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The people we’ve lost to coronavirus

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Anthony Mason profiles longtime White House butler Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, owner of Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall Michael Halkias, percussionist Lysa Dawn Robinson, high school student Yasmin Peña and Pastor Kendall Rene Pierre, Sr.

CBS News will continue sharing stories of the lives lost to coronavirus. If you want to tell us about someone you lost to the virus, email us at [email protected] A reporter or producer may contact you.

Oscar Chávez, Mexican protest singer

Mexican singer-songwriter Oscar Chavez performs during the first day of the “Vive Latino” music festival in Mexico City on March 16, 2019.



Oscar Chávez, one of Mexico’s best-known protest singers, died on April 30 from coronavirus complications at age 85.

The State Workers’ Social Security Institute said Chávez had “evident respiratory difficulty” and had a chronic lung condition. It said he tested positive for the coronavirus and succumbed to COVID-19 related pneumonia.

Chávez was best known for folk-style songs lampooning Mexico’s corrupt political elite, including “La Casita,” which described an imaginary politician’s mansion.

Culture Secretary Alejandra Frausto wrote on Twitter, “A fighting voice never fades, thanks Oscar Chavez, your life was a journey worthy of you.”

Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez wrote, “I have learned to my deep regret that a voice of the struggle has been silenced. My deepest sympathy to the family of Oscar Chávez.” — Associated Press

Johng Kuk Pyun, South Korean immigrant and business owner

Johng Kuk Pyun with his wife and grandchild.

SuJean Sackin

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.”

Henri Kichka, writer and Holocaust survivor

Auschwitz Prepares for Ceremonies Commemorating 60 Years Since Liberation
Henri Kichka, a Belgian Jew who was imprisoned at Auschwitz when he was 14, speaks to an American tour group from Terre Haute, Indiana, at the former concentration camp on January 25, 2005 in Oswiecim, Poland.

Getty Images

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 and Markus Wissinger on their wedding day

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.

Anthony Mason profiles minor league pitcher Steve Dalkowski, Dr. Delutha King and Lois King, physician assistant Madhvi Aya, Boston police officer Jose Fontanez, sanitation worker Raymond Copeland, and registered nurse and cancer survivor Samantha Wissinger.

Joyce Pacubas-Le Blanc, nurse

Joyce Pacubas-Le Blanc with her family

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.

Fred the Godson, rapper

"NBA 2K13" Premiere Launch Party
Fred the Godson attends the “NBA 2K13” Premiere Launch Party at 40 / 40 Club on September 26, 2012 in New York City.

Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

Frederick Thomas, a Bronx rapper known as Fred the Godson, died from COVID-19 on April 23.

Thomas, who released multiple mixtapes and albums in his career and was known to freestyle on hip-hop radio, has been praised for his wordplay. He was “loved by many,” his friend DJ Self wrote on Instagram. “Never heard one bad thing about you RIP @fredthegodsonmusic Sleep Well my brother.”

Thomas posted on his Instagram on April 6 asking for prayers as he battled the virus. “I’m in here wit this Corvus 19,” he wrote. “Please keep me in y’all prayers!!!!”

His wife, LeeAnn Jemmott, shared a video on Instagram after his death of the two of them singing and dancing, writing, “I’m so happy we got to share so many wonderful memories like this.. you were/ are my bestfriend Fred…you made me laugh sooooooo much Fred like I know you’ve done for so many others as well.”

Robert Stevens, bookseller

New York resident Robert Stevens, a beloved local bookseller known by locals as “Steve the Bookman,” died of coronavirus on April 21, according to an obituary posted to a storefront near his old stand.

Stevens, who was born in North Carolina, was known to his neighborhood community for a bookstand he ran near the corner of 96th street and Broadway on New York’s Upper West Side.

The obituary posted at the nearby storefront called Stevens “a steadfast presence” who was “kind and decent in a world lacking kindness and decency.”

The notice also lauded the bookseller as a “riotously funny and gifted story teller,” as well as “loyal, loving” and “big-hearted.”

“Think of all the times over the years when, after leaving Steve’s table, you realize while walking home, just how very, very happy you felt while in his company,” it said.

Don Reed, Elizabeth Warren’s brother and Air Force veteran

Don Reed, left, was Senator Elizabeth Warren’s oldest brother.

