Aya had to be up for work.
“She didn’t deserve to pass the way she did,” she said. “And I just feel so lost without her.”
Joe Diffie, country music star
Country music hit-maker Joe Diffie died March 29 at age 61 from complications related to the coronavirus. A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, he spent his early years singing with bluegrass bands.
Diffie married his college sweetheart and worked as a machinist before he was laid off from his job and left bankrupt. His wife took their two kids and left, and Diffie rolled the dice by moving to Nashville. There, he recorded demos for songwriters before signing with Epic to release his debut album, “A Thousand Winding Roads,” in 1990.
Diffie had five #1 country hits, including “Home,” “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets),” “Third Rock From the Sun,” “Pickup Man” and “Bigger Than The Beatles.” He recorded 13 studio albums, including two that went platinum: “Honky Tonk Attitude” (which featured the single “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)”) and “Third Rock From the Sun.”
Inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1993, Diffie shared a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart and others for the 1998 song “Same Old Train.”
Singer Carrie Underwood tweeted, “Absolutely no words for the loss of Joe Diffie. The music and legacy he leaves behind are legendary.”
Alan Merrill, “I Love Rock and Roll” songwriter
Alan Merrill, who co-wrote the song “I Love Rock and Roll” that became a signature hit for fellow rocker Joan Jett, died March 29 in New York of complications from the coronavirus, his daughter said. He was 69.
“I was given 2 minutes to say my goodbyes before I was rushed out. He seemed peaceful and as I left there was still a glimmer of hope that he wouldn’t be a ticker on the right hand side of the CNN/Fox news screen,” his daughter Laura Merrill wrote on Facebook. “I walked 50 blocks home still with hope in my heart. The city that I knew was empty. I felt I was the only person here and perhaps in many ways I was. By the time I got in the doors to my apartment I received the news that he was gone.”
Bassey Offiong, student
Bassey Offiong died from coronavirus on March 29 at the age of 25.
The chemical engineering student died weeks before he was expected to graduate from Western Michigan University. He dreamed of launching an organic makeup line.
His friend, Marshall Killgore, said Offiong was a “faith mentor” and a “gentle giant.” He said Offiong had been active in several on-campus communities, including support groups for black men and “men against domestic violence and rape and other forms of violence towards women.”
“In my eyes he was the epitome of what a successful, hard-working and driven young black man was,” Killgore said. “It pained me to hear the news of such a beacon of hope and joy for our community to go out so soon.”
Offiong’s friend Mateo said, “Whether it be a word of encouragement or advice, he was always there.”
His sister, Asari Offiong, told the Detroit News that her brother had no known prior health issues, and that he told her he had been turned down for a COVID-19 test three times before being hospitalized and put on a ventilator.
Nick Caravassi, former printing industry employee and bartender
Nick Caravassi, a former Coast Guardsman and an uncle to a CBS employee, died from coronavirus-related complications on March 28. He was 68.
A New Jersey resident who had just moved to Texas, Caravassi was in his new home state 10 days before being sent to the emergency room with COVID-19 symptoms. He and his wife, who was also hospitalized with coronavirus but survived, had moved there to be near their son and his fiancée.
Caravassi was born in Brooklyn, New York, and met the love of his life, Carol, shortly after high school in Kearny, New Jersey.
“He asked her out again and again, she never took,” their son, David said. “She was set up on a date with somebody that never showed up… so she called Nick and said, ‘You know what, second chance, you get another try, come pick me up.'”
Soon after, they married.
Caravassi, who served in the Coast Guard according to his obituary, worked in the printing industry for 25 years. At age 50 he trained in bartending and David said the lively profession took him to “wedding venues, college fraternity and sorority parties.”
“Just the most outgoing, social party-thrower,” he said. “If my parents had any reason to gather a group of people together, they would.”
David said his dad was a “huge” fan of the Eagles, and had always said he wanted to see the band perform live before he died. Caravassi got his wish – he went to the Eagles concert in Houston with his family, just weeks before succumbing to the coronavirus.
