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Crown Point dad sent home by ER dies from COVID-19, agonizing over newborn's illness, family says

March 7, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 41.4%. 34 min read.

“From the time Ray died until two weeks after that, we were just completely alone in our house, which was horrible. I was in a really bad place. It was

CROWN POINT — Sent home from the emergency room near the height of the COVID-19 pandemic this fall, Raymond Jacinto went home to quarantine in his family’s basement while awaiting the results of his COVID-19 test, his fiancee said recently. “The hospital told him not to come back unless, you know, he couldn’t finish a sentence,” said Ray’s fiancee, Stephanie Knight, 36, of Crown Point.

The novel virus killed the love of Stephanie’s life at the age of 45, ripping away any chances he had of witnessing his newest son celebrate his first birthday. Stephanie, Grayson and Ray’s teen son, Tristan, also tested positive for the disease around the same time. Ray’s case was the only fatal one in the household. The day before Raymond died, Stephanie said she rushed their 5-week-old son to the emergency room for vomiting and other coronavirus symptoms.

Keeping his memory alive Today, Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom, caring for the couple’s 14-week-old son. She tries to hold onto the happy memories she shared with Ray — ones that existed long before COVID-19. Stephanie said she met Ray in May 2016 at a birthday party.

Stephanie said she randomly took a pregnancy test, saw she was positive, and privately pulled Ray away from the bustling watch party and into their bedroom to share the news. “He was just really excited, really happy,” she said. The two celebrated with a hug before rejoining their family and friends in the front room for the big game — happy as ever but not quite ready to upstage the lively Super Bowl party with their announcement. Ray was a longtime Chicago Transit Authority iron worker with the Local No. 1 union, and one of the most selfless, hardworking friends someone could ask for, said Stephanie’s brother, Tim Oberman, 31, a fellow iron worker. Ray was a handyman and always willing to go out of his way to help others.

He loved challenging the kids to pushup and pullup challenges. Ray’s athleticism and love for sports made his death even more upsetting for family and friends because his autopsy confirmed Ray had no history of major illness. COVID-19 took him anyway, said Ray's brother, Joseph Jacinto, 50, of Whiting. "He would ride his bike 36 miles one way, and I'd ask him, 'How are you going to get back?

Stephanie said she is now focused on honoring Raymond's memory, caring for their son, Grayson, and being a stay-at-home mom. “I never really believed before, like I never understood where people go after they died, but when you have a sudden death like this, you really try to understand, you want to know where they are," Stephanie said.

The husband to his wife of 70 years, father of three and grandfather of six died on the holiday. Al’s daughter, Sandra Noe, was herself suffering from COVID-19, which she contracted while caring for her sick parents, when the virus forced Al’s hospitalization. Noe, 66, is no stranger to helping elderly shut-ins weather isolation. As executive director at Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana, Noe oversees the delivery of life-sustaining food to about 1,600 people every day. But on Nov. 6, Noe and her sister began providing life-sustaining care for their parents, Al and Marge Braccolino, after the elderly couple fell ill with the coronavirus. Marge, 89, who already suffers from Alzheimer's disease, weathered the virus without serious symptoms, Noe said. But Al, 90, took a sharp turn for the worse when his blood-oxygen levels plummeted, Noe said. It was a nightmare come true for Noe. "When we first began seeing the effects of the virus in this country back in March, I thought my worst nightmare would be having to put one of my parents in an ambulance and then never see them again," Noe said. "Now I'm living that nightmare. "Noe said she is maddened by the lack of urgency so many in our society are giving to such a deadly virus. "I see people every day who aren't paying attention," said Noe, referring to people who don't wear protective masks, who creep up too closely on one another in public or who otherwise are going about life as if precaution and social distancing weren't the orders of the day. "They need to know that my reality could be their reality. "Contributed by The Times of Northwest Indiana

"That is the main reason why I always stayed with my grandparents. "In her heart, Castillo, who moved to Hammond in 1985, was a feminist, always motivating her children and grandchildren to push forward and achieve in spite of social barriers. Castillo had an adventurous spirit as well, with a zest for travel to Italy, the Holy Lands and various locations throughout the United States, Unzueta said. And she always had time for her family, helping to raise Unzueta when her mother and father were working long shifts with conflicting hours. It meant Unzueta practically lived with her grandmother for much of her childhood. The two were especially close. As Castillo became older and was able to travel less, Unzueta would stay in close contact with her grandmother, sharing details and photos so Castillo could travel vicariously. Castillo also would regularly talk about the poverty she knew in her native Mexico, using it as a a teaching moment for her family. It likely enhanced her zeal for good food, cooking for her family and the wonders of Chinese fast food, Unzueta said. A conversation about the finer points of Panda Express was one of the last Unzueta can recall having with her grandmother.

"She always had a way to explain how food was so delicious. "When COVID-19 hit in the spring, Unzueta said the family took immediate precautions, with the 75-year-old Castillo sheltering in place at her Hammond home. Castillo required kidney dialysis treatments, so the only place she was going other than her home was a dialysis center, Unzueta said. "We were doing all the shopping for her," said Unzueta, noting that even then, the family was careful not to gather together. Even with those precautions, however, 10 people in her family, including Castillo, contracted the virus, Unzueta said. The symptoms became severe enough that Castillo was admitted to the hospital on Oct. 1. Castillo struggled with the virus for month, eventually being placed on life support. The woman who had escaped poverty to find a new life of adventure in the United States died from COVID-19 on Oct. 30.

Her death came two months after the death of her loving husband to a rare disease. It's a tragedy that has taken a toll on the whole family, and Unzueta noted she is considering therapy to get through it. The sadness is exacerbated when Unzueta sees social media comments from people who make light of COVID-19 or mock its severity. "I’ve read hurtful comments or seen laughing reactions every time something is posted about COVID-related deaths," Unzueta said in a recent email.