Elizabeth Warren/Twitter

Don Reed, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s oldest brother, died from the coronavirus on April 21. He was 86.

Reed joined the Air Force when he was 19 years old, Warren said in a statement. His military career included combat in Vietnam.

“He was charming and funny, a natural leader,” Warren said. “What made him extra special was his smile. He had a quick, crooked smile that seemed to generate its own light — and to light up everyone around him.”

Warren said it was “hard to know” that no family could be with Reed when he died, but said she is grateful for the health care workers who took care of him.

“I will miss my brother,” she said.

Gene Shay, former radio DJ

Obit Gene Shay
In this undated photo provided by WXPN, Gene Shay speaks during his radio show on WXPN-FM in Philadelphia. Shay, a folk DJ who spent a half-century on the Philadelphia airwaves and helped promote the careers of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and countless others, has died of complications of the coronavirus. Shay, 85, who had been hospitalized in recent weeks, died Friday, April 17, 2020, according to WXPN-FM station manager Roger LaMay.

John Vettese/WXPN via AP/AP

Gene Shay, a legendary radio DJ in Philadelphia, died from the coronavirus on April 17. He was 85.

The dean of Philly’s folk scene was on the air for more than 50 years.

Shay and his wife, Gloria, brought Bob Dylan to Philly for the first time. Joni Mitchell debuted her song “Both Sides Now” on Shay’s show. He also co-founded and hosted the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

For Shay’s final show in 2015, more than 100 musicians serenaded him.

His daughter, Rachel, said her father was “super passionate” about his radio show — despite having a fulltime job as an advertising executive.

“He was always working on the next show, the next something,” she recounted. “He was an advertising executive as his main career, but he spent all of the remaining time that he had that he wasn’t working on advertising on his folk music.”

Steve Dalkowski, baseball legend

Minors Dalkowski
Minor league pitcher Steve Dalkowski is pictured, March 31, 1963.


Steve Dalkowski, a minor league baseball pitcher who served as the inspiration behind Tim Robbins’ character in “Bull Durham,” died of coronavirus-related complications on April 19. Dalkowski was 80.

A minor leaguer his entire career, Dalkowski set strikeout records everywhere he played in the 1960s. However, as remarkably fast as his pitches were, Dalkowski himself said they were also “outta control.” He walked as many batters as he struck out.

Former MLB pitcher Nolan Ryan said Dalkowski “threw a ball faster than anyone who ever lived,” when interviewed for the documentary “Fastball.”

Ryan, who never met Dalkowski in person, said “he was a legend.”

“He had the equivalent of Michelangelo’s gift, but could never finish a painting,” Ron Shelton, director of “Bull Durham” said.

Bennie Adkins, Vietnam War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient

President Obama awards the Medal of Honor to Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins for actions during the Vietnam War while in the East Room of the White House in Washington, September 15, 2014.


Sergeant Major Bennie Adkins, a Medal of Honor recipient, died on April 17 in Alabama after battling coronavirus. He was 86.

His more than 20 years in the U.S. Army included 13 as a Green Beret and three tours of duty in Vietnam. In 2014, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by former President Barack Obama for his heroism in a 1966 battle, where he carried wounded soldiers to safety while fighting off attacking forces.

In this undated photo provided by the US Army, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins is pictured. President Obama awarded Adkins the Medal of Honor in 2014.


His Medal of Honor citation commended his “extraordinary heroism and selflessness” while sustaining 18 different wounds to his body.

Adkins leaves behind three children, as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Anthony Mason profiles legendary Philly folk DJ Gene Shay, Disney ink and paint artist Ann Sullivan, English teacher and novelist Kimarlee Nguyen, real estate broker Robby Browne, Chicago ICU nurse Joyce Pacubas-Le Blanc and gym teacher Simon Press.

Norman Hunter, British soccer star

Norman Hunter of Leeds United and Court of Arsenal
Aug 1969: Norman Hunter (right) of Leeds United tackles Court of Arsenal during a Football League Division One match at Highbury Stadium in London.

Allsport / Allsport UK / Getty Images

Celebrated British center-back Norman Hunter died on April 17 after contracting coronavirus. He was 76.

During his prolific soccer career, Hunter helped Leeds United win six trophies over a 14-year period before moving on to join Bristol City and Barnsley F.C. He was also a part of England’s World Cup-winning team in 1966 and earned the Professional Footballers’ Association’s first Player of the Year honor in 1974.