April Dunn, advocate for people with disabilities
April Dunn, chair of the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council, died of COVID-19 complications on March 28. She was 33.
Dunn was the driving force behind Louisiana state’s Act No.833, a bill that aims to provide alternative graduation paths for students with disabilities, after she herself was denied a diploma. Her mother, Joanette Dunn, said they would rename it the “April Dunn Bill” in her honor.
Born with fetal alcohol syndrome and cerebral palsy, Dunn was adopted at 5 months old by her teacher mother.
“She didn’t want her disability to limit her because she had in her mind that she could do whatever she set her mind to,” Joanette Dunn said. “She wasn’t afraid to speak up for herself or others. That’s how she became so well-known, she would go to any representative without hesitating.”
Through her career, Dunn worked with Governor John Bel Edwards to enact legislative change to help the disabled community. She also spent time traveling around the state performing community outreach.
Joanette described how her daughter traveled to grocery stores and would speak to the manager if there was no bench for senior citizens and people with disabilities, and would return and see if she could help them get one.
“More grocery stores now have benches in Baton Rouge because of April,” she said.
Governor Bel Edwards released a statement after Dunn’s death, saying he was “proud” to have her on his staff and that she “brightened everyone’s day with her smile.”
William Helmreich, sociology professor
William Helmreich, a professor of sociology at City College and the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, died from the coronavirus on March 28 at age 74. He wrote about the streets of New York City through his own particular experience: walking almost every street, nearly 125,000 blocks, from the best-known to the most remote, from the most affluent to the most distressed. He listened to stories from locals and uncovered a unique history of Gotham. Over four years, through all four seasons and in all kinds of weather, he walked 6,048 miles, wearing out nine pairs of shoes in the process.
The idea for Helmreich’s 2013 book “The New York Nobody Knows” (one of nearly 20 he wrote) came from a game he’d played as a boy, in which he and his father would hop the subway near their Manhattan apartment and ride it until the end of the line, then wander the city from there.
“If I could say anything about this city that sums it up, it’s that it’s the greatest outdoor museum in the world, ” he told “Sunday Morning” in 2016.
Freda Ocran, nurse
Freda Ocran was a former head nurse and nurse educator at Jacobi Medical Center in New York City. She died of the coronavirus on March 28 at the age of 50.
As the coronavirus spread, Ocran posted a picture of herself on Facebook with the words, “I can’t stay home … I’m a health care worker.” Four days later, she was admitted to the hospital.
Her husband of 30 years, Joseph, said they came to the United States from Ghana together. She worked while he got his nursing degree. Then, he helped her go to school to become a nurse. “She’s my everything,” he said, “My wife, my friend, my advisor.”
“My mom was a pretty awesome person,” Kwame, the oldest of their three children, said. “She gave herself undoubtedly to the church, to her work and to her kids. Anything you could say about a saint you could say about mom.”
William Wolf, former Drama Desk president
Former Drama Desk president and longtime film critic William Wolf died of complications related to the coronavirus on March 28. He was 94.
Born in New Jersey, Wolf graduated from Rutgers University before going on to work as a journalist in the U.S. and Europe.
Wolf worked as a film critic for Cue and New York Magazine, and went on to serve a four-year term as president of the Drama Desk, an organization of theater critics and writers founded in 1955. He also had a two-year stint on its nominating committee prior to his term, and another two-year stint as chair of the New York Film Critics Circle.
His interviews with show business icons such as Charlie Chaplin are memorialized in the William Wolf Film and Theater Interview Collection at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Wolf is survived by his wife, two daughters, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Araceli Buendia Ilagan, ICU nurse
Araceli Buendia Ilagan, an intensive care unit nurse in Miami who was on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, died March 27 from the illness, CBS Miami reports. She was 63.
Buendia Ilagan had worked at Jackson Memorial Hospital for nearly 33 years, the hospital said.
In a tribute posted on Facebook, her brother Roy Buendia wrote, “My dearest sister, we admired you for your dedication on your profession. We are very, very proud of you. You’re a true ‘Hero’ in this fight against Covid-19.”
