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Tag: 2021-09-08 19:57

  Name: Al Braccolino

  City/Town: Crown Point

  Age: 90

  Died: Nov. 26

  “I’ll see you in heaven.”

  It was the last thing Al Braccolino, 90, of Crown Point, told one of his daughters as paramedics loaded him into an ambulance Nov. 16. COVID-19 forced him into the final fight of his life.

  Ten days later, the chair Al usually occupied at the Thanksgiving table would sit empty. 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


  Name: Filomena Castillo

  City/Town: Hammond

  Age: 75

  Died: Oct. 30

  Her family saw it as a cute nuance from an immigrant who never really learned English, Sarahi Unzueta recalls of her grandmother, Filomena Castillo.

  ”Almost every time I called her or before leaving their house, I would yell out ‘love you!’ And she would respond, ‘you too,’” Unzueta recalled of her grandmother. “She obviously meant to say ‘me too,’ but we never really corrected her because it was innocent and cute.”

  It was one of the many endearing qualities Castillo’s family will always remember of the woman taken from them in October by COVID-19.

  An English language barrier never kept Castillo from communicating encouragement to her family, Unzueta said.

  ”My Grandma always encouraged my mom to move forward. If my mom wanted to take a class or work, my grandma always offered to take care of me,” Unzueta. “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. The memory brought a deep smile to Unzueta’s face during a recent recollection.

  ”She loved the way it tasted,” Unzueta said. “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. “It is hurtful to see all of the hate and laughs in the comment sections and other platforms.

  ”This was my last living grandparent.”

  Contributed by The Times of Northwest Indiana

  Marc Chase

  Name: Dale Bock

  City/Town: Koontz Lake

  Age: 69

  Died: May 1

  Dale 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. The next two or three days we would fall back again worse than where we started,” Tom Bock said of Dale’s coronavirus battle.

  ”I wouldn’t wish that ride on anybody.”

  In the end, Dale lost his fight.

  The big brother who had interested Tom in becoming a police officer was gone.

  Today, Tom remembers working at the Region steel mills in the early 1980s but spending patrol shifts riding with Dale, then a police K-9 handler. It was during those ride-alongs that Tom decided to become a cop — learning from one of the most respected officers to serve the sheriff’s department.

  The sickness that started out like a cold showed itself to be anything but a cold or the flu, Tom Bock said.

  Dale Bock served the Lake County Sheriff’s Department for three decades and was a lieutenant, K-9 trainer and handler and SWAT team sniper before retiring in 2005. He also worked with the North Liberty Police Department for 10 years.

  “He worked out in Gary and he has been in shootouts and all kinds of dangerous situations — and each time he walked away,” Dale’s son Scott Bock recalled. “And it’s this virus that takes him out.”

  Contributed by The Times of Northwest Indiana


  Name: Darlene Spencer

  City/Town: Hobart

  Age: 59

  Died: March 31, 2020

  As 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 Nwabara

  City/Town: Gary

  Age: 68

  Died: Jan. 4

  Dr. 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. … His heart was wide open, and he understood that that helps heal as much as medicine,” she said.

  Although her father could have retired, he chose to stay on at a Northwest Indiana hospital to fight what he termed the war against COVID-19.

  ”He told me, ‘I have the power to help, so how can I sit this out? End of conversation.’ He worked until his final breath. He didn’t take any breaks. 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. One of the nurses referred to him as a gift we could not keep,” Spencer said.

  Contributed by The Times of Northwest Indiana


  Name: Ezra Alexander

  City/Town: Gary

  Age: 59

  Died: April 8

  Ezra 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. By those he was mentoring, he was known as “Coach DD,” Hughes said.

  “He was very community-oriented and certainly had influence on a lot of young people out here,” Hughes said. “Assisting in youth sports was something he did on his own apart from his job because he wanted to. He was quite a contributor to the Gary community.”

  Alexander was a graduate of West Side High School, class of 1979, and earned a degree in business management from Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting. Alexander was named after his grandfather, who was a founder of a Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, which the Gary man later joined, Hughes said.

  Contributed by The Times of Northwest Indiana


  Name: Stephan Sherrod

  City/Town: Hammond

  Age: 53

  Died: Dec. 24

  Stephan 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. “He had such a love for kids. He took them to church and summer camp. He loved teaching them music, to play piano and the keyboard.”

  Sherrod enjoyed taking children out to eat and to go bowling, one of his favorite pastimes, Burts said.

  ”For young men with no father especially, he was a real father figure,” Burts said. “He always had an encouraging word and always challenged the kids to get to their studies.”

  She remembered him as a humble man and talented musician with a fun-loving personality.

  ”He was more than a boss,” she said. “He was always there when you needed to talk or needed some advice. He would help you feel better. He would help people with anything at all. He was a real good guy.”

  His goddaughter, Kristina Riddle, said Sherrod was a well-known and loved figure in Hammond whose service assisted many parents.

  ”He ran a 24-hour service that had kids on site all day long whether the parents worked 9 to 5 or 5 to 1,” she said. “He helped so many people, including so many single working parents.”

  He was a caring, supportive man, Riddle said. She recalled how at his funeral at Family Christian Center in Munster people were asked to stand if he had ever given them encouragement.

  ”The entire room stood,” she said. “It was such a touching moment. He touched so many different people’s lives. He was a man after God. It’s such a terrible loss.”

  Sherrod was a humble man who was funny with a dry sarcasm, Riddle said. She remembered him as a reserved and extremely resourceful man with a calm demeanor and understanding nature.

  ”He was someone who loved God and tried to help as many people as he could,” she said. “He was truly a servant. He was a wonderful man who served the community.”

  Contributed by The Times of Northwest Indiana


  Name: Chris Babbit

  City/Town: Griffith

  Age: 62

  Died: Nov. 24

  What 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. Chris, who also would need to be hospitalized, walked on his own strength to the ambulance.

  “It was the last time I saw my dad alive,” Ashley recalled through tears recently.

  By Nov. 17, Louise’s condition improved enough for her to return home.

  But on Nov. 19, still hospitalized, Chris’ lung collapsed, and he was placed on a ventilator.

  Ashley recalls that every conversation with staff at the hospital thereafter was laced with ups and downs on her dad’s condition.

  She also recalls the fear that was palpable in texts she exchanged with her father.

  On one of the days, she texted, “How are you doing?” to her dad.

  “I’m scared,” he replied.

  It was almost more than Ashley could withstand.

  “When it’s Superman, and he’s scared, what do you say to help him? 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. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. It’s like somebody is putting a plastic bag over your head, and as you’re gasping, the plastic bag is getting tighter and tighter,” Louise said. “That’s exactly how it feels.”

  Contributed by The Times of Northwest Indiana

  Marc Chase

  Name: Cynthia Hyde

  City/Town: Valparaiso

  Age: 69

  Died: May 20

  Cythia 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. “And she did her part to make sure she was protected.”

  But then in May, Jones received a phone call. His mother had somehow contracted the coronavirus.

  ”The day we talked, she wasn’t surprised,” Jones said of his mother, noting she was a nurse and knew the score. “The virus is going to virus. It does what it wants. 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

  Marc Chase

  Name: Jack “Bud” Hicks

  City/Town: Portage

  Age: 52

  Died: Dec. 29

  Jack “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 rebuilt my mom’s entire house the last four years. 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. He’s got 14 grandkids and seven kids. 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. “A lot of people think it’s a joke. Once it happens to your family, you start seeing it happen to other families.?

  ”You wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s the saddest thing we’ve ever had to go through.”

  Contributed by The Times of Northwest Indiana

  Marc Chase

  Name: Pamela Mamouzelos

  City/Town: Hammond

  Age: 64

  Died: Dec. 27

  There 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. “She was always laughing. Always giving. Always throwing the parties.

  ”She was the light our lives. 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 know how hard she fought.”

