They are loved ones, not statistics
Editor’s Note: This story is constantly updated with information on lost loved ones.
By Erick Johnson
They were high ranking police officers and educators. One served in the Army. Another worked for NBC News. Another served the American Red Cross.
Today, their family, past and present co-workers and friends are mourning their deaths from COVID-19. They’re many more that look like them, but health departments across the country report only their ages and gender. But the Crusader researched and learned their identity by verifying news reports. The deadly virus that killed them has affected every race, culture and socioeconomic group. But Black lives and deaths matter and not enough attention is given to the disenfranchised during any crisis, including this one.
Hours after this story was posted, we found four more COVID-19 victims who are our brothers and sisters. It’s a sobering reminder of the challenges and sad realities of covering a global pandemic that’s claiming lives faster than the media can report.
We found the identities of many victims of color, some of whom excelled and made a deep impact on others in their careers. They lived productive lives in New York, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis and other great cities.
To prevent the spread of the virus, most of them were forced to die alone in hospital rooms. Away from their families and loved ones, they spent their final days battling a virus that has claimed over 23,000 lives worldwide.
They had underlying medical conditions, but they pushed through them and went on to successful lives. Two of them, Patricia Frieson and Carl Redd were from the Auburn Gresham neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.
Some were young in the prime of the careers. Others were retired citizens enjoying their golden years with the ones they loved.
Despite their sacrifice and impact, most of them will not get a fitting funeral or memorial service that reflects how they lived. COVID-19 is a cruel virus that separates victims from loved ones in both life and death. It’s pain that grieving loved ones will feel for years or even decades to come.
With the U.S. death toll now over 1,000, the dead are becoming more of a number than a human face with a life behind it.
For 27 years on the Milwaukee Police Department, Lenny worked tirelessly to bring racial equity as president of the League of Martin, an association for Black police officers.
When he began his law enforcement career in 1973, Wells was part of the first recruit class under a federally-mandated affirmative action program. Nine other minorities, including a woman, were among 65 people in his class who broke racial and gender barriers on the force, which like so many law enforcement agencies in big cities, have gone decades without reflecting the diverse populations in the cities they serve.
Lenny climbed the police ranks for nearly three decades, serving as an undercover officer, before continuing on to work in the Traffic Enforcement Division and later as a district shift commander and as a detective, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The newspaper reported that Wells mentored countless officers and helped them prepare for promotional exams. One colleague said Lenny wanted them to be “guardians, not warriors.” To many, Lenny was a leader, a trailblazer, a legend.
A St. Louis County executive identified her only as a St. Louis County woman in announcing her death March 20. But her employer identified her in a statement, saying that she was a “beloved member of our family. Our hearts break for her family and friends and we will keep them in our prayers as we cope with the loss of our cherished colleague and friend.”
Lawrence Riley, a 66-year-old Navy veteran from Milwaukee died “alone” of the coronavirus on March 26. According to reports, his quarantined family was unable to see him. He died two days after he tested positive for COVID-19.
Riley was inspired to join the Navy by his father. Whitney Riley, 20, Lawrence’s only daughter, said in the New York Post that her father as the “sweetest man I’ve ever known.” She will graduate next year from Prairie View A&M University next year without her father in attendance.
Dez-Ann Romain in New York City was just 36 years old when she died. Her death woke up many who believed that COVID-19 was a virus that only killed senior citizens. She was a principal at Brooklyn Democracy Academy, a public high school in Brooklyn. She left behind an institution that deeply loved her for her boundless energy and her strong devotion to the school’s student body, especially its Black students.
“She looked at every single kid as her personal mission,” said her mentor, Courtney Winkfield in the New York Times. “She knew every kid’s back story, their family members, what was going on with them and how to motivate them.”
Larry Edgeworth worked at NBC News at Rockefeller Center in New York for 25 years. He served most of those years as an audio technician. Edgeworth died March 19 after testing positive for COVID-19. He worked in the technician room on the fifth floor, just three floors below the studio where the iconic Saturday Night Light Live show is taped.