Name: Dale BockCity/Town: Koontz LakeAge: 69Died: May 1Dale Bock survived 30 years as a cop in Lake County -- one of Indiana’s highest-crime areas. But in March 2020, a “terrible roller coaster ride,” courtesy of COVID-19, killed the retired police veteran. His brother, Tom Bock, watched the toll the virus took on his otherwise healthy sibling. The struggle went on for several weeks in a Lafayette hospital. "One day we would go up and think everything is improving.

Name: Darlene SpencerCity/Town: HobartAge: 59Died: March 31, 2020As a grandmother of four, a pastor’s wife, a Hobart church music director and a Hammond school bus monitor, Darlene Spencer wore many hats. In March, she became one of the first Hoosiers to contract and then die from COVID-19. Her family remembers her as a loving grandmother who enjoyed summers with her husband and grandchildren at the Jellystone campground in Plymouth. Her husband, Jeff Spencer, pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Hobart, knew Darlene as a sometimes stubborn and hard-headed woman who always thought she was right -- and often was. But she also was the loving and kind grandmotherly type who “adopted” more grandchildren into the family fold just by looking out for people. She enjoyed bringing goodie bags to hospitalized children at Halloween and raising funds for abused women and children shelters. Jeff and Darlene both fell ill with COVID-19 in March 2020 and at one point were both hospitalized at the same time, in separate rooms, at Community Hospital in Munster. Though Darlene was unable to speak in her final days, nurses there used iPhone FaceTime so Jeff could have visual contact with his wife in her final days. Then doctors told Jeff that Darlene showed no signs of brain activity, and the machines that were sustaining her were shut off. Contributed by The Times of Northwest Indiana

Name: Dr. Okechi NwabaraCity/Town: GaryAge: 68Died: Jan. 4Dr. Okechi Nwabara was known by family and friends as both a warrior and a gentle giant who freely gave bear hugs. Nwabara, 68, died Jan. 4 from complications due to COVID-19, said his daughter, Olaocha Nwabara. "I guess what is resounding was he was a healer as a doctor medically, socially and spiritually.

I will forever know he went out like a warrior -- strong but gentle," Olaocha Nwabara said. Dr. Nwabara, who served as a local physician for almost 40 years, was born in Umuahia, Nigeria, on Dec. 2, 1952. He came to the United States in 1970, joining his mother and siblings who were already in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. He graduated with his medical degree in December 1980 from the University of Michigan's Medical School in Ann Arbor, did his rotating internship followed by residency in internal medicine at Wayne State University Hospital, Detroit, and finished in 1984. Nwabara then held a practice in Gary and worked in hospitals and nursing homes throughout Northwest Indiana for almost 40 years. Stephanie Spencer, a nurse practitioner who worked with Nwabara at both Northlake and Southlake Methodist Hospital campuses in Gary and Merrillville, said, "To know him was to love him. "Spencer said working with Nwabara "changed her life in so many ways. "She recalled her last conversation with him in which he was pushing for her to get her COVID-19 vaccine shot. "I can't believe he is gone.

Name: Ezra AlexanderCity/Town: GaryAge: 59Died: April 8Ezra Alexander was known by Gary city officials as a consummate public servant and youth sports coach, working on multiple levels to improve life in the struggling Northwest Indiana city for decades. Alexander, 59, director of recreation and aquatics at the Gary Department of Public Parks, lost his battle with COVID-19 in April just as the virus was beginning to impact the Hoosier state. “Ezra has had health challenges, and he was certainly someone who we hoped would never contract coronavirus,” said longtime friend Chuck Hughes, president and CEO of the Gary Chamber of Commerce. Hughes said Alexander was hospitalized after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Alexander had been an employee of the city for about 30 years. Throughout his career, Alexander was heavily involved in youth sports as a volunteer assistant coach for basketball and track programs in Gary.

Name: Stephan SherrodCity/Town: HammondAge: 53Died: Dec. 24Stephan Sherrod’s life’s work was serving Northwest Indiana children and their families. The longtime owner of a Hammond day care with four locations is remembered as a caring father figure who had a gift for watching over children and went out of his way to help others. On Christmas Eve, Sherrod died from COVID-19 at the age of 53. Sherrod ran Secrets Loving Care for more than 25 years, including three different day-care sites for children and one adult day-care site for seniors. The Hammond High School graduate also served as an assistant pastor and minister of music at Emmanuel Temple Apostolic Church in Hammond. "He was a great person to work with," Secrets Loving Care administrator Ternessa Burts said.

Name: Chris BabbitCity/Town: GriffithAge: 62Died: Nov. 24What do you do when Superman is afraid?It’s a question Ashley Sims, 35, of Griffith, recently asked aloud -- and then struggled through tears to answer -- as she discussed the COVID-19 death of her father, Chris Babbit, 62, of Griffith. Babbit was a tough Northwest Indiana steelworker who began his career as a laborer in 1976 and worked his way up to supervisor. His coworkers called him Superman. He could fix anything and was never afraid to jump into the trenches to help the laborers he led at an East Chicago, Indiana, steel mill. Though he’d worked his way up to supervisor, he never forgot the rank-and-file where he came from and prided himself on leading by example, his family recalls. At home, he also was known as a Superman, always jumping in to fix a family member’s broken appliance or clear snow from family driveways on his way to work, Ashley said. He was a dedicated dad, never missing a youth sports event for his two children and later on for his three grandchildren. And he was a doting husband, his wife, Louise, recalls. “If I wanted a room painted, he’d paint it 10 times if I didn’t like the color,” Louise said. Ashley said her father could meet life’s challenges and shine as a father around every turn. So when Chris and Louise were both diagnosed with COVID-19 on Nov. 4, it was a blow to the whole family. After the diagnosis, Louise stayed quarantined in her bedroom and Chris in the family room. A pulse-oxygen machine at home helped the couple keep tabs on their breathing function. Chris’ sister, Janee Babbit, a nurse, helped provide guidance. On Nov. 8, Chris called Ashley in the morning, saying he would be taking Louise to the ER because she was having trouble breathing. But when Ashley checked on her parents later that day, they were still home, their vehicle still outside the house. Ashley called from street, and her mom answered the phone gasping for air. Ashley called 911 out on the driveway. When paramedics arrived, they found Louise with blue lips from oxygen deprivation, Ashley said. Chris also was struggling with a low oxygen level. Paramedics took Louise out by stretcher.