  ”The nurse called me on Dec. 27 and told me she wanted us to come up to the hospital. 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

  Marc Chase

  Name: Melvin ‘Melton’ Lightfoot

  City/Town: Columbus

  Age: 67

  Died: Dec. 26

  Not 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. “Melton” came from rhyming with his twin brother’s name Elton, who now lives in Indianapolis.

  But for those who remember Melton, it isn’t about the name, but the way he made those around him feel when he served them room service or cleared the dishes from the table at the Holiday Inn and later at the Clarion.

  ”He had this outgoing, bubbly personality,” his sister said. “He was a real people person. There were no strangers to him anywhere.”

  Lightfoot lived on his own in Columbus, but was a Developmental Services Inc. client after moving to the city from Alabama in 1977. Anderson said her brother was “slow” about some things, and had a speech impediment, but did not let any disability stop him from pursuing a job. With the Opportunity Center’s help (the agency before DSI), he was hired at the Holiday Inn.

  Chiquita Snyder, who met Lightfoot and Patterson when she started at the Holiday Inn as a server in 1991, grew close to both employees as she worked her way up to general manager.

  ”All those years, Melton worked so hard. He was one of the most hard-working people I ever worked with or supervised,” she said.

  Acknowledging Melton’s communication skills were limited, he still tried to do everything he could to make sure customers were happy. 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. Sue Ellspermann, who is now president of Ivy Tech Community College.

  ”He was very proud to talk to the lieutenant governor,” his sister said.

  His sister said it is unknown how Melton might have contracted the COVID-19 virus, although Caldwell speculated he may not have understood the danger of the virus.

  Contributed by The Republic, Columbus


  Name: Charles Johnson

  City/Town: Indianapolis

  Age: 79

  Died: March 27, 2020

  Charles Johnson was a Louisiana native. His wife, Kay, was originally from Minnesota.

  But there were no bigger supporters of Warren Central athletics than Charles and Kay Johnson. The Johnsons traveled to home and road games for boys and girls basketball, football and many volleyball games. 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. “Going to Warren Central games was entertainment at its best. For Charles, the chance to be a role model for those kids was so important to him. He would be out somewhere and a young person would come up to him and say, ‘Mr. Johnson, you helped me out.’ That’s all it took was hearing that to know what he was doing was worthwhile.”

  Johnson, 79, died March 27, 2020. Kay, his wife of 42 years, said her husband was diagnosed last year with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). On March 12, 2020, Charles scheduled a visit to his primary care doctor.

  “We thought he had a flareup from his COPD,” Kay said. “We thought we caught it.”

  On March 16, Johnson’s breathing had worsened to the point he needed to be taken to the emergency room. He was tested for the coronavirus and was released to go home again on March 20, Kay 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. Kay said she had also showed symptoms the first week her husband was hospitalized but did not take a test. She has been in isolation for almost two weeks, she said.

  “It hurts,” Kay said. “I don’t even know how to describe it or what words to use. It’s hard on the kids because they can’t visit. It’s so hard on them because of all the rules right now. We are going to have a private burial and then do something more when there are less restrictions.”

  The Warren Central athletic department honored Charles with a tribute on its Facebook page: “Charles Johnson truly epitomized that ‘Never Me, Always We’ spirit and went above and beyond his role as a parent. Charles and his lovely wife Kay truly had a passion for Warren Central athletics. Over the last 20 years plus, you would find Charles and Kay front and center at every significant Warren Central championship event. Regardless of the weather conditions or his health status, Charles Johnson refused to miss a Warren Central football or basketball game. Charles especially had a passion for female sports.”

  Charles and Kay supported the Warren Central girls’ basketball program even through a long stretch of many losses. When Warren Central completed its surprise run to a Class 4A state championship in 2018, Charles was honored with a blue medal on the podium after the game.

  “This was a small token of our appreciation for a man that had given so much of himself to Warren Central but asked for absolutely nothing in return,” Clayton said.

  The Johnsons moved to the Warren Central district in 1982. Charles started volunteering when their youngest daughter, Cheryl, was in middle school in 1998. When Charles retired from his job in the Department of Defense at the Army Reserve Center at Fort Harrison in 2002, he fully immersed himself in volunteer work at Warren Central. 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. “With Warren Central.”

  Kay said she plans to come back and support Warren Central athletics when the time comes.

  “At this point, I plan to be there,” she said. “I just love the kids. It’s fun and something we always enjoyed together. It will difficult at first, but I plan to be there.”

  Contributed by the Indianapolis Star


  Name: Connie Sylene Hendrickson Thompson

  City/Town: Indianapolis

  Age: 58

  Died: April 21

  To 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. … She’s the reason I graduated college.”

  After more than three weeks in St. Vincent Hospital, Thompson died of COVID-19 on April 21. She was 58 years old.

  Born and raised in Indianapolis, Hendrickson Thompson will be remembered by those who loved her as a compassionate, industrious woman and devoted mother. She was always intent on “living my best life,” a phrase she had put on a T-shirt, which she wore often, much to the amusement of her daughter.

  ”Oh, she was a very sassy lady,” Aleia Thompson said. “She was very happy and outgoing. She really just loved to be around family and friends. She wasn’t ever judgmental or a gossiper. She just loved you for who you truly were.”

  An Arsenal Tech graduate, Hendrickson Thompson dedicated much of her life to serving those around her, especially her daughter. 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. “No matter what it was, anything I wanted, she gave it to me.”

  That included helping Aleia Thompson find the determination to get through college. Now a proud Indiana State University graduate, she never found college to be easy. She cried almost every day, telling her mother she wanted to quit.

  But Hendrickson Thompson never let her. Instead, she listened to her daughter, then pushed her to persevere.

  Part of Aleia Thompson’s motivation was knowing her mother was going through similar challenges. While Aleia Thompson was at Indiana State, Hendrickson Thompson was pursuing her associate’s degree from Ball State University.

  “We graduated the same year, and she didn’t even go to her own graduation,” Aleia Thompson said. “She came to mine. She even got up early that morning to design my grad cap. … She loved me so much. She was very proud of me.”

  Hendrickson Thompson was beloved by many and fostered deep friendships, including one of 38 years with Gayle Tebbenkamp. To some of her nieces and nephews, Aleia Thompson said, she was like a second mother. Her great niece LaNiyah Neville, Aleia Thompson said, spent time with her every week, and the two forged a very special bond.

  Contributed by the Indianapolis Star


  Name: Dawn Sheets

  City/Town: Indianapolis

  Age: 93

  Died: April 16

  Dawn 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. Her compassion was matched by her late husband Ken’s, who became her primary caretaker as she dealt with dementia until he died in December.

  In early April, Dawn Sheets developed a cough and began running a temperature. She had a COVID-19 test on April 10. On April 13 the test came back positive for COVID-19. 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. “It was always Ken and Dawn, and Dawn and Ken because they did everything together. They complemented each other, they were supportive of each other.”

  Dawn is survived by daughters Cathy, Dianne and Lori Arment, and six grandsons. She is preceded in death by her husband Ken and daughter Deborah Sheets.

  Dawn Sheets (Steele) was born May 12, 1926, in Bainbridge. Her family moved to Indianapolis when she was five, settling on the east side of the city.

  Sheets graduated from Warren Central High School in 1944. She met Ken in the seventh grade and they married July 27, 1945, while he was home on leave from the Navy, before he left for Japan during World War II.

  The couple’s 74-year marriage was built on a foundation of love and companionship. When Ken attended college in the early ’60s, Dawn ran the household, sewing the children’s clothes, cooking dinner and helping Ken with his homework assignments whenever she could.

  Resourcefulness was key. Growing up during the Great Depression, she learned to cook and sew out of necessity, but later in life, cooking and sewing became her passions. In addition to making her children’s clothes, she’d also create little outfits for their dolls. One of her favorite pieces was the replica Navy uniform (modeled after Ken’s Navy uniform) that she created for her grandson’s G.I. Joe figurine.