Carl Redd was a lifelong Chicagoan who lived in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood. A retired HVAC repairman, in 1978 Redd enlisted in the Army. He served about six years before he was honorably discharged. Before he fell ill, Redd would get up early to take his grandson to school. He had been married for 35 years to his wife, Lillian, who reportedly while wearing a face mask, gloves and a gown, spoon-fed him during his battle with the virus.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Nashom Wooden, 50 excercised at the gym six days a week to maintain his chiseled physique. At night, Wooden was “Mona Foot,” a Black impersonator of the superhero Wonder Woman who performed at New York’s nightclubs and social scene.
In 1999, Wooden appeared with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert DeNiro in the movie “Flawless.”
Ron Hill, 63, was an athletics coach at a school in Fulton County, Georgia. He had seven children, 16 grandchildren and relationships with countless adoring students, according to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.
Because he had the coronavirus, Wellstar North Fulton Hospital would not let his daughters near him. They were forced to say goodbye through a window.
According to reports, Hill grew up in Staunton, Virginia. At The Mount Vernon School in Sandy Springs, he mentored girls and boys and coached football, basketball and track. Many of his players loved him. One described him as a no-nonsense coach and teacher.
Hill was also a substitute teacher and filled in for an Advanced Placement Language class.
Adrian was Superintendent of the Solid Waste Services Department for the city of Raleigh, NC, where he was employed for 17 years.
According to their Go Fund Me page, Grubbs “was a doting father, devoted husband, loving brother and son, and a dear friend to many. His bright smile, keen intellect, hearty laugh, and charisma would light up a room. He loved his family and friends. He was a truly unique and memorable individual.”
The family created the page to help support the future needs of Adrian’s family. All of the donations raised will go directly to his family. We are touched by the generosity of any donation, prayer or message for the Grubbs’ family.
Dennis Dickson, was the first employee in the New York City Police Department to die of the virus. Dickson served the department for 14 years as a janitor who worked 17 days straight in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, where he kept 1 Police Plaza, the department’s famed lower Manhattan headquarters, safe and clean for his colleagues during a power outtage.
Hours after this story posted, the Crusader learned that the Wanda Bailey, the older sister of Illinois’ first COVID-19 death, Patricia Frieson, had died from the virus more than a week later.
Her younger sister, Patricia Frieson died March 17. Their family is planning a double funeral. Patricia was also longtime resident of Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood. In news reports, Freison was described as a God-loving, devoted member of Progressive Beulah Pentecostal Church, where she sang with her sisters with a powerful voice.
“Until the good Lord calls Me away from this world to the next, I want to make it clear that I believe in Jesus Christ as the True Lord and Savior. Despite the fact that I am human, and I fail a lot of times, I believe that Jesus is the son of God, who was sacrificed on the cross, and died for our sins. He loves us dearly (far more than we deserve) and forgives our sins if we are in repentance. His Word says ‘who so ever believeth in Me, will be granted eternal life.”
Bassey Offiong, a senior majoring in chemical engineering at Western Michigan University, died March 28, just weeks before he was set to graduate. He was only 25 and had no known prior health issues, according to Detroit’s WXYZ reports.
Reports say Offiong had been refused tests many times while living off-campus in the Kalamazoo area despite having the COVID-19 symptoms, including shortness of breath, fatigue and a fever, his sister told the Detroit News.
April Dunn, 33 advocated for disability rights while suffering from cerebral palsy and other underlying conditions. In 2013, she joined forces with other advocates to help pass Act 833 — a bill that allows “alternative pathways” to high school graduation for people with disabilities in Lousiana. Dunn had been denied a high school diploma after successfully completing her coursework but failing to pass standardized testing. Dunn was also the chair of the Louisiana Developmental Disability Council.
Dunn left behind her mother Joanette and her grandmother Gloria.
Tim Russell was a Pennsylvania native and graduate of Geneva College and received his master of divinity degree from Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, acording to the Daily Memphian.
He once served as Geneva College’s financial aid director, college chaplain and church relations director, the newspaper reported.
Russell previously served as Second Presbyterian’s assistant pastor of middle adults. He was also president of Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies and spent 2009 until 2012 as the headmaster of Westminster Academy – a classical Christian school in East Memphis.