Widely seen as one of the best defenders of his generation, Hunter earned the nickname “Bites Yer Legs” for his fiery playing style.

After retiring, Hunter managed Rotherham United Football Club in the mid-1980s.

Leeds United released a statement saying the club was “devastated” to learn of Hunter’s death, and chose to a stand in the legend’s honor.

“As a family we are touched by the club’s decision to name the South Stand after Norman and we would like to take this opportunity to thank the supporters of the club and the game in general for the amazing messages of sympathy we have received in recent days,” his wife, Sue, told the BBC.

Simon Press, gym teacher

Simon Press

Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County

Simon Press, a New Jersey gym teacher, died from the coronavirus on April 16. He was 27 years old.

Press, who was known for his gentle spirit and boundless enthusiasm, worked at the College Achieve Greater Asbury Park Charter School in New Jersey, and had worked at the local Boys and Girls Club since he was 18 years old.

“He could make every person, little or big, feel like they were important,” said his boss, principal Jodi McInerney. “His whole goal was to give the students a better life than their parents were given.”

Raised in Asbury Park himself, Press played semi-pro football and planned to try out for the NFL this season.

When the pandemic closed school, he taught gym class via Zoom, before becoming ill.

“He was always trying to turn a negative into a positive,” said Press’ mom, Sabrina Slaughter. “I’m very, very proud of my son.”

Allen Daviau, cinematographer

Allen Daviau was given the American Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

American Society of Cinematographers

Allen Daviau, a cinematographer who made his breakthrough with the 1982 blockbuster movie “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” died from COVID-19 on April 15. He was 77.

Daviau was known as a master of light. Seeing color TV at age 12 started his “fascination with the technology of light and photography,” he said.

Early on, he met a young Steven Spielberg, who hired him as cinematographer for “E.T.,” “The Color Purple” and “Empire of the Sun.”

Daviau and Spielberg seemed to share “a sense of wonder” at the way things looked, Daviau’s friend of almost 60 years Colman Andrews said. “They both reacted pretty strongly to children, I think, and to the sense of wonder that young people would have as they discovered stuff.”

Daviau was given the American Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 and earned five Oscar nominations.

“You have to be able to take chances for chance to find you,” Daviau said in an ASC speech.

In a statement, Spielberg said Daviau’s “warmth and humanity were as powerful as his lens.”

“He was a singular talent and a beautiful human being,” Spielberg said.

Joseph Feingold, architect and Holocaust survivor

Joseph Feingold, a Holocaust survivor, was the subject of the documentary “Joe’s Violin.”

Joseph Feingold, an architect and Holocaust survivor who gained late recognition in the 2016 documentary “Joe’s Violin,” died from COVID-19 on April 15. He was 97.

Born in Warsaw, Feingold was sent to Siberia at 17 and spent six years in labor camps. His mother and brother were killed by the Nazis.

Feingold came to the United States in 1948, with a violin he got in a trade for a carton of cigarettes after the war.

The documentary about his decision to donate the instrument in 2014 to a school and the 12-year-old girl who played it was nominated for an Oscar.

The attention mystified Feingold. “What did I do?” he asks in the documentary.

“You never gave up,” Brianna, the girl who got his violin, replied.

Keenan Duffy, father of two

Keenan and Kaden Duffy

Kerstin Duffy

Keenan Duffy, a father of two from Lafayette, Louisiana, died from coronavirus complications on April 14. He was 39.

Duffy had driven his mother to the hospital where she tested positive for the coronavirus, before winding up in the same hospital a week and a half later.

His wife, Kerstin — with whom he raised stepdaughter Simone and 11-year-old son Kaden — said Duffy fought a high fever when he got sick.

Kaden remembered his dad as “very supportive” of him in his school activities and football.

“He’d be there every game,” Kaden told CBS News’ David Begnaud. “He was always on the sidelines saying go get ’em.”

Jose Fontanez, police officer

Jose Fontanez was a 29 year veteran of Boston PD.

Jose Fontanez, the first Boston police officer to die of COVID-19, passed away on April 14. He was 53.

Fontanez was a 29-year veteran of the police force, having joined in 1991. He spent 24 years working at the same Jamaica Plain station.

His friend, detective David Martinez, said Fontanez was the “greatest soul.”