  Her sewing later evolved into beautiful applique quilts, often keeping her up late into the night.

  In the kitchen, Dawn’s pies were legendary.

  She’d make 10 to 15 pies for church functions. Her fruit pies, especially her blueberry pies with homemade crust, were beloved by everyone who tasted them. Family functions weren’t complete until you tasted her famous angel food cake with pink icing. Her cake pans, cakes carriers and cake knives have become treasured keepsakes since her passing.

  Dawn’s other passion was working with flowers. She began her career working for award-winning florist James Carl Hoffman at J.C. Hoffman Florist in Indianapolis. Hoffman saw immense talent in Sheets and sent her to floral design school in Chicago. Sheets finished her career working as a florist in Speedway.

  At home, Dawn maintained stunning collections of bachelor buttons, lilies, cockscomb, chrysanthemums, and different shrubs for greenery. She enjoyed making bouquets for the church altar, and to this day, Cathy says she always has fresh flowers in her house as a reminder of her mother.

  “She was a very talented person and she was able to pursue those talents,” Cathy said. “All the sewing that she did, and the cooking, and quilting. She was very, very talented and enjoyed the artistic part of her being.”

  Her warm, welcoming personality made Dawn and Ken beloved members of their church community. They were members at Fairfield Friends Meeting in Camby for several years. The couple loved to welcome new members to the church, and of course, her baked goods would go quickly at all church functions.

  “Her faith as a Quaker really influenced her,” said Phil Gulley, pastor at Fairfield Friends Meeting. “It was her guidestone. She was just a person of real big compassion and concern. She wasn’t self absorbed at all. You could always count on her to show up if you needed to get something done. She was just an exceptional lady.”

  Later in life, even as dementia started to affect her memory, Dawn maintained her sense of humor and love for storytelling. She also developed a fondness for golf. She enjoyed watching the bright green grass, tall trees and impeccably kept scenery of the golf courses on TV.

  She loved to giggle and laugh as she looked through photo albums with her daughters. 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. “Such an artistic and creative mind that she had. … I know her and dad are finally together again.”

  Contributed by the Indianapolis Star


  Name: Dierdre “Dee” Fettig

  City/Town: Crawfordsville

  Age: 59

  Died: July 21

  Dee 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? She’d give them a lift. Short on cash in the checkout line? She’d pay for your groceries.

  Fettig and her husband, Phil, who was born in France, had planned to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary there this summer. 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 Neighbors

  City/Town: Morgantown

  Age: 57

  Died: Nov. 28

  For 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. It was mild at the outset, but took a turn for the worst about two weeks in. She had thought her husband was getting better, and she was hopeful after both she and her daughter recovered, she said.

  But on Nov. 20, things took a turn. 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. Then, they measured his oxygen levels using the Samsung Health smartphone app and discovered that it was only 84% — about 10 points below normal.

  They knew they had to get him back to the hospital. But by then, he was so weak he couldn’t make it to the car, Kyra Neighbors said. He didn’t have the heart and lung capacity left to get there. 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. But his impact extended far beyond his family, Kyra Neighbors said.

  He was a 24-year volunteer firefighter, who served with the Warren Township, New Whiteland and Whiteland fire departments. 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. At the start of the pandemic, Gary dropped off a box of N95 masks for Lynsie, a nursing student in her last semester, to protect her while she works. At the time, she was touched by her father’s generosity and hoped he saved some for himself, she said.

  As a mentor, he loved to teach kids about agriculture and make sure those who were new to 4-H and FFA had all the information they needed to succeed, Lynsie Neighbors said.

  Gary Neighbors loved the spotlight and would do anything to put a smile on someone’s face, whether cracking jokes, singing karaoke or doing a good deed. The family joked about burying him with a microphone, Kyra Neighbors said.

  Despite his health problems, the family knew he had a lot of life left in him. 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. “I hope this comes to an end soon.”

  Contributed by the Daily Journal, Franklin


  Name: Diana Kay Wotnow

  City/Town: Fort Wayne

  Age: 52

  Died: June 14

  A 30-year employee of City Utilities, Diana Kay Wotnow was a wife and the mother of two sons, including one who recently married.

  The 1986 Northrop High School graduate loved music. She loved reading. She loved searching antique malls for vintage Fisher-Price toys, her family wrote in her obituary. And she loved playing with her dogs, Daisy and Dillon.

  Wotnow was a kidney transplant recipient who battled the novel coronavirus for more than six weeks. 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. “Diana was a young woman. She was so much fun to be around. I can hear her laugh in my head right now.”

  Contributed by the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette


  Name: Don Whan

  City/Town: Fort Wayne

  Age: 67

  Died: April 3

  Don 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. He was having trouble breathing. Her husband’s heart and kidneys were failing.

  On April 3, after receiving a call he was not doing well, Debra Whan rushed to the hospital to be with him.

  Five minutes before she could arrive to his hospital floor, after suiting up in a gown, mask and gloves, Don Whan died — two days after their 42nd wedding anniversary.

  Debra Whan learned while making funeral arrangements that Don had tested positive for COVID-19.

  Contributed by the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette


  Name: Tom Casaburo Sr.

  City/Town: Fort Wayne

  Age: 80

  Died: Nov. 23

  He 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. “He was tough. He paid attention to detail.”

  Casaburo opened his first restaurant, Casa D’Angelo on Coldwater Road, with the late Jimmy D’Angelo, in 1977. D’Angelo retired from the business in 1993 and sold his share to Casaburo and his wife, Sharon.

  But before the run with restaurants, Casaburo spent five years with the FBI and later in the 1970s became Fort Wayne’s first public safety director. A Highland, New York, native, he moved to Fort Wayne in 1968.

  Despite the restaurant grind, Casaburo made family time a priority and was known for supporting several local nonprofits.

  Casaburo retired about 15 years ago and was in Sarasota, Florida – where he typically spent winter months – as coronavirus cases began rising in many states. Casaburo and his wife contracted the virus, and both required hospital stays.

  He was in three weeks and spent two weeks on a ventilator before his death. It was attributed to COVID-19.

  Contributed by the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette


  Name: Joyce Ann Jones

  Age: 71

  City/Town: Fort Wayne

  Died: Nov. 7

  Jones had plenty she loved in life: cooking, playing bingo, karaoke and watching Colt’s football with her husband, Paul.

  She was witty. She was caring. She was selfless, according to her obituary. 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. She was surrounded by her family at Lutheran Hospital when she passed.

  ”The more awareness that this virus kills, the better,” Anthony said through email.

  Jones babysat her great grandchildren. She loved family was the first to arrive at every gathering, her obituary said.

  And she could be direct.

  ”Joyce was never afraid to tell it how it was, and people admired her for that,” the obituary said.

  Contributed by the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette


  Names: Joseph and Kye-Shin Kotarski

  City/Town: Indianapolis

  Ages: 77 and 81

  Died: May 6

  If 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. To teach, she had to cross a border guarded by the U.S. Army, including a young military policeman named Joseph Kotarski.

  ”So that’s how they met,” said Jones, who is 48 and lives in Fishers. They married in Korea while Joe was still in the service and married again back in the U.S., where Shina immigrated to be with Joe in 1964.

  But Korea never truly left her.

  She would go back for about a month each year, Jones said, until she grew older and it became more difficult to deal with jet lag. 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. Their son, Al Kotarski, 54, lives in New Palestine, and their oldest daughter, Ruth Abraham, 52, lives in Phoenix. Abraham said her mother’s strong fluency in English made her a great person to lend a hand.

  ”I read some of the love letters they wrote back and forth,” Abraham said, “Her English was very good.”

  The community was also a source of entertainment for the couple, going to picnics and meeting with friends, though Jones said they also had their own hobbies. Shina would go to the golf course every chance she had while Joe spent many hours at the bowling alley.

  Joe and Shina would sometimes golf together, Jones said, “but my mom was way more competitive than my dad, so it wasn’t too fun for him.”