Because your dad never tells you he’s scared ever,” Ashley recalled of the exchange. Two days before Thanksgiving, a phone call from the hospital brought anything but thankfulness. Someone at the hospital said: “‘Your dad’s dying right now,’” Ashley said. Someone connected Ashely to her father via FaceTime, and she watched him die. Like so many who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, Louise hopes her husband’s story helps remind others to value their lives and to take precautions. Louise knows first-hand how COVID-19 attacks its victims. “It’s a nightmare.

Name: Cynthia HydeCity/Town: ValparaisoAge: 69Died: May 20Cythia Hyde was no stranger to the battlefronts life can place in front of us. As a single young mom, she fought to raise her two children when pursuing a degree and ultimate career in nursing, graduating from Purdue in 1976, said her son, Brian Jones, of Toledo, Ohio. Jones recalls Hyde working constant red-eye shifts to support him and his younger sister Jaime in LaPorte, Indiana. In the early 1990s, the first of significant health-care struggles Hyde would face came in the form of a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. But at the time, Hyde did what her family had always seen her do.

She battled through it, Jones said. "It seems like every time Mom had a struggle or something landed in her lap, she always found a way to battle through," Jones said. But in the coming years, multiple sclerosis would weaken Hyde's body and breathing capacity. She developed COPD, a debilitating lung disorder, Jones said. Ultimately, after a number of hospitalizations, Hyde, a LaPorte native, would make the decision to move into a Valparaiso nursing home. For 10 years, she thrived in the facility, despite her health challenges, Jones said.

Hyde was active in the Life Care Center of the Willows' nursing home community, even serving as it's association president. Hyde was residing there in spring 2020 when COVID-19 began sweeping our nation. All visitation between Hyde and her family, including her three grandchildren, stopped. The last time she saw her family was Christmas 2019. By March 2020, Hyde was on total lock-down in her nursing home room because her age and compromised immune system put her among the highest risk groups for death from COVID-19. "The only people she saw in and out of that room were those nurses and the nurses aides, who brought her meals and helped her in the shower," Jones said.

Unfortunately, Mom was a sitting duck. "Hyde was admitted to Porter Hospital in Valparaiso on May 13. In the coming days, she seemed to bounce back. Then things quickly "spun out of control," Jones said. Even knowing what she knew as a nurse, Jones could still sense the frustration in his mother in her final days of life. "She hadn't seen her grandkids since Christmas," Jones said of the social distancing protections that were strictly observed. "We did everything by the book, and the end result unfortunately still was there. "For seven weeks prior to her COVID-19 diagnosis, Hyde lived in a 14-by-14-feet room, robbed of a chance to live her life as she had come to enjoy it. COVID-19 unceremoniously brought an end to all of it on May 20, Jones said. It's a finality that Jones didn't think he would have to face, given the fighting spirit his mother had always shone. "Even when she was intubated, I thought, 'Well, it's my Mom. We'll give it seven or eight days, and she'll probably come back off the vent. '"Jones said his mother would want everyone she left behind to continue keeping themselves as safe as possible through social distancing and other good health practices. But she also would want them to enjoy life as much as possible, something she couldn't do in the weeks leading up to her death. In one of her last conversations with her son, Hyde lamented not being able to hug her grandchildren and being isolated from everything she loved, Jones said. "We have to be diligent," Jones said.

"We've got to do all these things and be safe. . . "But risk mitigation -- living life while being as careful as possible -- is important for all of us, Jones said. Contributed by The Times of Northwest Indiana

Name: Jack "Bud" HicksCity/Town: PortageAge: 52Died: Dec. 29Jack "Bud" Hicks was a hard-working mechanic and steel millwright who knew how to build both machinery and families. His daughters, Hailee Hicks, 25, and Marissa Donnelly, 27, remember Bud as "Mr. Mom," regularly shouldering a larger share of the parenting duties when his wife, Julie, was working long nursing shifts. "He really did it all," Hailee said.

He gave her her dream home. "He coached baseball and softball teams and never missed a youth sports game or practice. The strong family man became sick Nov. 1, and the family learned Nov. 9 that he was positive for COVID-19. Bud, of Portage, was then hospitalized at Franciscan Health hospital in Crown Point, and the roles reversed, with his children now checking in and and looking after the needs of a man who was accustomed to playing the role of caretaker. From video conferencing to regularly dropping off coffee from Dunkin' Doughnuts -- Bud's favorite -- the Hicks children were doing their best to keep their father's spirits up. A roller-coaster ride of oxygen levels that would plummet, improve a bit and then head south again would ensue for Bud. Nov. 28 brought more severe symptoms.

Bud was put on a ventilator. And on Dec. 29, before he could see a New Year, Bud died. "It was just really, really sad," Hailee Hicks said of her father's finals weeks of life. "His grandkids were his life.

On Thanksgiving, he told my mom he was ready to give up because he couldn't see his family. "That was killing him more than anything. "Hailee said she'll especially remember the close bond Bud had with her son -- Bud's grandson. The 3-year-old boy, "Buddy," has autism, and Bud's patience and love for his grandson was unmatched, Hailee said. And like many people who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, Hailee and her sister Marissa caution anyone who continues to believe the pandemic is "a joke. ""It's not a joke," Hailee said.