“He treated people with kindness, respect, love and that carried through to his family,” he said.

“He cared about his family, all of us,” his son, Keaton Fontanez said. “He would call. He helped me move in… he’s just a really well-liked man.”

Keaton said his father loved action movies, 70s and 80s music, and was a big fan of Boston’s sports teams.

Upon Fontanez’s death, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in a press conference, “We lost a hero today to this virus. We honor him and remember him as a hero because as a police officer, he served our community and he stood in harm’s way to protect us.”

Fontanez’s casket was escorted to the cemetery by a police procession. His son called it “an amazing display of the man he was and what he did for his city.”

Selma Esther Ryan, grandmother

Selma Esther Ryan with her great-grandchildren

Texas native Selma Esther Ryan died of coronavirus complications on April 14, more than a century after her older sister died in the Spanish Flu pandemic at age 5. Ryan had just turned 96 on April 11.

“They never met each other,” her daughter Vicki Spencer said, “But they’re together now.”

Ryan grew up on a Texas farm. After marrying an Air Force pilot, Ryan traveled all over the world for her husband’s military career, including Hong Kong and Ethiopia.

Her daughter described her as having a “beautiful voice,” and noted the care Ryan took in making sure her children were alright no matter where they traveled, even when their father was away.

“He was gone for three or six months at a time, but she held it together. We missed our dad but we always knew we had a safe and secure home,” Spencer said, adding that Ryan was also “an excellent cook.”

Spencer called her parents’ marriage “the love affair of the century.”

“We’re gonna miss her a lot but we’re glad we had her 96 years,” Spencer said.

Billy Birmingham, EMT and Pastor

Billy Birmingham

Nathan Hopper

Billy Birmingham, a lifelong resident of Kansas City, Missouri, died of COVID-19 complications on April 13 at age 69.

Birmingham was born into a large family and had six children of his own, according to his oldest daughter Octavia Standley.

As an emergency medical technician with the Kansas City fire department, Birmingham sought to help others. His former ambulance partner, Nathan Hopper, said he was always able to “calm” patients, even “talking them off the ledge sometimes.”

“He was passionate about his job, took so much pleasure,” Hopper said. “It was a great partnership.”

Standley recalled waking up and hearing her father, an ordained minister, pray in the mornings. She said it was how she and her siblings learned “morality and ethics.”

“He was a pastor, so am I. He has always had his own church since when I was young, that spoke to his heart,” she said.

Standley said her father was “a big personality, very comedic” and said he would often surprise his children at odd hours with a fishing trip or some other way to spend time together.

“He gives from his own pocket to help people,” she said. “He had a really good heart.”

Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, mom of NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns with his mom, Jacqueline.


Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, the mother of Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns, fought a month-long battle with coronavirus. She died on April 13 at 58 years old.

“It’s been very difficult for me and my family to say the least. She’s the head of the household. She’s the boss,” Towns said.

Cruz-Towns, who was with her son when he was the number-one pick in the 2015 NBA draft, did not miss a single game in his first season.

“Her passion was palpable,” the Towns family said in a statement. “And her energy will never be replaced.”

Anthony Mason profiles engineer Richard Passman, acclaimed Chef Jesus Roman Melendez, EMT and Pastor Billy Birmingham and more people who have died from the coronavirus.

Ann Sullivan, Disney ink and paint artist

Ann Sullivan on her birthday in 2018

Ann Sullivan, an ink and paint artist on many classic Disney films, died from COVID-19 complications on April 13, just days after her 91st birthday.

Born in Fargo, North Dakota, Sullivan moved to Los Angeles in 1949, where she landed a job at Walt Disney in their animation paint lab.

Sullivan left her job to raise her four children. But after a divorce, she rejoined Disney to work on films including “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King” and “Mulan.”

Her daughter Shannon Jay recalled waiting with her mom to see her name in the closing credits.

“That’s such an honor,” she said. “For her to come from a small town and make it … is just remarkable.”

Yasmin Peña, high school student

Yasmin “Yazy” Peña

Madeline Peña

Yasmin Peña, a senior at Waterbury Arts Magnet School in Connecticut, died of COVID-19 complications on April 12, Easter Sunday. At just 18 years old, she was one of the coronavirus pandemic’s youngest victims in Connecticut.