Josh Wallwork, costumer
Josh Wallwork, a beloved costumer for shows like “Madam Secretary” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” passed away March 26 from complications of COVID-19. He was 45.
“Heartbroken we are,” “Law and Order: SVU” star Mariska Hargitay wrote on Twitter. “I don’t think I ever saw him without a smile on his face.”
Wallwork was also a photographer and had a side business making Renaissance costumes with the three sewing machines he kept in his apartment. He loved Renaissance fairs and made his own costume for a Christmas party he threw with his partner, Abdul Qadir.
Mark Blum, “Succession” and “Law & Order” actor
Veteran actor Mark Blum died March 25 at age 69 after suffering complications from the coronavirus. He was known for his roles in the television shows “Succession” and “Law & Order” as well as movies such as “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Crocodile Dundee.”
Madonna, Blum’s co-star in “Desperately Seeking Susan,” honored him in a heartfelt Instagram post after learning of his death.
“I Want to Acknowledge the Passing of a remarkable Human, fellow actor and friend Mark Blum, who succumbed to Coronavirus,” the pop star wrote. “This is really tragic and my heart goes out to him, his family and his loved ones. I remember him as funny warm, loving .and professional when we made Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985!!”
Floyd Cardoz, “Top Chef Masters” winner
Chef Floyd Cardoz, who competed on “Top Chef,” won “Top Chef Masters” and operated successful restaurants in both India and New York, died March 25 of complications from the coronavirus, his company said in a statement. He was 59.
Cardoz was a committed advocate for sustainability in the food industry. He said during a 2017 appearance on “CBS This Morning” that he planned on becoming a doctor before his love of food took him to Switzerland and New York City.
The celebrated Indian-American chef was mourned by the global culinary community. Fellow former “Top Chef Masters” competitor Suvir Saran tweeted that Cardoz was a “great chef” and a “rare human.”
Freddy Rodriguez, Sr., jazz saxophonist
Freddy Rodriguez, Sr., a well-known saxophonist in Denver’s jazz scene, died on March 25 from complications from COVID-19. He was 89.
Rodriguez was a regular at clubs like El Chapultepec, where he had a gig for 40 years and was playing up until last month.
His son Freddy, Jr., who was one of his bandmates, said his dad had underlying health issues, but that never stopped him from doing what he loved.
“He had bad kidneys and had a pacemaker put in,” Freddy, Jr. said. “He was really sick for the past few years. He was such a tough, macho guy and lover of music that we didn’t even realize how sick he was.”
Freddy, Jr., said his dad was “a great man, full of energy and loved life.”
Manu Dibango, saxophonist
The influential Cameroon-born musician Manu Dibango died March 24 at age 86 from the coronavirus. Dibango was famed for “Soul Makossa,” released in 1972, which some have described as the first disco record. His music fused African rhythms with jazz, soul, funk, rumba, disco and hip hop, and internationalized the music of Africa while inspiring many other major artists during a career that lasted more than six decades.
Dibango, whose nickname was “Pappy Groove,” was primarily known as a saxophonist, though he also played piano and vibraphone. He recorded more than 40 albums, and recorded and toured with such artists as Herbie Hancock, Peter Gabriel, Sinead O’Connor, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Upon news of Dibango’s passing, composer and music producer Quincy Jones tweeted, “His contributions to music as we know it today are unparalleled, & it absolutely breaks my heart to hear about this tremendous loss. Soul Makossa my brother!! Thank U for your music & your light.”
Kyra Johnson, Burger King employee and grandmother
Kyra Johnson, a beloved mother and grandmother, died on March 24 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after battling the coronavirus. She was 52.
Johnson, who was on dialysis for several years, worked at Burger King and took a second part-time job working for a catering company to provide for her grandchildren.
“She would do anything for her grandkids. Her grandkids were her heart,” her brother, Arshield Johnson, said.
Kyra, who did not drink, was always “the life of the party,” according to her family. She died a month after throwing a party for her 52nd birthday.