Name: Pamela MamouzelosCity/Town: HammondAge: 64Died: Dec. 27There was a time when many Region neighborhoods had one: that special house where all the kids hung out together. Pamela Mamouzelos fostered that kind of gathering space at her Hammond home, with deliciously prepared Greek meals and a swimming pool that drew all of the neighborhood kids, Pamela's daughter, Sofia Perez, recalls. Summers were an endless cascade of pool parties and other gatherings, with one event constantly blending into another and at any time there was a cause or excuse for celebration. Mamouzelos had a penchant for shooting home movies, and many of these friends-and-family gatherings were captured on her camcorder, Perez said. She volunteered at all school functions for her children and became the devoted and affectionate Yia Yia (grandma in Greek) as her children grew and had children of their own. "She had so many friends," Perez said of her mom, the matriarch of a large Greek Region family.

So when we lost her, it was a huge hit for all of us. "Perez, of Highland, and her family lost Yia Yia to COVID-19 two days after Christmas. "It just dimmed our whole lives," Perez said. "A lot of those people (Perez's childhood friends) reached out when my mom passed away, and that's exactly what they told us -- that we remember your mom like our second mom growing up. . . "We were the house to be at, always. "Yia Yia's three children and eight grandchildren have so many rich memories, Perez said, thanks in part to that proclivity for shooting photos and home videos. Mamouzelos loved her life and family and had everything to fight for. And she would begin the fight of her life the week of Thanksgiving. The Monday before Thanksgiving, Perez's children were baking cookies with Yia Yia. Later that night, Yia Yia called Perez, describing illness symptoms that suggested possible COVID-19 infection. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, an initial rapid COVID-19 test came back negative.

But within a few days, a subsequent test showed she had the virus. Mamouzelos was hospitalized on Dec. 3 with breathing difficulties. At first, she was able to FaceTime with her family, but then grew too tired for those virtual visits with the family she could otherwise not do without. On Dec. 20, Perez said medical staff indicated her mother would need a lung transplant to survive -- but would not be eligible to get on the transplant list. Still, Mamouzelos insisted on fighting, Perez said. "She didn't care what measures were needed to keep her alive," Perez recalled.

"She loved life and wanted to live it. "As the days passed, every time we spoke to her, we knew that our days with her were numbered. "Family members had one last FaceTime video chat with Mamouzelos on Christmas Day. That night, Perez spoke to a nurse at the hospital and conveyed a heart-breaking message to her mother. Perez asked the nurse "to tell my mom that it was OK to let go.

We knew it was time," Perez said. Yia Yia's family had one final conversation with her regarding her wishes, told her how much they loved her, and then she was gone. Contributed by The Times of Northwest Indiana

Name: Melvin 'Melton' LightfootCity/Town: ColumbusAge: 67Died: Dec. 26Not everyone knew his real first name, or that he had a twin brother whose name played into his nickname "Melton. "But those who knew Melvin “Melton” Lightfoot said they would never forget him and his legendary friendliness and customer service at the former Holiday Inn on Columbus' west side, where he served as a "busser" for more than 38 years, continuing on when the facility became the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center. Lightfoot, 67, died the day after Christmas at Columbus Regional Hospital after suffering from COVID-19 for about 10 days, leaving his family and co-workers grieving the loss of a customer service champion who never forgot the importance of a smile and exceeding a customer's expectations. His sister, Kathleen Anderson, said some people may be confused by the use of "Melvin" in his obituary because they have always known him as "Melton. " But actually, Anderson said, Melvin was his first name.

Snyder said if he was having difficulty communicating to the customer, he would let others know that he needed help so the customer could get what was needed. It was the way Melton presented himself to the public, smiling, being helpful, that made him approachable, Snyder said. "He had a smile that could light up a room," she said. One of the proudest moments of Lightfoot's life was receiving the 2015 Hoosier Hospitality Award for outstanding contributions to the tourism industry during a ceremony at the Indiana State Fair, Anderson said. His nomination said Lightfoot displayed concern for each Clarion guest and multiple guests described him as the hotel's hardest-working employee. Lightfoot was among 20 hospitality employees who received the award from Lt. Gov.

When Warren Central athletic director Marques Clayton started the “Goldys” sports award program in 2018, the Johnsons were the first recipients of the Black and Gold award for most dedicated fans. Charles was not just a fan, he was involved as a volunteer for the WC Dads and several other committees at the school for almost 20 years. “We loved it,” Kay Johnson said.

Three days later, on March 23, Charles was again taken to the hospital by ambulance. “I never got to see him again,” Kay said. The day before her husband died, Kay said, the results of the coronavirus test showed Charles had tested positive.

Cheryl graduated in 2004. “I joked with him that he was busier when he was retired,” Kay said. Cheryl Newson, the youngest of their five children, and her husband, Jared Newson have created a scholarship fund through their not-for-profit, “A Seat at the Table. ” The scholarship fund will be named after Charles Johnson and given to two Warren Central seniors starting with the 2020-21 school year. “The hope is to grow this scholarship to other schools around Indianapolis, but always focusing on where his heart was,” Cheryl said.

Name: Connie Sylene Hendrickson ThompsonCity/Town: IndianapolisAge: 58Died: April 21To many around Indianapolis, Connie Sylene Hendrickson Thompson was known simply as the “peach cobbler lady. ” Hendrickson Thompson sold her famous, homemade peach cobbler to businesses around the city and also brought her delicious dessert to serve as the perfect ending to a family gathering. While her daughter loved that peach cobbler, Aleia Simone Thompson will remember her mother as the “sweetest, happiest, most selfless, outgoing, hard-working person I ever knew.

Throughout a career that included stops at McDonald's, Glass Container, Hooks, and 27 years in the advertising department at The Indianapolis Star & Indianapolis News, Thompson proudly juggled multiple jobs at one time to provide for her daughter. “She always was doing everything possible to make me happy,” Aleia Thompson said.

Name: Dawn SheetsCity/Town: IndianapolisAge: 93Died: April 16Dawn Sheets never hesitated to help a friend in need. Sheets, a lifelong florist, had no formal medical training, but when her friend Maxine Hessong needed kidney dialysis treatment, Sheets taught herself how to operate a dialysis machine so Hessong’s husband Dale could continue working. For more than a year, Sheets made three to four trips a week to Methodist Hospital to care for her friend, offering support and companionship during Hessong’s procedures.