Yasmin — nicknamed “Yazy” — loved to draw, dance and sing. She performed “Once Upon a December” from “Anastasia,” one of her mother’s favorites, at her senior year showcase.

After graduating, Yasmin hoped to study fashion in college.

“She had dreamed to go to a four-year college in New York because it was, you know, a big fashion school,” her sister, Madeline Peña said. “She was just so talented — drawing, sculpting, acting, singing. She had everything going for her, so much potential.”

Yasmin felt weak in March and said she had trouble breathing. She was diagnosed with lupus first, and then coronavirus.

“Anyone who remembers my sister has no bad memories of her,” Madeline recalled. “‘Cause she was just a ray of sunshine in their life. I mean, in my life, too.”

Carole Ann Hewitt Hamilton, school counselor

Carole Ann Hewitt Hamilton

Kimberly Ford

Carole Ann Hewitt Hamilton, a New York City school counselor, died from the coronavirus on April 12, Easter Sunday. She was 73.

Carole and her husband Irving had traveled to Las Vegas for a family birthday in early March, Carole’s cousin Kimberly Ford said. After returning home to Baldwin, New York, Irving began feeling sick and went to the emergency room.

“That was the last time she saw her husband of 48 years,” Ford said in an email.

A week later, Carole wasn’t feeling well and eventually was admitted to the same hospital as her husband. She was placed on a ventilator while Irving was released, and died a week later.

Carole devoted herself to the students of New York City for over 33 years as a school counselor, according to an obituary provided to CBS News. She was also “a surrogate mother, cheerleader, confidante, and mentor to thousands of students,” the obituary said.

Carole loved to travel with her family and was described as the “glue” that held their family together, Ford said.

Tim Brooke-Taylor, comedian

FILE PHOTO: Actor Tim Brooke-Taylor arrives for Service of Thanksgiving for Life and Work of comedian Ronnie Barker at Westminster Abbey
Actor Tim Brooke-Taylor is pictured at Westminster Abbey in London, March 3, 2006.

Stephen Hird/REUTERS

British comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor, best known as a member of the 1970s comedy trio The Goodies, died April 12 of COVID-19. He was 79.

A part of Cambridge University’s Footlights revue in the early 1960s, Brooke-Taylor didn’t put his law degree to use, as he worked with several future members of Monty Python in such 1960s TV comedy series as “The Frost Report,” “At Last the 1948 Show,” “Do Not Adjust Your Set,” and the radio series “I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again.” He also appeared in “Marty” (with Marty Feldman).

Beginning in 1970 Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie teamed up on the BBC as the comedy trio The Goodies, whose surreal, slapstick- and music-filled series ran for nine seasons. They even had top 10 hits with their songs “The Inbetweenies” and “Funky Gibbon.”

On radio Brooke-Taylor starred opposite John Cleese and Oddie on “I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again,” and for more than 40 years, he was also a panelist on BBC Radio’s beloved takeoff on quiz shows, “I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue.”

In 2018 Brooke-Taylor told the Radio Times that he was very proud of the staying power of “The Goodies,” “though this is tempered, slightly, by what appear to be quite old people coming up to me and saying, ‘My parents used to allow me to stay up to watch you’!”

Garden said Brooke-Taylor was “a funny, sociable, generous man who was a delight to work with. Audiences found him not only hilarious but also adorable.”

Anthony Causi, sports photographer

Obit Sports Photographer
New York Post photographer Anthony J. Causi is shown before a New York Mets baseball game in New York, Aug. 2, 2016.

Christopher Pasatieri/AP

Photographer Anthony Causi, who covered sports for the New York Post for 25 years, died April 12 from the coronavirus. He was 48. Born in Brooklyn, Causi graduated from Pace University and joined The Post as a photo messenger before advancing to photo editor and then full-time journalist photographer.

Causi was a smiling and friendly fixture at venues all across the New York area, from Yankee Stadium to Madison Square Garden. His action shots often popped impressively on the Post’s sports pages, and he was admired not only by colleagues but also by the famous players he chronicled.

His uncle, Joe Causi, an on-air personality for WCBS-FM Radio, said his nephew often took photos at Little League events pro bono.

On March 22 Causi posted a photo of himself on Instagram breathing through a respirator: “I never thought I would get something like this. I thought I was indestructible. If I do make it out of here, I promise you this: the world’s not going to know what hit it.”