  They spent time with their four grandkids, as well. Shina enjoyed going to watch her grandson golf with the New Palestine High School team, and Joe, who worked nights, made sure to be available to help his grandkids by day.

  Joe worked 37 years on an assembly line for Ford Motor Company, retiring in 2007 when the east-side factory shuttered. Retirement gradually meant less bowling and more trips to the gym, but he didn’t stop working, taking a job with a security company.

  They raised their kids to work hard, too, Jones said.

  Abraham described her mother as feisty, always saying it the way it was. Her motto was, “If your mom can’t tell you, who can?” Abraham said with a laugh.

  Shina showed her children hard work by example, working as a waitress at Heidelberg Haus, a German cafe and bakery on Pendleton Pike, and owning a wig shop in Brightwood Plaza at 25th Street and Sherman Drive.

  That doesn’t mean there was no time for fun. It seemed they knew someone everywhere they went, Jones said.

  Joe loved the camaraderie of being with his friends from the bowling alley or work.

  Shina had friends from the Korean community she contributed so much to. “She probably knew every Korean that walked in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas,” Abraham said.

  Together, they meant so much to so many people.

  “Indianapolis is a big city but a small town,” she said. “They touched so many people’s lives.”

  Joe contracted the virus first. His daughters believe he caught it while working for the security company, where he regularly interacted with people from out of state.

  Jones was angry that her father kept working even though he didn’t need to.

  “We didn’t like it, and my mom definitely didn’t like it,” Jones said. “But he’s not one to just stay at home and sit around.”

  He was taken to the hospital by ambulance on April 27 after barely making it to a doctor’s appointment, Jones said. His oxygen levels were very low.

  Shina was hospitalized days later after initially suffering from only a cough, which the family initially attributed to seasonal allergies.

  Neither would ever leave the hospital, and they did not get to see each other while inside.

  Joe and Shina received the final Catholic sacraments of last rites from a priest. It was the family’s chance to say goodbye.

  Wearing protective equipment, two people at a time had 10 minutes with each of their parents. It was horrible, Jones said.

  ”They were intubated, so they can’t talk,” she said. “They’re sedated. 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. Shina died the following Wednesday.

  Contributed by the Indianapolis Star


  Name: Karen Owens

  Age: 61

  City/Town: Seymour

  Died: Dec. 4

  During her tenure with Centra Credit Union, Karen Owens presented several over-sized checks to local causes.

  Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry, Girls Inc. of Jackson County and the Fraternal Order of Police Donald M. Winn Lodge 108 Cops and Kids program have been among the recipients.

  All of those causes have one thing in common: Kids.

  On Dec. 4, Owens died after battling COVID-19. 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. “Everybody just loved Karen. 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. Karen got sick and passed out Nov. 13 and went to the hospital two days later.

  Turner said Karen was put on a ventilator Nov. 23, and Jerry also was on a ventilator in the next ICU room. Jerry is slowly progressing after coming off of the ventilator Dec. 14.

  A private family funeral service for Karen was Dec. 12, and a celebration of life service will be held later.

  Contributed by The Tribune, Jackson County


  Name: Kim Blanchar

  City/Town: Indianapolis

  Age: 68

  Died: April 16

  Kim Blanchar loved life aggressively. She loved language, she loved people, she loved to laugh. Giving life to others put breath in her lungs.

  Were it not for her bright mind, she might’ve been in a vegetative state years ago. That’s what multiple sclerosis, a disease the affects the brain and spinal cord, does. But as her body gave way over the years, her all-consuming curiosity kept her going.

  The former Brebeuf Jesuit teacher died peacefully of the coronavirus at IU West Hospital in Avon on April 16 at the age of 68.

  Blanchar was a cheerleader at Jefferson High School in Lafayette, where she graduated in 1969. And there might not be a more apt way to describe how she lived her life.

  “She had that contagious kind of personality,” said Linda Long, who knew Blanchar since childhood. “When you were around her, she lit up a room.”

  Blanchar loved French, which she taught at Brebeuf, and she loved to travel. She took trips with a group of high school friends even after her declining health forced her to retire from teaching. A group of eight women visited Las Vegas in 2005.

  ”She was on her own going through the casinos in Las Vegas and just having the best time,” Long said. “We would have so much fun because she made everybody laugh. She never was talking about the negative things in her life.”

  Her infectious personality was a staple at Brebeuf. 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. The loss of independence and social opportunity was devastating.

  ”Socializing was so important to her,” her sister Tammy Bowman said. “She loved to go exercise. She loved to talk sports. She loved the Indianapolis Colts. She loved the Pacers.”

  She found ways to socialize when possible, attending various disability fellowship groups.

  Last year, Bowman and her niece took Blanchar to her 50th high school reunion.

  ”We couldn’t hardly get in the door. There were so many people,” Tammy Bowman said. “She had people coming up to her nonstop.”

  ”Some lady walked up to her and said, ‘I don’t think you know me, but I wanted to introduce myself,’” Anna Bowman remembered a woman telling her aunt. “‘You made an impact on me.’”

  Yet slowly, Blanchar’s larger-than-life personality was sapped. Anxiety and depression set in as her connections to the people she loved became less frequent. 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. “She was always their cheerleader for life. Part of that was the teacher in her.”

  There were plenty of issues in the nursing home. The level of care she received left much to be desired, 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. “If we could treat others like Kim treated us, the world would be a better place.”

  Contributed by the Indianapolis Star


  Name: Lloyd “Lucky” Hall

  City/Town: Indianapolis

  Age: 69

  Died: March 29, 2020

  Lloyd “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. A father of six, Hall was laid to rest with military honors at Crown Hill Cemetery on April 2.

  “Hi, I’m Lucky Hall,” was how Lloyd H. Hall, born in East Chicago, June 16, 1950, greeted people upon meeting them.

  Lucky knew a lot of people. 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. There he formed a band, which played for troops at various bases, LaVreen said.

  “He met a lot of famous people that way, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, and his friends started calling him Lucky for doing so,” LaVreen said

  Hall was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant in 1984. Despite his musical acumen, he chose academic and leadership pursuits when he returned to Indiana.

  He had studied accounting and business administration at IU and was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He went on to study information technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and leadership development at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

  He was committed to convincing African-Americans to pursue continuing education — and his family set the example.

  LaVreen, 54, got a master’s degrees in theology and mental health counseling. 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. ”But he would go above and beyond what he needed to. He would educate people.”

  Hobbs, who owns Sprowl Funeral Home with his wife, Lori, and calls Hall his mentor, was one of the beneficiaries.

  “Every major decision I made was with his advice, to getting my MBA to advice on my marriage, to advice on the business,” he said. “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. “He was, for the most part, self-employed and had a wide range of interests and skills. He was the kind of guy who had a laptop and cell phone before everyone else. 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. ”It just made me laugh.”

  Contributed by the Indianapolis Star


  Name: Marie Hatch

  City/Town: Indianapolis

  Age: 95

  Died: April 30

  Marie Hatch grew up in a poor family during the Depression, so when she wanted to go to college, it was far from a guarantee. But she was pragmatic.

  Her father worked on the railroad yard at White River Junction, Vermont, so, she reasoned, she could take the train to Ann Arbor, Michigan, at no cost. After she got accepted, she put herself through school, working for Nabisco and taking different odd jobs, including working on a drill press during World War II. She got her degree in history in 1947 and later worked on a masters in special education at Indiana University. That education would be put to good use.

  In addition to teaching high school and middle school in Indianapolis, Hatch published her memoirs and was printed in Le Forum, a University of Maine journal for French-American voices. 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 had lived in Indianapolis since 1949, rebuffing family that tried to move her out to the Washington, D.C., area. Her daughter remembers her as someone who acted with conviction — always setting an example and doing what was right.