Eventually Hessong came home, and Sheets continued to run her machine, even showing Dale the necessary steps in the process. “She cared about people,” daughter Lori Arment said.

“She cared about people’s feelings and their well being. ”“That’s one of the highlights of her life to be able to help in that way at that time,” daughter Cathy Hiatt said. Helping others, faith and family were the pillars of Sheets' life.

She died April 16 at a memory care facility in Hendricks County. “When people think of Mom, they always think of Dad, too,” daughter Dianne Boyd said.

The memories sparked by those photos, such as the one taken with her daughters the day before the memory care facility stopped allowing visitors, are how her family wants her to be remembered. “Remember what a kindhearted and insightful soul she was,” Dianne said.

Name: Dierdre "Dee" FettigCity/Town: CrawfordsvilleAge: 59Died: July 21Dee Fettig owned and operated the local ice cream shop, The Big Dipper, for several years. She sold the business to raise her children, according to her obituary, and later provided home care for seniors, including her mother who lost part of her arm in a car crash. A kid needed a ride home?

They met through Fettig’s brother, one of Phil’s bandmates. “My uncle kept trying to get my mom to meet up with my dad,” said Fettig’s 30-year-old son, Luke, “and she kept dodging him because she didn’t want to date any of her brother’s friends. ”Fettig warmly embraced Phil’s heritage, visiting his family in France several times and whipping up special French dinners and desserts. Luke Fettig’s favorite meal was a Mississippi roast, and she made him an almond cake every year for his birthday. She had traveled to Germany, Australia and Canada and enjoyed exploring the United States, including a family vacation to St. Augustine, Florida last year. Contributed by the Journal Review, Crawfordsville

Name: Gary NeighborsCity/Town: MorgantownAge: 57Died: Nov. 28For some, COVID-19 deaths are merely numbers. For the Neighbors family, the deadly virus has a face. Gary Lee Neighbors, 57, a long-time firefighter and volunteer, died a tragic, preventable death, his family said. If more people who were around Neighbors on a regular basis had worn masks, he may still be alive, said Kyra Neighbors, his wife, now a widow. Neighbors tested positive Nov. 8.

They took him to a southside hospital, but staff discharged him because they did not believe he was sick enough to be admitted at the time, Kyra Neighbors said. For eight days after that, he complained of breathing problems, but the family couldn’t find an at-home oximeter in stock anywhere to monitor his levels accurately.

Gary Neighbors died on the family's couch from heart and lung failure caused by COVID-19, she said. Neighbors, of Morgantown, left behind his wife and four children, Johnny, Lynsie, Katie and Kristie, and two grandchildren.

He brought the now-beloved tradition of the Santa Parade to the local towns, and loved seeing the kids' faces light up, she said. As his children grew up, he gave back to the community by volunteering with their activities, helping out with Franklin-area 4-H, Future Farmers of America, Girl Scouts and little league. He would do anything for his children, his daughter Lynsie Neighbors said.

If not for the virus, he would still be alive today, they said. The Neighbors hope their Patriarch's story will help people understand the true impact of COVID-19. “I don’t want more people to have to go through this,” Lynsie Neighbors said.

And then, she lost the fight. A co-worker, Mary Schmidt, called Wotnow’s death a “terrible loss for Fort Wayne; to her family. ”The obituary said she was survived by her husband of 32 years Michael Wotnow. Diana Kay Wotnow was one of the first 2,500 Allen County residents to contract COVID-19. “She was the bravest, strongest, most wonderful person I ever met. ” Schmidt said in June.

Name: Don WhanCity/Town: Fort WayneAge: 67Died: April 3Don Whan was devoted to his wife. He was married 42 years to Debra Whan. He was easy-going, an “awesome father and grandfather and husband who made friends wherever he went. “He could strike up a conversation with anybody,” Debra Whan said in April. That was when she last saw her husband, a sports fan who loved Purdue University.

Don Whan, who had diabetes, caught what he and his wife thought was a cold in February. He continued to struggle and, in March 2020, visited three walk-in clinics. At the time, he did not have symptoms such as a fever or trouble breathing that are associated with COVID-19. At a March 25 visit, he received a chest X-ray, was diagnosed with pneumonia and was sent home. “He just didn't get any better,” Debra Whan said. On April 2, Don Whan asked to be taken to the hospital.

Name: Tom Casaburo Sr. City/Town: Fort WayneAge: 80Died: Nov. 23He made a living running Fort Wayne restaurants that employed thousands and fed thousands more over four decades. It was the disciplined side of Tom Casaburo Sr. ’s personality that made him a successful businessman, for years the face of The Casa Restaurant Group, now led by two of his sons. Known as a perfectionist, Casaburo expected employees to provide exceptional customer service. "He was exactly what a United States marine would be,” one of his sons, Jim Casaburo, said in November.

But above all, she was strong. Her family saw her at her weakest point, afflicted by the novel coronavirus and forced to be on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit. She was on the ventilator 41 days, off the vent for 10 days, but then back on the breathing machine before she died, her daughter, Lori Anthony, said. She just missed -- by less than two weeks -- celebrating her 72nd birthday. A native of Decatur, Jones spent her last days at Lutheran Hospital.

Names: Joseph and Kye-Shin KotarskiCity/Town: IndianapolisAges: 77 and 81Died: May 6If you went somewhere with Joseph and Kye-Shin Kotarski, you were likely to come across someone they knew. Joe knew hundreds of people from bowling and his job, daughter Paula Jones said, and Kye-Shin, known as Shina, was an active member of Indianapolis' Korean community, where she helped with anything and everything. The couple was married 55 years before dying four days apart of the novel coronavirus. Joe was 77 when he died on May 2, Shina 81 on May 6. Kye-Shin Kang was from Jinju, South Korea, where she was a teacher.