Major League Baseball called Causi a “sports photojournalist extraordinaire” and said he “brought out the best in the players and the people of our National Pastime.”

Robby Browne, real estate broker

Robby Browne

Corcoran Group

Robby Browne, a real estate broker to the stars in New York, died from COVID-19 on April 11. He was 72.

Browne’s clients included Rosie O’Donnell, Uma Thurman and Alec Baldwin, but friends knew him as a pied piper who brought people together. A leader in the LGBTQ community, he raised millions for charity after his brother’s death from AIDS.

In 1994, he competed as a diver in the Gay Games and won his division. His friend, Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, famously rewarded him with a kiss — one of the first gay kisses to air on mainstream news.

In a documentary about him made by his friend Jeff Dupre, Browne said, “I’ve always been appreciative of the road I’ve found because I know it’s so hard to find one’s way in life. … I want people to live and be proud of who they are, because there’s not much time.”

Dan Spano, personal trainer

Dan Spano with his niece.

Spano family

Dan Spano, a personal trainer in Connecticut, died of COVID-19 on April 11. He was 30.

Spano owned a GYMGUYZ franchise with his college roommate Jimmy Bonavita and friend Sam Langer.

“He was such a great spirit,” said Spano’s first client, Mark Brooks. “He was just so committed. I mean, we loved him.”

Multiple clients considered Spano a part of their families. One of them, named Rodrigo Placido, said they would “see each other three or four times a week” and Spano “adored” his kids.

Melissa, Spano’s sister, said one of her favorite memories was him singing his favorite song, “Tiny Dancer,” “at the top of his lungs.”

Spano was “infatuated” with his 3-month-old niece, Adrianna, Melissa said. “It breaks my heart that she’s not going to have the opportunity to know Uncle Dan,” she said.

Spano had no underlying conditions, according to his sister. “He was perfectly healthy,” she said. “He could be anyone.”

Delutha King and Lois Weaver King, husband and wife

Dr. Delutha and Lois King

Dr. Delutha King, known as “Dee,” and his wife, Lois Weaver King, died of coronavirus on April 3 and April 10, respectively. They were both 96.

The couple met in Chicago in the early 1960s. Weaver King was a dental hygienist, while King was a resident at Howard University School of Medicine and was only visiting the city at the time.

“They were very much in love,” their son, Ron Loving said. “My father especially was very concerned about helping others. My mother was very supportive in his efforts to help with his practice, with social events, being involved in community activities and that sort of thing.”

Loving said his parents “blended well together,” and described his mother as “very opinionated” while his father was more reserved.

An accomplished doctor, King was the first black doctor at the VA hospital in Alabama and went on to co-found the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia and the Health First Foundation.

A friend of theirs, Sally Warner, said “they were the greatest people.”

Warner called King “the kindest, most soft-spoken,” while Weaver King was “more like a sister” than a friend.

She said the couple was inseparable, and she worried for Weaver King when she heard her husband had passed.

“I prayed and I prayed, Lord when you take one please take the other,” she said. “I could not stand the thought of one going without the other.”

Charles Gregory Ross, celebrity hairstylist

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

Lives to Remember: Health care worker and mom Prea Nankieshore

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 was the director of the general surgery division at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

Pascale Verrier

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.

Anthony Mason remembers cinematographer Allen Daviau, character actor Allen Garfield, United Nations official Lila Fenwick and others who have died from the coronavirus.

Mario Araujo, firefighter

Mario Araujo was the first member of the Chicago Fire Department to die from the coronavirus.

Marty Connolly

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.

Satash Deonarine, father of three

Satash Deonarine and his parents

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

Allen Garfield started out as a reporter and a Golden Gloves boxer.


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

John Prine
John Prine performs onstage during the 2018 Americana Music Honors and Awards at Ryman Auditorium on September 12, 2018, in Nashville, Tennessee.


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.

Hal Willner, “Saturday Night Live” music producer

The David Lynch Foundation's DLF Live Celebration Of The 60th Anniversary Of Allen Ginsberg's "HOWL" With Music, Words, And Funny People
Hal Willner attends The David Lynch Foundation’s DLF Live Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s “HOWL” with Music, Words, and Funny People at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on April 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Hal Willner, a music producer and longtime music supervisor for “Saturday Night Live” died at age 64, the Associated Press reported.