According to the Daily Memphian, Russell also served as the head of Lexington Christian Academy – a college preparatory school in the Boston area.
On Tuesday, March 24, Marlowe Stoudamire, 43, a tireless advocate for Detroit, died from the coronavirus in the city he loved. Stoudamire reportedly had no underlying conditions.
When Detroit lost the bid for Amazon’s second headquarters and critics claimed the Motor City lacked talent, Stoudamire created Roster Detroit, which began as a series of social media posts he wrote to pay tribute to Detroiters who made positive contributions to the city. Roster Detroit grew into a digital platform that revealed and amplified the city’s talent.
Capt. Jonathan Parnell, known to many as “Recon,” headed Detroit’s police Homicide Department. During his 31-year career, Parnell worked in homicide, sex crimes, child abuse and narcotics.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said when Parnell was up for a promotion after taking the Lieutenant’s test. After passing the test and while being prepped for the promotion, Craig said Parnell’s team came to his office and asked not to promote Parnell because they loved him so much.
Eastern Stewart, Jr., 71. was native of New Orleans. According to the Washington Post, he was a sharp dresser whose outfits were always perfectly color-coordinated. On Valentine’s Day, he reportedly would wear red shoes and a red jacket.
For 20 years, Stewart served on the Air Force, most recently at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. He later worked as a recruitment investigator in the D.C. police department Stewart was a member of the Shriners, a fraternal organization that runs free children’s hospitals. Stewart was also active in the Cornerstone Church in Bowie.
Dwight Jones, 73 coached hundreds of boys and girls basketball at Mumford High School in Detroit. Everyone loved him.
Word spread quickly March 29 after Jones’ died from COVID-19. One player described Jones as a disciplinarian who pushed his players to excel. Many knew him as tough, honest, genuine and straightforward.
Many of Jones’ students respected him for keeping in touch outside and the gym and after they graduate.
Freddie Jones III, 20 had a big smile according to his coach at Grand Blanc High School, in suburban Flint, Michigan. Teammates said he was the type of person that any coach would welcome on to their team.
Jazz royalty at its finest, four of Marsalis’ six sons followed in his musical footsteps and gained national fame in their own right. His son Wynton is managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, and winner of multiple awards. His son Branford is a jazz saxophonist who has recorded albums with Sting, among others.
“Ellis Marsalis was a legend. He was the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a 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.”
Ellis Marsalis, Jr. was also the first jazz instructor at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, and the first chair of the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans, according to Cantrell’s statement.
Manu Dibango was global renowned saxophonist who gained prominence for his exceptional blend of jazz, funk and traditional west African styles. His career spanned a period of 60 years. He died in France March 24 of COVID-19.
In 1972, Dibango’s hit “Soul Makossa” made its way to dance floors across the United States, Europe and Africa. The single’s immense popularity came before the disco era swept America in clubs, film and fashion.
Dibango is remembered as a legend who put African music on the world map and inspired many artists including Grammy award winner Angelique Kidjo, she described Dibango as the original giant of African music.
Oliver Stokes Jr., 44 was prominent Black N Mild DJ and radio personality in New Orleans. He was the first to have a radio mix show dedicated to bounce music. From 2013 to 2017, his “Rhythm and Bounce” show was featured on Saturday nights on New Orleans AM station WBOK. He died March 19 after being diagnosed with COVID-19.But to his wife, Cassandra, Stokes was more than a talented DJ; he was a loving husband and father of four. He and his wife were supposed to celebrate their wedding anniversary four days later.
He temporarily moved to Houston after Hurricane Katrina. There, Stokes hosted a mix show for KHOU.
Ives Green, was a decorated Special Olympics athlete who became the first person in Louisiana to die of the the coronavirus.
Green’s family said he had no idea why he suddenly started feeling ill because he lived in a facility for people with developmental disabilities and reportedly had limited contact with people outside of the facility.
Relatives told NOLA.com that Green was full of life and loved fishing, listening to music, rooting for his beloved New Orleans Saints in Saints’ gear and yelling “touchdown” whenever they scored. He also liked New Orleans red beans and rice, gumbo, spaghetti and meatballs, and potato salad.