  “This is a story she tells — I wasn’t there. She was at a prayer group and late at night at a Catholic Church,” Miller said. “And some kids came in and demanded the jewelry and money, and she talked them into putting their guns down. And invited them to join them in praying the rosary, and they were just so taken aback by her strength that they walked away, and that was it.

  “And a lot of people came up to me and said, your mother is so strong. She’s so cool under pressure. That was just very typical of her.”

  She applied that strength to her son. Hatch studied special education and worked with Robert daily, teaching him to make change, add, subtract, read and write. She never finished her masters because it required a semester in Bloomington, and she couldn’t leave her family, but Robert graduated high school and got a job as a mechanic.

  In her eulogy, Miller recalled a time that — not knowing whether the owner was armed — Hatch demanded a local car shop pay her son back wages. 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. “So devoted.”

  Hatch had a penchant for baking, and her kids would often come home from school to homemade goods. She never bought baked goods from a store.

  She kept her household in good order, sending all her girls to good schools, and practiced as a devout Catholic.

  “I kind of remember her as just a very strong person,” Miller said. “She always, always thought you should do your best and nothing else was good enough.”

  Contributed by the Indianapolis Star


  Name: Martin Travelstead

  City/Town: Nashville

  Age: 81

  Died: April 5

  When 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. He had been sick for four or five days before he died on April 5.

  Due to pandemic restrictions on hospital visitors, Martin’s wife, Shirley, and his two children, Robin and Scott, could not be in person at his bedside. 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. She survived.

  Travelstead served as a deacon for more than 50 years and was the senior deacon at Unity Baptist Church in Brown County. Merritt said people often came to him for perspective.

  He was retired from AT&T. He had served in the United States Army from June 1957 to June 1960 as a rank sergeant and as a field radio repairman and mechanic.

  Travelstead had been on the diving team with the Army. He loved swimming and diving with his great-grandchildren and body-surfing with his son.

  He served for 11 years with the Brown County Honor Guard, including as commander for three and a half years.

  He was also on the school board for more than 12 years, starting in 1976. He was on the board when now-Superintendent Laura Hammack was hired as a teacher.

  “Martin was an ‘Encourager in Chief.’ He was relentless in offering optimism and support for programs that lifted up the youth of our community,” Hammack said.

  Contributed by the Brown County Democrat


  Name: Martin Weingarten

  City/Town: Carmel

  Age: 100

  Died: April 16

  Martin 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. Then in Maryland, as an employee of the United States Census Bureau.

  Weingarten died April 16 in Carmel amid the world’s most recent pandemic. Coronavirus was ruled his cause of death, according to his nephew Joe Weingarten.

  He never knew he had contracted COVID-19. 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 always the nicest guy in the room. He was always smiling, always one of those kind- hearted fellows.”

  Weingarten was born Nov. 28, 1919 during the Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 influenza pandemic. That health crisis was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  The flu spread worldwide and, from 1918 to 1919, infected 500 million people, one third of the world’s population. The number of deaths is estimated to be at least 50 million, with about 675,000 in the United States, the CDC says.

  Weingarten, however, was born safely to Mancie and Isak Weingarten, the youngest of three boys.

  The family lived in an apartment above the candy shop in “calm surroundings” with a “close-knit family,” Weingarten wrote in a 9-page, 45,000-word document for his family he titled “A Brief Personal History of My Self and Family.”

  By the time he was a teen, Weingarten’s parents sold the candy shop and opened a general store, offering household items like soaps, cleaning compounds and a variety of fragrances. It was a great financial success, enough so that the Weingartens bought two four-story apartment buildings and moved their family into the top floor of one of them.

  Weingarten even as a young boy was always interested in world events. He became more interested as the world around him turned dire. Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party, was insisting that Austria be merged into Germany.

  ”In the end, Hitler managed to lure the head of the Austrian government to a fateful meeting, where he forcibly detained and stripped him of his position,” Weingarten wrote.

  That meeting was followed by Germany’s invasion of Austria on March 12, 1938.

  Within weeks of the invasion, Izak Weingarten was picked up, along with other Jewish business owners, by Nazi authorities. He was held in detention and threatened. He was eventually released, only after he agreed to give up his general store and appoint an administrator for the apartment buildings.

  ”All of us were, of course, relieved to see him come home safely,” Weingarten wrote. “The loss of property and income was no longer important.”

  Weingarten, 18, and his brother Morris managed to obtain the appropriate documentation and, in the summer of 1938, left Vienna by train headed to Konstanz in Germany. There, they hoped to cross into Switzerland. The Gestapo, German Secret Police in Konstanz, had been rumored to help guide emigrants across the Swiss border.

  ”Emigrants were allowed only to take 10 deutsche marks out of Germany, but our father had given us a number of dollar bills which we hid in a stick of shaving soap,” Weingarten wrote.

  With the help of Gestapo officers, housing was arranged for Weingarten at a nearby abandoned former hilltop hostel in Switzerland. While there with other Jewish young men, they performed labor, repair and maintenance and, sometimes, played games and sports.

  In early March 1939, after almost eight months in the camp, the Weingarten brothers received word from the American Embassy in Zurich that their entry visas were ready. After making their way to Zurich and then Antwerp, they boarded a passenger ship bound for New York.

  Throughout the next 80 years, Weingarten would never take for granted the life he was living.

  A stint in the U.S. Army in 1943 before being medically discharged for scarlet fever. Earning his college degree in business administration and statistics in June 1959.

  And his marriage to his dear Elisabeth in February of 1950.

  At 39, after working for his uncle for nearly two decades, Weingarten landed a job as a management analyst at an Air Force Base in Rome, New York. He later was transferred to the Census Bureau in Suitland, Maryland. He ended his 26-year-career there as senior economic advisor to the assistant director for economic fields in 1984.

  Until a few years ago, Weingarten still read the “Wall Street Journal” every day, his nephew said. When visiting him one day at The Stratford in Carmel, Joe Weingarten noticed the newspaper tucked under his uncle’s arm.

  He asked someone at The Stratford if he still read it. “No, he just carries it around,” he was told. Joe Weingarten canceled his uncle’s subscription. The next time he visited, Weingarten had found a copy of IndyStar and had it tucked under his arm.

  Weingarten and Elisabeth moved to The Stratford retirement community about 10 years ago to be near his nephew. He and Elisabeth, who died several years ago, never had children, due to her time in four concentration camps.

  Contributed by the Indianapolis Star


  Name: Mel Chance

  City/Town: Nashville

  Age: 89

  Died: Nov. 21

  Days before his 90th birthday, Milton “Mel” Chance passed away from complications due to COVID-19.

  Chance was a well-known musician in Brown County who loved sharing his music and teaching it to others.

  He played in the worship band at church and did spotlight gigs in Nashville. He also played in three local bands: Nostalgia, the Brown County Community Band and the Mizfits. Chance also had his own band, called the Noteables.

  When he wasn’t playing music, he was teaching private music lessons to children and adults. 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. He also would teach 25 students on Friday evenings and all day Saturdays at Bob Carter’s music store. Carter was also known as Sammy Terry, late-night horror movie TV host.

  After retiring, Chance repaired clarinets at Musicians’ Repair and Sales in downtown Indianapolis.

  ”He will be remembered most for his love of music, his ability to encourage youth and his unyielding faith in God,” his obituary read.

  His wife Virginia “Jenny” survives him, along with four children and 10 grandchildren.

  Contributed by the Brown County Democrat


  Name: Clyde Shady

  City/Town: Bluffton

  Age: 82

  Died: Nov. 11

  Clyde Shady was a hard working man until he had a stroke in 2018.

  He and his wife Phyllis Shady lived at Christian Care Retirement Community, but by 2020, his wife lived in the independent section, while he needed more care.

  He was well known in the community for his award-winning gardening. Some favorites were his strawberries in the summer and his pumpkins, gourds, squash and Indian corn in the fall. He and his wife were active members at First Baptist Church, where they were married in 1958.