When stateside, she spent much of her time contributing to the Korean community in Indianapolis. Jones said her mother, a member of the Korean Catholic Church on the east side, would help with legal questions, translating — anything she could for anyone who needed it. Jones was one of the couple's three children.

It was just terrible. " She was just happy she could see them and talk to them a final time. “We’re hoping they heard us,” Jones said. Joe died on Saturday, May 2.

She was 61. Following her death, people could donate to Cops and Kids in her honor at Centra Credit Union or Voss and Sons Funeral Service in Seymour. Despite Centra’s lobby being closed recently due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, Assistant Branch Manager Sehrish Sangamkar said people still found ways to donate in Owens’ honor. “She has been in the community for this long, and she has built up great relationships with the community, local businesses and members, so it was just overwhelming to get the response from the members,” she said.

If you knew Karen, you were to love Karen. ”This year, Karen died eight days before the shopping day. Her husband of 42 years, Jerry Owens, tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 10 and was admitted to the Schneck Medical Center intensive care unit Nov. 14.

She coached cheerleading, was a speech meet judge and spent time as an assistant golf coach — despite not knowing much about the sport. "If there was a need, she'd give it a try,” Bowman said. She had to retire in 2004 as her health declined and caused complications. Still, her spirit persisted. As her health continued to decline, Blanchar moved out of her home and in with her mother, Beverly Howard, in 2014.

Eventually, she moved into a nursing home, hoping that it might lead to more opportunities for socialization. "Once my sister was able to get to know the residents, she loved it,” Bowman said.

But whether she was in the dining room or the movie room, Bowman said Blanchar “wanted to make sure everybody was included and nobody was left out. ”Blanchar was taken to the hospital in April, having caught the coronavirus. Despite the void Blanchar’s death leaves, her legacy lives on. Since Blanchar’s death, her qualities have become all the more apparent in the lives of those who knew her. "A little bit of all of us died when Kim died,” Long said.

Name: Lloyd "Lucky" HallCity/Town: IndianapolisAge: 69Died: March 29, 2020Lloyd “Lucky” Hall showed the way. Whether it was life advice, business assistance or encouragement to pursue education, Lucky was there to steer people in the black community on the right course. “He liked mentoring and helping people to set up, with business or legal services or help with their taxes,” said his wife of 28 years, LaVreen Hall.

“His friends were his friends for life, and he felt a responsibility to take care of them. ”Hall, 69, died March 29 from respiratory complications related to the coronavirus at Community North Hospital, said LaVreen.

Through the years, he served on several boards, foundations and church groups, stayed in close contact with his college fraternity brothers. “I asked many a time, when so many people stopped him, ‘How do you know that person?'" his daughter Sirrea Hayes, 35, said. Hall graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington in 1975 and earned his nickname shortly after when he joined the U. S. Army and was stationed in Germany.

For a couple of years, starting in 2008, LaVreen, Sirrea and Lucky were students together at Lake-of-the-Woods College, even attending classes together. “The professors got a kick out of it,” Sirrea Hayes said, "we competed to see who could get the best grade point average. "For years, Hall had a home-based accountant and tax services business on the east side and northeast sides, spending much of that time getting financial affairs in order for friends and local entrepreneurs, said Gary Hobbs, a friend of 30 years. “He did taxes for individuals and small businesses in the community,” said Hobbs.

“He was the most selfless person I ever knew. ”Rebecca Bibbs, of New Castle, a friend of 30 years who lived with the Halls for short periods, said Hall was resourceful. “’He was dabbler,” she said.

And he always had very wise advice. ”Hall continued his education advocacy as parliamentarian at the IUPUI graduate chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and as a board member of its non-profit arm, the Indianapolis Uplift Foundation. The fraternity urges life-long participation of its members to promote manhood and scholarship, said Tyrelle Collins, past president of the Zeta Phi chapter and now a board member of the foundation. In March 2020, Hall was the keynote speaker at the fraternity’s annual memorial for members who had recently died. “He challenged us to check on each other,” Collins said, "each and every day. "Despite his serious-minded academic pursuits, Hall knew how to have a good time, his wife and friends said. He took the family on spur-of-the-moment road trips to Chicago to get Garrett’s popcorn on Michigan Avenue or stop at a favorite taco stand in East Chicago, Indiana. And for six years, he hosted a Fourth of July party, attended by hundreds, on the downtown canal near the former Buggs Temple, which was the former home of an African Methodist Episcopal Church. Lucky, for a time, was controller for the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration, where, of course, he rubbed shoulders with some of the celebrities. “I think Patti LaBelle invited him on stage when she was here (in 2015),” Seirra said.

She had a love for Civil War history and raised five children, including a boy, Robert, who was diagnosed with encephalitis at the age of 2. “She was determined that he would not be left behind,” Julia Miller, one of Hatch’s daughters, said. Marie Martel Hatch died at age 95 on April 30 of coronavirus, two weeks after being diagnosed along with nine others in her vicinity at an Indianapolis nursing home.

She helped him get a certificate to work in HVAC systems, quizzing him nightly, and took care of him into her late 80s, with a crutch on one side and a cane on the other, before Robert died in 2013. “She did what it took, no matter how much pain she was in,” Miller said.

Name: Martin TravelsteadCity/Town: NashvilleAge: 81Died: April 5When Martin Travelstead smiled, his whole face lit up. That smile was even apparent as he passed due to complications from COVID-19 on April 5. Travelstead, 81, was the first resident to die of COVID-19 in Brown County. He had the Travelstead family smile, “a big, toothy smile,” his daughter Robin Travelstead Merritt said. Martin had been admitted to Johnson Memorial Hospital the morning of April 4.

But thanks to an intensive care unit nurse, they were able to Facetime him. An ongoing joke between Shirley and Martin was that whenever Martin arrived in Heaven, he would have a full head of hair again, because he was “as bald as a cucumber,” their son Scott Travelstead said. After the ventilator had been turned down and the sedation began to fade a bit to allow him to hear his family, Shirley joked with Martin one last time, causing his signature smile to appear before he parted this world. “It was probably 15 minutes later, he just kind of closed his eyes, took his last breath, and that was it," Scott said. Shirley was tested for COVID-19 on March 31 and received positive results on April 4.