Mary Roman never stopped running even as she got older. At 83, she was a world-class senior athlete who held numerous national age records in track and field,
Roman, who also served for 20 years as Norwalk’s city clerk. She died March 23 at Norwalk Hospital.
Laneeka Barksdale, 47, was Detroit’s queen of ballroom dancing. Many dancers say Barksdale would light up a room. According to the Detroit Free Press, Barksdale could teach a basic two-step to more sophisticated moves. The newspaper said hundreds of people reached out to her family to offer her condolences.
A mother of four, Barksdale, was hospitalized around March 14. When she got sick from the coronavirus, Barksdale reportedly tried to keep the family from driving her to the hospital.
At various times in her decorated career, Roman held the national record in the shot put in the women’s 65-69, 70-74 and 75-79 age groups.
She was once the nation’s top-ranked thrower. Roman was ranked eighth in the world in the weight throw in the 75-79 age group. She was named Connecticut Masters Games Athlete of the Year in 2016.
At just 30 years-old, Zororo Makamba was one of the youngest casualties of the coronavirus pandemic. He was a trusted journalist in Zimbabwe. Born in one of Zimbabwe’s wealthiest families, Makamba was the first recorded death from the virus in Zimbabwe.
He gained attention for his online commentary and his appearances on talk shows and current affairs programs, where he discussed climate change, political and social issues.
Born on Jan. 17, 1990, Makamba earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Michigan State University in 2012 and a master’s in producing from the New York Film Academy.
Issac Graham was the pastor for 41 years to New York’s Macedonia Baptist Church in Harlem, where he shared a strong bond with his congregation. He was married to wife Cheryl for 45 years. Graham first came to Macedonia Baptist Church in 1979.
Graham’s wife reportedly first took him to Harlem Hospital on March 16. The longtime pastor was diagnosed with coronaviris, taken to the ICU and placed on a ventilator until his last breath. He died alone. Graham’s death came as a shock to many who thought he was on his way to recovering from the virus.
Reverend Ronnie Hampton of New Vision Community Church, was known for his annual movement ‘Takin’ it to the Streets’ in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Over the years he has partnered with the Northwest Louisiana food bank to provide meals to more than 83 families every third Saturday at his church.
Days before his death, Hampton told supporters in at least two videos on social media, including one from his hospital bed, that Christians should not be afraid of the coronavirus and perhaps God was just using his infection to help him “get a little rest” or would use it to spread the Gospel.
“This virus that is out now, look at what it’s doing. It’s shutting down everything, which means that the physical connection of Christians is being ripped apart. We’re not able to fellowship. We’re not able to love each other. We’re not able to greet each other with a handshake or a hug. We’re not able to be in close proximity of each other,” Hampton said in a Facebook Live broadcast exactly one week before his death.
Bishop Robert E. Smith Sr., led the Bountiful Love Ministries Church of God in Flint, Michigan.
“He was a wonderful father and husband, pastor to the Bountiful Love Ministries out on Pasadena,” Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said.
Handsome and charismatic, Archbishop Lucius Hall led Chicago’s First Church of Love And Faith for 41 years. He was a prominent and respected clergyman in Chicago, and counting mayors, civil rights leaders and gospel singers among his regular colleagues. The late Reverend Clay Evans, former Mayors Richard M. Daley and Jane Byrne were among his admirers.
Before he founded First Church of Love And Faith, Hall served under Reverend Clarence H. Cobbs as a spiritual radio announcer for 29 years with the First Church of Deliverance. He gained attention producing a weekly broadcast with Morris. He also organized the Youth Department of the church’s convention and was vice president of the Broadcast Ministers Alliance of Chicago. In 1990, Mayor Daley appointed Hall Chairman of Personnel Board for Chicago.
Jason Hargrove, 50 was a Detroit bus driver who two weeks ago went live on Facebook two weeks to complain about a female passenger who coughed repeatedly with covering her mouth.Four days later, his union said Hargrove was quarantined. On Wednesday, April 1, Hargrove died of COVID-19.
It’s not certain whether Hargrove contracted the virus from the passenger.