  Phyllis Shady, 79, died on April 20. While her death wasn’t due to COVID-19, the pandemic had already caused restrictions to be put in place, including at Christian Care. Clyde Shady could not be with his wife when she died because of that protocol.

  In June, Christian Care posted a photo to Facebook of Clyde holding a sign to his family: “Hello, I’m doing fine. Love, Dad.”

  Due to restrictions, his son had not even been able to clean out his deceased mother’s apartment yet. Her service wasn’t held until September.

  When he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Nov. 3, Clyde Shady told his son that he knew he couldn’t fight it because of his current condition. His oxygen levels could not keep up. He died on Nov. 11 of COVID-related pneumonia.

  Contributed by the Bluffton News-Banner

  Name: Jeanette “Jan” Diehl

  City/Town: Bluffton

  Age: 89

  Died: Nov. 23

  Jan Diehl spent 22 years of retirement in sunny Florida with her husband Don Diehl. They were married for 54 years.

  She loved spending time on the beach and collecting shells.

  Even though the couple was from Chicago, they decided to enter the next phase of retirement at Christian Care Retirement Community in Bluffton, where their daughter is the administrator.

  When her husband became sick in early November, both of them were tested for COVID-19 and tested negative. But still, Don Diehl was sick. His oxygen level couldn’t stay elevated, and he died Nov. 5.

  The next day, Jan Diehl tested positive for COVID-19. She was sick but was eventually moved out of the COVID ward. Then she just seemed to lose her appetite completely, her daughter said.

  Jan Diehl had dementia, so the death of her husband had to be explained multiple times on multiple days. The moves from her home she shared with her husband to the COVID ward and then to her new home strained her due to her condition.

  Then her oxygen levels began to drop, similarly to how her husband’s had.

  Jan Diehl died 18 days after her husband.

  Contributed by the Bluffton News-Banner

  Name: Walt “Junior” Neuenschwander

  City/Town: Bluffton

  Age: 76

  Died: Dec. 2

  Walt “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. Four days after that, he was put on a ventilator at Dupont Hospital in Fort Wayne. He died Dec. 2 at the age of 76.

  He was a dairy farmer for 22 years, receiving the “Outstanding Young Farmer” award twice. He retired from Edy’s Grand Ice Cream after 21 years, and was listed on the company’s “I Made a Difference” Hall of Fame.

  His hobbies included wintering in Florida, golfing, traveling and attending his grandchildren’s sporting and musical events.

  Walt had a joke for any situation and was the life of the party, his daughter remembers. His joyful spirit attracted people to him.

  His family joked about how easily Walt could cry, but they say it’s because he was the most loving and tender man who showed love and compassion to everyone he met.

  He was his daughter’s hero. He was generous and Godly.

  “Dad was becoming frustrated with this world; but only because he cared so much about it,” Kathy wrote for her father’s funeral. “He made a difference, and I guess that’s why it is so very, very painful to let him go. Dad wasn’t perfect — but he is now.”

  Contributed by the Bluffton News-Banner


  Name: Virgil Johnson

  City/Town: Franklin

  Age: 94

  Died: Nov. 26

  In sickness and in health, the Johnsons stood together to meet all of life’s challenges for 70 years.

  They weathered strokes and bouts with cancer. It took a deadly virus to separate them.

  Norma Johnson, 90, of Franklin, lived at Homeview Health and Rehabilitation Center with her husband, Virgil Johnson, 94, for the last three years. 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. Earlier in life, he spent his spare time beautifying their yard.

  He also served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was honorably discharged.

  “He was a World War II veteran. He said, ‘I survived that, but I can’t survive this,’” Johnson said.

  He will be cherished and remembered forever by his two children; grandson Michael Carlson; and his great-grandson, Kash Carlson.

  Contributed by the Daily Journal in Johnson County


  Name: Jerry Rennick

  City/Town: Kingman

  Age: 67

  Died: April 11

  Jerry 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. Rennick isolated himself in his apartment.

  A week later, Rennick, who had COPD, sent Baldwin a text saying he couldn’t breathe and was calling an ambulance. He spent three days in a Williamsport hospital before he was transferred to a hospital in Indianapolis and hooked up to a ventilator.

  As Rennick continued battling the illness, his family urged the community not to shrug off the virus.

  “This is not a time for finger-pointing. This is a time for love and compassion and support,” Baldwin said. “We really, as humans, need to come together on this. No human lives should be lost over something we can prevent.”

  Contributed by the Journal Review in Crawfordsville


  Name: Parker Knoll

  City/Town: Indianapolis

  Age: 68

  Died: April 10

  Pastor Parker Knoll and his son, Jon, spent their last day together at a Chicago Blackhawks game.

  Born and raised in Illinois, Pastor Knoll was a fan of the Cubs, Bulls, Bears and Hawks. But he had never seen the latter in person. So, for the March 8, 2020, game against the rival St. Louis Blues, father and son took a trip to Chicago, getting their fill of Garrett popcorn and Gino’s East pizza before heading to the United Center.

  ”The Blues won, 2-to-nothing, but he didn’t care,” Jon said. “He just loved being at the game.”

  Knoll died of COVID-19 on April 10 — Good Friday. 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. Knoll last preached in August 2019 at Christ Lutheran Church in Irvington.

  ”He was just a humble servant of God,” his wife, Linda, said.

  That was evident to all who knew him, said St. John Lutheran Church Senior Pastor Troy Countryman.

  ”Pastor Knoll loved Jesus with all his heart,” Countryman said, “and he conveyed that love to his family and all those he served.”

  When not ministering, Knoll gardened — his father ran a greenhouse as he was growing up — tending to his geraniums and other seasonal flowers. He often shared gardening tips and knowledge with his daughter-in-law, Gretchen.

  And he loved sports, cheering for his beloved Chicago teams as well as the Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers.

  Knoll adored his 2-year-old granddaughter, Charlotte, and shared with her his love of Disney’s “Dumbo” — a movie she’s asked to watch several times since he fell ill.

  Around mid-March, he developed a cough he initially attributed to allergies. But it persisted, and a pneumonia diagnosis soon followed.

  He was hospitalized on breathing support for about two weeks, Jon said. When it was evident he was going to pass, his care team at Franciscan Health arranged a Zoom call for the family and their pastors. 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” Connor

  City/Town: Indianapolis

  Age: 86

  Died: April 12

  Patty 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. She was right there with her kids, doing flips in the pool and going down the slide.

  She would play tennis and ride bikes with her children. At weddings, she danced the whole time.

  When she was 83, her family had a kickball tournament for one of Connor’s daughter’s birthdays. 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. Born In Indianapolis on Dec. 31, 1933, Connor was named IndyStar’s Baby New Year.

  In 1956, Connor married Lawrence “Bo” Connor after being set up on a blind date. Bo Connor was a longtime managing editor at IndyStar, and together the two of them seemed to know just about everyone.

  Patricia Connor enjoyed attending the dinners her husband was invited to for work, but she also appreciated large dinners with her family. Altogether the couple had six children — Carolyn, Julia, Lawrence Jr., Maureen, Janet and Michael — plus 16 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

  People, young and old, were drawn to the couple. Growing up, Kahler and her sister Maureen Stark said their friends would flock to their house and enjoy talking to their mom.

  ”She had lots of friends who were multi-generational,” Kahler said. “She never seemed like an old lady, or had just old lady friends.”

  Connor and her husband also enjoyed traveling and oftentimes returned home with new friends. When the Connors went to Europe decades ago, they ended up befriending a tour guide who they stayed friends with until the ends of their lives.

  “She looked on the bright side of everything. She had lots of friends because of that,” Kahler said. “People gravitated to her.”

  Connor was diagnosed with pneumonia about 10 days before her death. The next week she was tested for coronavirus two separate times. Her positive results came back on Good Friday.

  Her family knew she wasn’t doing well, but they weren’t able to visit. 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. But her love for life will always be remembered.