Blake Zidell, a representative for Willner, said the producer died April 7. Zidell said Willner had symptoms consistent with those caused by the coronavirus, but he had not been diagnosed with the virus before his death.

Willner selected music for “Saturday Night Live” skits since the early 1980s. He also helped launch the career of musician Jeff Buckley, when he produced a live tribute concert for his father, Tim Buckley, in New York in 1991.”Tonight Show” host and “SNL” alum Jimmy Fallon paid an emotional tribute to Willner at the beginning of his April 7 show, calling him a “music producer genius, creative genius.”

Carolyn Martins-Reitz and Thomas Martins, mother and son

Carolyn Martins-Reitz was devoted to her son Thomas Martins, her husband said.

Rudy Reitz

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.

Mahmoud Jibril, former prime minister of Libya

Silvio Berlusconi Meets With Libyan NTC Deputy Mahmoud Jibril
MILAN, ITALY – AUGUST 25: Then-deputy chairman of the National Transitional Council Executive Board Mahmoud Jibril attends a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (not pictured) at the Prefecture Palace on August 25, 2011 in Milan, Italy.

Jacopo Raule / Getty Images

Mahmoud Jibril, the former head of the Libyan government that overthrew Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, died of complications related to COVID-19 on April 5. He was 68.

Jibril served as interim prime minister of Libya for seven and a half months, heading the National Transitional Council during one of the most tumultuous uprisings of the Arab Spring. Previously, he was an economic adviser to the Qaddafi government in the years leading up to the revolution.

Jibril held his seat until Libya held its first free elections in four decades, though his party failed to clinch a majority in parliament. An independent candidate, Abdurrahim El-Keib, was later formally voted in.

The former prime minister had been living abroad in the years following his term, as Libya continued to face violence and unrest. He was admitted to a hospital in Cairo, Egypt, where he tested positive for COVID-19 and later died, according to Al Jazeera.

Raymond Copeland, NYC sanitation worker

Raymond Copeland joined the NYC Department of Sanitation in 2015

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.”

Anthony Mason shares the stories of jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, veteran nurse Judy Wilson-Griffin, and others who were lost to COVID-19.

Kimarlee Nguyen, writer and teacher

Kimarlee Nguyen “could brighten up any room she walks in,” her cousin said.

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.”

Julie Butler, veterinarian

Dr. Julie Butler ran Harlem’s 145th Street Animal Hospital for three decades.

Zora Howard

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

Obit-Tom Dempsey
He was born without toes on his right foot; yet, in 1970 Tom Dempsey (January 12, 1947-April 4, 2020), then with the New Orleans Saints, launched a 63-yard field goal that stood as an NFL record for 43 years.


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 was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Law School.

Harvard Law School

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

Composer Carter Burwell and biographer Patricia Bosworth arrive for the movie premiere of “Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus” at Chelsea West Theater Nov. 5, 2006, in New York. The movie script by Erin Cressida Wilson was adapted from Bosworth’s book “Diane Arbus: A Biography.”

GETTY IMAGES/Scott Wintrow

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

Jesdanun family

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


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

Lives to Remember: Dr. Jack Zoller

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

Getty Images

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 and his mother in Bangladesh.

Jafor family

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.”

Anthony Mason shares the stories of celebrated author Patricia Bosworth, Former New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey, art historian David Driskell and others.

Leilani Jordan, grocery store clerk

Lives to Remember: Grocery store clerk Leilani Jordan

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

Wynton Marsalis and his father, Ellis Marsalis play at Wynton Marsalis Awarded Legion of Honor held at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

Brian Zak/Sipa Press

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

Richard Passman was an aeronautical engineer.

Bill Passman

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

Obit - John "Bucky" Pizzarelli
Jazz guitarist John “Bucky” Pizzarelli.

Rich Schultz/AP

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:

From 1992: Father and son: Guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli and John Pizzarelli

Adam Schlesinger, Fountains of Wayne co-founder

Virgin Festival By Virgin Mobile 2007 - Show - Day 1
Bassist Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne performs onstage at the Virgin Festival By Virgin Mobile 2007 at Pimlico Race Course on August 4, 2007, in Baltimore, Maryland.


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

Marylou Armer

Santa Rosa PD

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

A photo from Dr. Garbin’s Facebook page. His last post was about being positive and kind during the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook/Dr. Frank Garbin

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

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

Andrew Jack

Twitter/Gabrielle Rogers

“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.”