Name: Martin WeingartenCity/Town: CarmelAge: 100Died: April 16Martin Weingarten was born amid the Spanish flu, during the most severe pandemic in recent history, the son of two candy shop owners in Austria. He would grow into a curious and anxious teenager who would watch from his family's fourth floor apartment as the Nazis brutally beat his Jewish neighbors on the sidewalks of Vienna. Weingarten escaped and spent a glorious 80 years in the United States, first in New York working for his uncle and then at a U. S. Air Force base.

By the time he died, Weingarten suffered from dementia, his nephew said. But this 100-year-old man never let the trials of his life taint his outlook or destroy his goodwill. "Oh, he was very friendly, very happy," said Joe Weingarten, 75, of Fishers.

He was also a mentor to children at local schools. “I live, eat and breathe music,” he said in 2016. That year, he received the Lifetime Achievement award from the Brown County Playhouse. Chance began playing the piano when he was 5 years old, but he hated every minute of it.

“My mom knew how to play piano and sat there on the end of the stool making me practice,” he said. It wasn’t until his parents — who met in a church orchestra — took Chance to see Benny Goodman at the Lyric Theater in downtown Indianapolis that he really became interested in music. Not long after the concert, Chance’s school began offering a music program that allowed students to rent instruments. The clarinet was his favorite, but he played all single-reed instruments. Chance played the sax and clarinet all four years of high school and also sang in a boys’ octet. About two years after he graduated from high school, Chance joined the Navy and performed in the Navy Band during the Korean War. After returning from service, he began working for Indiana Bell Telephone Company, from which he retired after 27 years. During his time with Indiana Bell, he also performed with Mel Chance and the Bel Tones.

Name: Walt “Junior” NeuenschwanderCity/Town: BlufftonAge: 76Died: Dec. 2Walt “Junior” Neuenschwander had been healthy, active and full of life, his daughter Kathy Steffen said. That is, until COVID-19 took him within a month of his diagnosis. It happened quickly, and it’s still hard for her to believe her father is gone. Walt tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 7 and was admitted to Bluffton Regional Medical Center eight days later.

They are two of the Homeview residents who caught COVID-19 after the virus forced its way into the facility in October. Norma Johnson fought off the virus, but Virgil wasn’t so lucky, dying from it on Thanksgiving Day. He had stood strong by her side through her sicknesses, so she did the same for him as he fought for his life, she said. The virus was tough to beat, but losing her husband and not being able to see her family during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been even tougher, Johnson said. Still, Johnson was grateful that Homeview took so many precautions to keep the virus at bay for so long to avoid more losses like hers, she said. Over the years, the couple lived in Warren, Pennsylvania, Falconer, New York, and Belleview, Florida, before moving to Whiteland about 20 years ago to be close to their daughters, Sandra Johnson and Luann Carlson, and grandchildren who had settled in Greenwood. Virgil Johnson enjoyed collecting tools and took pride in his antique collection.

Name: Jerry RennickCity/Town: KingmanAge: 67Died: April 11Jerry Rennick got his start in the agricultural industry by driving a truck. He worked his way up the ladder into management and eventually became a salesman. When he wasn’t hunting with his dog or cheering for IU basketball, he was playing music with friends. In early March 2020, Rennick headed to the Bloomington area for one of his regular music sessions and became sick shortly afterward. At first he thought the fever, body aches and dry throat were signs of the flu, but his daughter Erin Baldwin had read the warnings about COVID-19 and called the local health department.

This is a time for love and compassion and support,” Baldwin said.

He was 68. Throughout his decades-long career in ministry, Knoll served as a pastor at Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, St. John Lutheran in Indianapolis, Concordia Lutheran in Louisville, Trinity Lutheran in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and St. Paul Lutheran in Dubuque, Iowa. "He loved Jesus, he loved his family and he loved people," Jon said. He was passionate about sharing his love of God with others, Jon said, making home and hospital visits to minister and canvassing neighborhoods to evangelize. He continued to fill in at area churches even after retiring from full-time preaching in 2013.

They said the Lord's Prayer and a final blessing. After saying goodbye, Knoll's wife, son and family recited his favorite hymn, "I Know that My Redeemer Lives. "He lives to silence all my fears; He lives to wipe away my tears; He lives to calm my troubled heart; He lives all blessings to impart. By the time they finished singing, he was gone. "He always told people whenever somebody died, they've got the victory in Jesus," Jon said, "and that's what we'll remember. "Contributed by the Indianapolis Star

Name: Patricia "Patty" ConnorCity/Town: IndianapolisAge: 86Died: April 12Patty Connor always had a positive outlook on life and was the type of person who was up for any activity. While all the other moms at The Riviera Club avoided getting their hair wet, Connor never gave it a second thought, her children said.

Connor just had to go up to the plate and kick the ball, too. “She was never too old to try something,” said Janet Kahler, one of her daughters. Connor, a Catholic who graduated from St. Mary Catholic High School and St. Vincent Hospital School of Nursing, died at age 86 on Easter Sunday at American Village, days after testing positive for the coronavirus. Connor’s life was book-ended by two holidays, a fitting nod to a woman who loved a celebration, according to two of her daughters.

Instead, Stark, who lives in Indiana, would sit in the parking lot in tears and hope her mother could feel her presence. On Easter Sunday, Maureen Stark said she left her mother some flowers and a note that read, "If it's time for you to let go, we're all here with you. "Later when Stark would go to pick up her mother's belongings, the note had been opened, so she assumes someone read it to her mother. And with that blessing from her family, Connor died Easter evening.