  Contributed by the Indianapolis Star


  Name: Paul Loggan

  City/Town: Indianapolis

  Age: 57

  Died: April 12

  One thing you learn in a business of covering high school sports is that athletic directors work crazy hours.

  Paul Loggan certainly did. Loggan was a regular in the North Central High School gym, on the football field or driving a utility vehicle somewhere on the North Central campus.

  Loggan, who died April 12 at age 57 after a battle with coronavirus, was like a lot of athletic directors that way. He probably had more to do than most at a school with an enrollment of nearly 4,000 and a strong tradition in several sports in Indianapolis.

  But work ethic alone is not what made Loggan special. He almost always had his family by his side, whether it was wife Kathy, sons Michael and Will, or daughter Sami.?

  No matter how many hours he put in to his job, it was clear that they were part of the journey.

  “They were always together,” said Warren Central athletic director Marques Clayton, a close competitor of North Central in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference. “Kathy, too. It was clear that Paul was preparing his kids for the next step, whatever that might be.”

  Michael, the Loggans’ oldest son, kept the public notified through social media of Paul’s condition from the time he was admitted to the intensive care unit and put on a ventilator at St. Vincent on April 1.

  The outpouring of support from former and current athletes and colleagues at North Central and throughout Central Indiana was immediate and widespread. Loggan’s story was shared on national news television programs.

  Michael Loggan posted an update on Easter with picture of a “Paul Strong” sign outside of North Central. “Happy Easter to all!” Loggan wrote. “Blessed to be a part of such an amazing community. Praying for that Easter Miracle! #Paulstrong”

  Michael later posted that his father had passed away at 1:32 p.m. that day.

  “He gave us everything he had and that’s all we can ask for,” Michael wrote. “My dad passed away today at 1:32 p.m. Dad know you have a whole team down here that loves you and please look after all of us. #Paulstrong”

  Contributed by the Indianapolis Star


  Name: Roberta “Birdie” Shelton

  City/Town: Indianapolis

  Age: 69

  Died: March 20, 2020

  Her 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 was always staging charity events and benefits. They often included concerts drawing on her ties to the local music scene. One friend called her “the fundraiser queen.”

  But Birdie won’t be helping in the fight against coronavirus. Fate intervened at Community Hospital East, where Shelton died in March 2020.

  Shelton’s diagnosis was confirmed by her companion and employer Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

  An Enterprise spokeswoman said the family informed the company of her diagnosis on March 14 and “out of an abundance of caution” employees in the same driver pool were instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days. The company also took additional steps to sanitize all offices and vehicles.

  Shelton’s friends hope her death — like her life — resonates with Hoosiers.

  They want people to know what an amazing person she was. They want people to understand victims aren’t anonymous statistics or numbers. They want people to heed the warnings about COVID-19 and practice social distancing. And they want everyone to realize the virus can strike anyone, anywhere — just as it did their cherished friend.

  Shelton, who graduated from Northwest High School in 1970, had worked at IndyGo and Enterprise and was active with the Loyal Order of Moose Lodge 1883 in Beech Grove for 25 years. She also volunteered to help women leaving prison, advocated for abused and stray dogs, and was a tireless supporter of local bands and musicians, including her companion Tony Sizemore.

  Kim Beward said Shelton did not have any close relatives. But she had a large extended “family.”

  ”All she had in this world were her friends and musicians and Tony,” she said. “There are some nieces and nephews. But I heard from a bunch of people on Facebook that were like, ‘she practically raised me’ and ‘she was like a second mom to me.’ I’ve heard a lot of that.”

  Beward, 55, met Shelton about 11 years ago when Shelton was volunteering with a nonprofit that helped women reintegrate into society after being released from prison. They quickly became fast friends. Beward even hired Birdie to help with her commercial cleaning business.

  One memory Beward said typified Shelton’s caring spirit is of a night they spent together on the roof of Charlie Brown’s restaurant in Speedway. The stunt was a fundraiser to fight homelessness among former inmates.

  ”We wanted to make sure that women had clothes and help them find jobs, get the services and benefits that they needed, that kind of thing,” said Beward, who stayed in contact with Shelton after moving to Maryland about four years ago.

  It was just one of many fundraisers Shelton organized. Another was a 2017 concert and motorcycle ride to help the families of Abby Williams and Libby German, the young girls who went missing in Delphi and were later found dead. Finding their killer was a cause Shelton continued to support on her Facebook page.

  Just a month before her death, Shelton organized a celebration of life for a local musician. And when it was over, as was typical, Shelton took to Facebook to thank everyone else who helped with the event.

  ”We shed a few tears today and a whole lot of laughs. We had so much food we didn’t have room to sit it all out,” she wrote in the Feb. 9, 2020, post. “Danny we all miss you terribly & love you so much but we know you are playing in that Band in Heaven with Dean Kennedy & the rest of your friends pain free & healthy.”

  ”To know Birdie was to love her. She is definitely a legend in my eyes and throughout the city of Indianapolis,” said Penney Bray, who has started a GoFundMe page to help pay for Shelton’s funeral and other expenses.

  Contributed by the Indianapolis Star


  Name: Scott Gordon

  City/Town: Columbus

  Age: 56

  Died: Nov. 15

  The EMS family of Scott Gordon, his coworkers and friends and some whose lives he saved gathered for a final farewell to the EMT/paramedic lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  On a windswept rainy tarmac near Cummins Aviation at the Columbus Municipal Airport, two Columbus fire trucks displayed a huge American flag over the dais, where co-workers and EMS officials honored Gordon’s legacy to Columbus Regional Health’s ambulance service and his service in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.

  A Columbus Regional Health ambulance covered in a black shroud was nearby. Columbus and fire department honor guards, along with bagpipers, flanked the dais, and dozens of Gordon’s co-workers wearing masks huddled together at the front, several weeping and sharing hugs during the ceremony and when the bugler played “Taps.”

  Gordon’s funeral came six days after his unexpected death at Columbus Regional Hospital on Nov. 15 at age 56.

  He was believed to have been exposed to the virus after his partner on the ambulance also became infected. He is the first CRH employee who has died from COVID-19, hospital officials said. Gordon was working in a supervisory role as shift coordinator for CRH EMS Services, but still providing patient care, before his death.

  Described as a superhero by some, Gordon was remembered for his passion working as a paramedic and for training the next generation of EMTs and paramedics.

  Melissa Hill, a CRH paramedic who had worked with Gordon for about 15 years, described how Gordon approached on-boarding new EMS personnel.

  “Through the past 15 years, the thing I will always remember is that he said to me, ‘I will always be around to help. All you need to do is ask,’” she said.

  Describing Gordon as a paramedic’s greatest supporter and most vocal critic, Hill said Gordon taught his students to master the skills necessary to do excellent work.?

  Bartholomew County E911 conducted the final radio call for Gordon, saying “9603 (Gordon) is 10-42, he will be deeply missed.” The radio call 10-42 refers to ending a tour of duty.

  At EMS headquarters, mourners carrying white carnations placed them on a tarp near an ambulance in honor of Gordon.

  As the procession left the airport, at the first turn, a Columbus police officer held a sign that said, “Thank You,” as the vehicles passed by.

  And further down the procession route, two local residents were holding a sign that said, “Goodbye friend.”

  Contributed by The Republic, Columbus


  Name: Sharon Carr

  City/Town: Crawfordsville

  Age: 80

  Died: Nov. 17

  If you were young enough to be her grandchild, she was “Nana.”

  Before her retirement, she worked at local factories and fast-food restaurants. She was a member of the Crescendos Chorus and Red Hat Society and was serious about her faith, regularly attending two churches. She was an avid viewer of “Days of Our Lives.”

  Like her daughter Dee, who died from COVID-19 in July, she enjoyed traveling. 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. She required full-time oxygen treatments by the time she was hospitalized and was later hooked up to a ventilator.

  “Her lungs just turned to cement,” Fettig said.