Anthony Mason remembers “Star Wars” actor Andrew Jack, chef Floyd Cardoz, ICU nurse Araceli Buendia Ilagan and more coronavirus victims.

Wallace Roney, jazz trumpeter

Jazz trumpeter Wallace Roney.

William Claxton/Warner Bros. Records

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

Lives to Remember: Baseball coach Ben Luderer

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

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

2019 Stagecoach Festival - Day 1
Joe Diffie performs onstage during the 2019 Stagecoach Festival at Empire Polo Field on April 26, 2019, in Indio, California.


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


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

Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity

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

David Caravassi

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

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

Bill Helmreich has traversed 6,048 miles in all five boroughs on foot, as documented in his book, “The New York Nobody Knows.”

CBS News

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

Lives to Remember: Nurse Freda Ocran

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

William Wolf, left, president of the Drama Desk, displays his organization’s award after actors Mary-Louise Parker, center, and Tony Roberts, right, read the nominations for the 49th Annual Drama Desk Awards for New York theater productions in New York Thursday April 29, 2004.


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

CBS Miami

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

Lives to Remember: Costumer Josh Wallwork

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

Actor Mark Blum attends the Roundabout Theater 2005 Spring Gala at Chelsea Piers in New York City.


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

Floyd Cardoz
This Aug. 4, 2014 file photo shows chef Floyd Cardoz at “The Hundred-Foot Journey” premiere in New York.

Charles Sykes

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.

Ernie Leyba Photography

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

FILE PHOTO: Camoroonese musician Manu Dibango plays his saxaphone during French designer Sorbier's Spring/Summer..
The influential Cameroon-born musician Manu Dibango (December 12, 1933-March 24, 2020) was famed for “Soul Makossa” (1972), what some have described as the first disco record.


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


Johnson family

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.

Terrence McNally, playwright

Terrence McNally and Tom Kirdahy
Terrence McNally at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 9, 2019, in New York City.


Playwright Terrence McNally died of complications from the coronavirus on March 24. McNally, a lung cancer survivor who lived with chronic inflammatory lung disease, was 81.

McNally won four Tony Awards during a career crafting plays and musicals that explored love, creativity and homophobia. The writer tackled the themes of family, war and relationships with empathy and wit.

His early successes included the “The Ritz,” a farce set in a gay bathhouse, the romance “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” and “Lips Together, Teeth Apart,” a landmark play about AIDS that focuses on two married couples who spend a weekend on Fire Island. He won his first Tony for the 1992 musical “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” which he followed with his Tony-winning play “Love! Valour! Compassion!”

McNally’s love of opera informed such works as the Tony-winning “Master Class,” which explored the life of opera diva Maria Callas. He also contributed librettos to operas, and wrote the books for several stage musical adaptations of movies, including “The Full Monty,” “Catch Me if You Can,” “Anastasia” and “Ragtime.”

Last year, as he accepted a lifetime achievement Tony Award, McNally said, “The world needs artists more than ever to remind us what truth and beauty and kindness really are.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton,” said he was “heartbroken” over the loss of McNally, whom he called “a giant in our world, who straddled plays and musicals deftly. Grateful for his staggering body of work and his unfailing kindness.”

Jonathan Parnell, police captain

Lives to Remember: Detroit police captain Jonathan Parnell

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 was a community leader and entrepreneur.

Orlando Bailey

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

Some people in Detroit called Laneeka Barksdale the “Queen of the Ballroom.”

Barksdale family

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.”

Dick Ottaway, reverend and professor

Lives to Remember: Reverend Dick Ottaway

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 received her MBA from Lindenwood University last year.

Belafae Johnson Jr.

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 took pride in his Sicilian roots, his family said.

Ganci family

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

Wilson-Griffin family

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.

Stokes family

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

Lives to Remember: Fire Marshal John Knox

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 always put her six children first, her oldest daughter said.

Alexis Rutter

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.”

Anthony Mason shares the stories of Holocaust survivor Joseph Feingold, veterinarian Dr. Julie Butler, immigrant and small business owner Johng Kuk Pyun, trauma surgeon Dr. Ronald Verrier, nurse Krist Angielen Castro Guzman, and police officer Charles “Rob” Roberts.

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