On March 17, the Detroit Department of Transportation canceled bus service after many drivers called in sick that day to protest, saying the city was not doing enough to address their health and safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A hard worker who loved people, Jordan worked during the initial weeks of the epidemic. She was worried that no one would be able to help her senior customers walk down the aisle, or package goods, or even find the restrooms.
Wando Evans and Phillip Thomas were both Walmart employees in Evergreen Park, IL, a suburban township outside of Chicago. Thomas had worked at the store for nine years, and Evans reportedly had been an overnight maintenance worker since 2006.
Both men died days apart from each other, drawing suspicion and criticism of Walmart’s management, who said the store has been sanitized and passed two separate inspections.
An attorney for Evans’ family accused Walmart of not following protocol and did not let other workers know he was sick.
“I felt like they was just putting my brother as a number and he’s not a number he has a name… his name is Phillip Thomas. And he was a good guy,” Angela McMiller, Thomas’ sister told a television station. “I’m hoping that of course that no one else dies and no one else is sick.”
Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton suspended the store’s liquor license after learning of the two employees’ deaths. The license was restored after the mayor said he was satisfied with the safety precautions the store is taking and renewed the liquor license.
“He was so amazing. His voice would hit a high range and then go low to bass,” the bishop’s sister told Chicago’s ABC 7.
Skinner took the reigns of the church after his father died.
Loved ones said Skinner was a powerful preacher who gave out food and clothing as people started to join the church while the neighorhood underwent change.
Brenda Perryman taught Speech and Drama at the secondary and college level for many years before retiring at the top of her game. She has designed programs that utilize drama as a means of informing students about the dangers of Teenage Dating Violence and Conflict Resolution. The Teenage Dating Violence program (into The Light) has been touring to high schools in the metropolitan Detroit area for the past 3 years. She also wrote a toolkit on those issues and gives workshops on developing social issue programs in the schools.
According to her website, Perryman at 18, WAS a college freshman just three weeks when she found herself a passenger in a car that spun out of control on a Michigan highway. As she regained consciousness in the trauma ward of a hospital, she listened tearfully as the doctor told her that her back was broken and she was paralyzed from the waist down. She painfully took in the words: “You will not be able to walk again.” . Brenda beat the overwhelming odds and walked again despite her doctor’s diagnosis.
Perryman received her Bachelor and Masters degrees in Speech, Dramatic Arts and Education from Eastern Michigan University. During her undergraduate studies, she became a member of a sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha), where she learned more about commitment, dedication and purpose.
Lt. James Walker, 59 is the first Philadelphia police officer to succumb to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Mayor Jim Kenney said he is the first city employee to die from the virus. Walker served in the department’s traffic division.
Walker served as a police officer for 33 years. He died Sunday, April 6. City officials reportedly did not know when his last shift in active duty was.
Betts was also a Vietnam veteran and a former UPS driver, who retired in 2001 after 31 years, said his caregiver, Valeria Massey, 46.“He loved to barbeque,” Massey told the Crusader. “That was his passion. He can cook and he enjoyed traveling and taking road trips. He loved visiting different barbeque restaurants. He loved Al’s Grill in Oak Park, where he visited three to four times a week. He was an avid dresser who loved his church. And he loved serving people.”
Massey said she last spoke to Betts on the telephone on Thursday, April 2, three days before he died. She said by then, Betts was on a ventilator and could barely speak.
“I told him thank you for your service and that he helped a lot of people,” Massey recalled. “I said, ‘I’ll see you later. I love you. Bye. And that was that.”
Reverend Marshall Hatch, Jr. in Chicago, shared at a press conference that his church lost four members of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church to COVID-19. he also lost his eldest sister, Rhoda Jean Hatch, the family matriarch, to the diesease. She was 73 and had asthma. She had been a longtime organist in the church.
Wilkerson reportdly met the Queen of Soul in the 1980s when he had a front row seat at one of her concerts.
The couple were engaged to be married multiple times, most recently in 2012.
After their 2012 engagement was called off, Wilkerson remained close friends with Franklin. He escorted Franklin to many social events.
Wilkerson is survived by his wife, Doris Ogburn, whom he married in 2019, as well as by four children, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.