Name: Roberta "Birdie" SheltonCity/Town: IndianapolisAge: 69Died: March 20, 2020Her friends called her "Birdie. " And there were a lot of them — for good reason. Roberta Shelton, 69, was a fun-loving woman known for her big heart. Friends say the Indianapolis woman would have been the first to step up to assist a family devastated by COVID-19.

She once booked an excursion with a travel agency to Arizona, where she met another woman named Sharon and took in a hot air balloon festival. Her grandson, Luke Fettig, spent summers with his cousins at the grandparents’ house where their names were carved into the posts of the swing set Carr asked for as a Mother’s Day gift. “It was a lot of love, and that’s what hurts the most is all the love I’m missing out on,” Fettig said. Days after being exposed to the virus in October, Carr, who had a underlying lung condition, began experiencing a cough and shortness of breath.

He'd get up at 4:30 each morning, scope out the track and bring back a report. ”Known for his optimism, a zest for sports and a tendency to dote over his daughters, Popcheff died of the coronavirus on April 5 -- his 69th birthday. "He was very successful during his life, but his greatest accomplishment was just being a really great guy," his wife, Karen Popchoff, said in an email. Popcheff was a longtime employee and deputy commissioner at the Indiana Department of Administration.

He graduated from Purdue University. His passion was for his family and all things Speedway — and after living with Karen for a time in Avon, the Popcheffs moved back to Speedway about a dozen years ago and re-engaged with the community. “Obviously, it was a different town than from when he grew up,” younger brother Ed Popcheff said.

In February 2019, Popcheff announced two new buildings on the 1300 block that would house condominiums, office studios and retail store fronts. "He had a lot of executive experience and brought that here at a time when we needed it," said Councilman Gary Raikes, who said he considered Popcheff a mentor. But his family remembered Popcheff for other things. Thomas Popcheff never missed an Indy 500, held season tickets to Pacers and Colts games and seldom went without at least one of his children — and a camera.

He took pictures everywhere, his family said. “He was a great photographer, and I asked him questions all the time about it,” said daughter Alexa Popcheff, 39, a photographer who credits her father with piquing her interest and teaching her the basics. Since her father died, Alexa has participated in the Front Porch Project to raise money for researchers at Purdue University to fight COVID-19.

She has taken about 30 portraits of families on their front porches, mostly in Geist, as they self-isolate through the pandemic. “I just thought this was a great way to have a tribute to my dad,” she said. Contributed by the Indianapolis Star

He was rehabilitating from a heart issue when he tested positive, younger brother Clarence Crain said. Bo Crain was born in Grenada, Mississippi, the oldest of seven children to Jacob and Veronica Crain, but spent the majority of his life in Indianapolis after moving from Mississippi as an 8-year-old in 1947.

Name: Helen DensmoreCity/Town: MishawakaAge: 43Died: May 30Helen Densmore planned to celebrate Mother’s Day just like she had in other years, and she already had a present for her mom, Rose Mary. “She called and said, ‘Mom, I have a gift for you, but I’m just not feeling well.

Name: Marge DudeckCity/Town: South BendAge: 85Died: Jan. 13Marge Dudeck always claimed she detested the nickname Club Lido owner Claude Mendell bestowed on her: “Fabulous Marge. ”But for more than 60 years, area listeners agreed with Mendell’s assessment. Born in South Bend, Dudeck began playing piano at age 5 and got her start as an entertainer as a 17-year-old lip-sync performer on a local TV program. By the mid-1960s, Dudeck established herself as one of the most popular and hardworking musicians in the area, with her residencies at such supper clubs and lounges as Club Lido, Eddie’s, The Americana, Gipper’s Lounge and Bryan’s Piano Barr. “You knew when you walked into the room that you were going to have a fantastic experience,” pianist Bryan Barr said about seeing Dudeck perform.

She died from complications of the virus. The supper club and piano bar format played to one of Dudeck’s chief strengths: She knew hundreds of songs by memory and always asked the audience to make requests. Barr said she taught him what helped to get the audience on the performer’s side. “‘You may hear nine or 10 songs and not know nine out of the 10, but you do that one, and the people will think you’re going to do theirs next,’” Barr said she told him.

Play for them. . . Look at them dab smack in the face, and they’ll never forget you did that song for them. ’”During her career, Dudeck released three LP records and a country single, “I’m Too Much Woman to Want Your Man,” a response to the Loretta Lynn song, “You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man). ”Dudeck's daughter, Tori, recalled that her mother was much more than an entertainer and loved to cook and garden, cheer for Notre Dame football and women’s basketball teams and watch “Dancing With the Stars” and “American Idol. ”“Her family was separate from her work,” Tori said.

He died having never left the hospital complex. “Dr. Yu was a wonderful physician who continually stepped up to help our community and cared deeply about his patients,” said Dr. Dale Patterson, Memorial’s vice president of medical affairs.

He would become a leader on several Filipino boards, including a local Filipino-American society. When he died, he was president of the foundation for his medical school’s alumni association. He also went on medical mission trips to the Philippines. “He had a big heart for people going through hard times and for the poor,” Tan said. Contributed by the South Bend Tribune

He was hospitalized within a couple of days and died just over a week later. Family members said they lost a loving husband, devoted father and doting grandfather who delighted in showering children with gifts. But the community also lost an old-school family doctor who built a small-town practice from the ground up in New Carlisle, achieving an almost mythic status among locals. “He had a way of making you feel like you were the most important patient there ever was,” said Bart Curtis, the former head football coach at New Prairie High School.

Anytime a player got hurt at practice, Inabnit dropped what he was doing and made time to look at the injury, said Curtis. As a fan, the doctor brought the same energy that marked his work. Inabnit bought ankle braces for the football team, Curtis said, and when the year-end banquet neared, the doctor would whip out his personal checkbook to pay for the event, though he never wanted anybody else to know. A colleague, Dr. Jim Harris, recalled Inabnit as “one of the hardest-working doctors I’ve ever met. ”“He was so dedicated that, when his patients had surgery, he went to the operating room with them to see what happened,” Harris said.

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