Arshield said his sister loved to drive her Toyota Corolla, which she inherited from their mother.
“She spent every dime on that vehicle. She had me do all the ordering of the parts from Amazon,” he said.
Kyra’s daughter, Kyraeil Johnson, said the two of them talked every morning, but she couldn’t say goodbye to her mother in her final days.
“She was alone. There wasn’t anybody with her. She left too soon,” Kyraeil said.
Jonathan Parnell, police captain
Detroit Police Captain Jonathan Parnell died from the coronavirus on March 24. He was 50. The 31-year veteran of the department worked for the homicide squad. “He lived this job and he loved every minute of it,” his friend Lieutenant Mark Young said.
The captain had three sons. When two of them, Jonathan Jr. and Jeremy, graduated Michigan State, Parnell returned to college himself to get his Bachelor’s degree, graduating Summa Cum Laude.
“He pushed us, and then we pushed him,” said Jonathan Jr., who also became a police officer at Wayne State University. That made his father especially proud. Police work “meant everything” to Parnell, his son said.
Marlowe Stoudamire, entrepreneur and community leader
Marlowe Stoudamire, a Detroit business consultant who championed young black professionals he called his “young lions,” died from the coronavirus on March 24 at the age of 43.
Stoudamire “was the type of man who could see you before you saw yourself,” his friend Eric S. Thomas said.
He also was “a cheerleader for Detroit,” said Orlando Bailey, who called Stoudamire a friend and mentor.
Stoudamire founded Roster Detroit, “a platform to amplify black talent in Detroit, to stop the narrative that there isn’t any black talent in Detroit,” Bailey said. “It was his ode to the resiliency of the city, but also to the black professional that felt invisible.”
Laneeka Barksdale, ballroom dancer and mom of four
Laneeka Barksdale, a ballroom dancer in Detroit, died from COVID-19 at the age of 47 on March 23.
Nikki, as she was known, worked as a bartender, drove for Lyft and cared for her four kids. But “ballroom was her life,” her brother, Omari, said. “When she was on the dance floor, she’d just float.”
Some even called her the “Queen of the Ballroom,” he said.
Barksdale’s cousin Mo Minard said everyone loved her.”I know for a fact that paradise gained an angel because she was an angel here on Earth,” Minard said. “I know she’s dancing up there.”
Carole Brookins, former World Bank head
Carole Brookins, former executive director of the World Bank, died of complications from the coronavirus on March 23. She was 76.
Brookins was a rarity in the male-dominated finance industry of the 1970s. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma, Brookins worked in the bond market in Chicago and rose to become vice president at E.F. Hutton in New York.
She later started her own consulting firm, World Perspectives, before being appointed to the World Bank by President George W. Bush in 2001.
Despite standing at just over five feet tall, her friend Lawrence Goodman said Brookins could “fill a room with her intellect and her spunk.”
Kimberly Reed, head of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, said she saw Brookins as a mentor and surrogate mother.
“I’m gonna miss… hearing that voice, helping me, guiding me,” Reed said. “She would always stand up for what was right.”
Dick Ottaway, reverend and professor
Reverend Richard “Dick” Ottaway, a retired Episcopal minister, died on March 23 from COVID-19 at 88 years old.
Ottaway was described as a Renaissance man. He was religious about reading his newspapers every morning and feeding the wild birds he loved to watch around his Massachusetts home.
“He was an intellectual,” his stepson-in-law J.T. Rogers said, “erudite, knew about food and wine and the Bible.”
Ottaway grew up in rural North Carolina and was the first in his family to go to college.
He became a chaplain at Wake Forest University and was a professor of business ethics in England, where he met his wife, Elaine.
Their home on Cape Cod was a gathering place, open for everyone, Ottaway’s stepdaughter Rebecca Ashley said.
The family did not get to say goodbye to Ottoway in the hospital. “For a minister, who ministered to so many people in their last hours, not to be with him (was) really hard,” Ashley said.
Jazmond Dixon, American Red Cross employee
Jazmond Dixon, known for her huge smile, died from the coronavirus at 31 years old on March 22.
Dixon worked at the American Red Cross in St. Louis and had just completed her master’s degree in business administration at Lindenwood University last year. She dreamed of owning her own baking business, her cousin, Belafae Johnson Jr., said.
“Jazmond was intelligent, hardworking, dedicated,” Johnson said. “She worked a full-time job and completed her education.”
Dixon also loved making caramel cake for her family, Johnson said. In February, when some family members couldn’t make her birthday party, she drove around delivering cake to them.
Michael Ganci, former teacher and cancer survivor
Michael Ganci, a husband, father and grandfather, died of COVID-19 complications in Hartford, Connecticut on March 21. He was 74.
Ganci had been a teacher for over 20 years, had a fourth-degree blackbelt in karate, and loved tinkering with his 1928 Model-A truck. He took pride in his Sicilian roots, and loved his family’s tradition of gathering for Sunday dinner.
“He was everything I wanted in a husband and a father,” said his wife, Marianna Ganci. The two had gotten married in their early 20s, less than a year after they had met, and were together for nearly 48 years before Ganci’s death in March.
Already a survivor, Ganci battled a neuromuscular disease called myasthenia gravis as well as bladder cancer.
“He had a way of making you accept … that a lot of struggles we have are because we want to maintain control over things that can’t be controlled,” his daughter Laura said.
Judy Wilson-Griffin, nurse
Judy Wilson-Griffin, a nurse in St. Louis, died from complications of the coronavirus on March 20. She was 63.
Wilson-Griffin always knew she wanted to be a nurse. “As a girl, I would bandage up my Barbie dolls and all the dolls of my friends and one day I knew that I would grow up to help people,” she said in a speech at a leadership conference in 2014.
She was a nurse with the Navy in the Gulf War and, at St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis, she handled high-risk pregnancies. She won a March of Dimes Nurse of the Year award last year.
“Judy was the person we’d be looking to now,” said Pam Lesser, her supervisor and friend. “A very giving, kind, caring soul.”
Oliver Stokes, Jr., bounce DJ
Oliver Stokes, Jr., who was better known in New Orleans as GO DJ Black n Mild, died from the coronavirus on March 19. He was 44.
Stokes was a DJ for more than 20 years, his wife, Cassandra, said. He was also a radio personality who brought New Orleans bounce music to his radio shows.
A father of four, Stokes also coached football at a charter school.
“He would literally give you the last dollar in his pocket,” Cassandra said. He died four days shy of their second wedding anniversary.
John Knox, fire marshal
New York City Fire Marshal John Knox died of COVID-19 on March 16 at the age of 84.
Knox, who founded the Fire Marshals Benevolent Association, investigated hundreds of fires in the 70s and 80s with the FDNY. After 9/11, he came out of retirement to help dig through the rubble at ground zero, work that would damage his lungs.
Knox also was a combat engineer with the Marines in Korea and had a brief stint in the New York City Police Department before joining the fire department in 1960.
He was “100% about integrity,” said Zach Knox, the third of his father’s four children. He “wouldn’t do anything for his own career at the risk of his men.”
Knox always wore a gold-embossed fire marshal’s ring given to him after 30 years of service. Even in the hospital, he didn’t want to take it off.
Sundee Rutter, mother of six and breast cancer survivor
Sundee Rutter, a mom of six and breast cancer survivor, died of complications from the coronavirus on March 16. She was 42.
Rutter, from Everett, Washington, “went above and beyond” for her kids, her oldest daughter Alexis said. After their dad died in 2012, Rutter went to college, while working a job, and still ferried her children to sporting events and took them on special trips.
Diagnosed with breast cancer last year, Rutter battled through chemotherapy, had a double mastectomy and was going to have reconstructive surgery this summer.
“She never let things hold her back,” Alexis said. “Even though she had been through some crazy stuff she also showed us how to be positive.”
Alexis called her mom “a light” and said she was “someone you don’t come in contact with much. A super empathetic and unique person.”
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