  Contributed by the Journal Review in Crawfordsville


  Name: Thomas Popcheff

  City/Town: Speedway

  Age: 69

  Died: April 5

  Thomas Popcheff’s first job was cutting grass for the Speedway Parks Department in the 1960s. Decades later, as president of the development commission, he was still doing essential work for Speedway.

  And in between, Popcheff reveled in everything the town offered.

  “The month of May was something special,” daughter Nikki Popcheff, 41, said. “There’d be 50, 100 people at our house on Indianapolis 500 race weekend. Every inch of floor space was taken, and tents were in the yard. 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. “It was a time when the race wasn’t big, big business and Main Street wasn’t a hot spot.”

  On his return, Popcheff glided right back into civic life, joining several Speedway boards just as the downtown underwent unprecedented development.

  On the redevelopment commission, Popcheff helped steer the final stages of the downtown resurgence. Main Street between 10th and 16th streets burst with new businesses, building renovations and development projects. 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


  Name: William ‘Bo’ Crain

  City/Town: Indianapolis

  Age: 81

  Died: May 7

  It was more than 60 years ago, but Ray Satterfield still remembers that booming voice in the Shortridge High School gym.

  Basketball coach Cleon Reynolds had his team run 20 laps at the close of a practice during the 1958-59 season. Satterfield, a junior, and buddy Lou Williams, another junior, decided they would all-out sprint the final two laps. That was the plan, at least.

  “Ten more!” a voice called out from behind them.

  Satterfield and Williams did not have to turn around to figure out where it came from. It was not Reynolds, but senior Bo Crain.

  “Lou and I just looked at each other,” Satterfield said with a laugh. “We were incredulous. But there was nothing Bo would ever tell us to do that he wouldn’t do himself. We was our captain, our leader.”

  William “Bo” Crain, 81, died May 7, a month after testing positive for COVID-19. 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. He excelled in baseball and basketball at Shortridge, where he was named to the prestigious Indiana All-Stars team as a senior in 1959.

  Shortridge was ranked third in the state that season entering the sectional with a balanced, veteran team. Crain, at 6-2 and 175 pounds, anchored the front line. Gerry Williams, who would go on to star at Butler in basketball and track and field, was a 5-9 senior guard and second in scoring to Crain.

  “He was Batman and I was Robin,” said Williams, who set the state record with a 6-6 high jump as a senior. “Bo was tenacious. Some people talk about people who would run through a brick wall. That was Bo. Not me. I might jump over it. But we all followed his lead.”

  Shortridge had the makings of a state championship team that year. But after beating rival Crispus Attucks twice during the regular season, Shortridge lost a 63-62 heartbreaker to the Tigers in the sectional semifinal in front of a sellout crowd at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Crain scored 21 points but it was not enough.

  Attucks went on to win the state championship, its third in five years.

  “I still haven’t gotten over it,” Satterfield said. “We had a great team. We were picked by many of the sportswriters to win state, but it’s hard to beat a team three times in one year, especially a team like Attucks.”

  After high school, Crain went on to Weber College in Ogden, Utah, before transferring to the University of Utah after one year. He was an all-conference player in the Mountain States Athletic Conference, averaging 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds as a junior in 1961-62 and was again the team’s leading scorer as a senior.

  Crain was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.

  Crain returned to Indianapolis after college and continued to play in leagues and games at the Dearborn Gym, the Fall Creek YMCA and the Dust Bowl. Clarence Crain, the youngest of the seven Crains and junior on the 1968 Shortridge state finalist team, remembers tagging along and watching his oldest brother play in some of those games.

  “Sometimes they’d let me play with them,” Clarence Crain said. “Bo’s game was about hustle. He was fairly quick, but he had this mentality that nobody was going to outwork him. That’s what made him a great leader.”

  That served Crain well as an adult. After returning to Indianapolis in the mid-1960s, he began a career at Chrysler Corporation that lasted until his retirement in 1994. But he went back to work as a security guard for Securitas, where he worked until a second retirement in 2018.

  “He wasn’t going to stop working,” Clarence said. “That was the kind of mentality he took from sports.”

  Crain is survived by his wife of 35 years, Marilyn (Morris), along with stepsons Charles and Andre Ervin, Tony Mason and stepdaughter Kathy Mason. Others left to mourn his passing are sisters Annie Cox, Rose Crain and Louise Crain, brothers Thomas and Clarence Crain. His parents and brother, Curtis Crain, preceded him in death.

  Crain was involved in the community as a founding member of the Cosmo Knights social club, which developed scholarship programs for students. He was a member of the Holy Angels Catholic Church and a member of the Knights of Claver Council 109.

  Contributed by the Indianapolis Star


  Name: Helen Densmore

  City/Town: Mishawaka

  Age: 43

  Died: May 30

  Helen 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. So I’m not going to come by,’” Rose Mary recalled. “And I told her, ‘That’s OK. I’ll see you in a few days.’

  “And we never saw her again.”

  On May 15, Helen told family members, she received the results of a COVID-19 test: positive. She also said she had been battling a kidney infection. Two weeks later, she died of complications from her battle with the virus.

  Helen’s family didn’t want to hide her cause of death, referring to COVID-19 in her obituary. A doctor ruled coronavirus as the cause of death, while also noting that Helen had diabetes and high blood pressure.

  “She was young, had her whole life ahead of her. If it would have been me, it would have been a different story,” Rose Mary said. “I lost my daughter to this. This is real. It’s not a hoax. It’s not a joke.”

  Helen was born in Ohio, but the family moved to northern Indiana when she was a young child. Helen spent the rest of her life there.

  Family members recalled her skill with crafts and the creative gifts she would make, such as scrapbooks for her nieces and wedding and baby shower invitations for her sister.

  They remembered the summers they spent together at the lake. They remembered when Helen was a young girl — the one sibling who never liked having her hands dirty, even when the other two had no problem rolling around in the mud.

  “Helen was an adventurous person. One time I said something about wanting to go on a train trip. The next thing I know, she called and said, ‘Mom, what are you doing Friday? Pack your bags because we’re getting on a train,’” Rose Mary said. “It was a spontaneous trip to the Navy Pier in Chicago, and it’s one of my favorites with her. That’s the kind of person she was.”

  “She was selfless,” said her sister, Alexandria Hall. “She might not have taken care of herself as much as she needed to, but she would always give the shirt off her back for somebody else.”

  Helen’s gift for Mother’s Day was still sitting in her house a few weeks after her death. She also planned to give the same gift to her sister: hand-made address labels with small pictures, and fresh flowers.

  Contributed by the South Bend Tribune


  Name: Marge Dudeck

  City/Town: South Bend

  Age: 85

  Died: Jan. 13

  Marge 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 radiated friendship. She radiated talent. She radiated stardom.”

  Even after her retirement in 2015, she continued to perform twice a month as a resident at St. Paul’s Retirement Community, until the coronavirus shut down group activities in March and, several months later, reached Dudeck. 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. “‘Don’t play for yourself. 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. “She had two lives, and she gave her all to both.”

  At St. Paul’s, Dudeck played twice a month, once for the assisted living residents and once at the weekly cocktail party. On those latter weeks, Community Life Coordinator Ruth Metcalf said, she had to set up extra tables and chairs and purchase extra alcohol.

  “As word spread around through the facility, it was like, ‘Did you see who moved in?’” Metcalf said. “It was quite a stir. They all knew her and had to come to see her, even when she wasn’t performing.”

  Contributed by the South Bend Tribune


  Name: Peter Yu

  City/Town: South Bend

  Age: 63

  Died: Oct. 31

  On Oct. 20, Dr. Peter L. Yu was doing what he had done for three decades at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, making rounds to see patients, when he fainted.

  Taken to the emergency room, the initial test for COVID-19 came back negative as he was admitted to the care of his colleagues.

  On the next day, a second test came back positive. But Yu told an old classmate from medical school on the phone, “I’ll be out of here soon.”

  His condition wavered. Pneumonia took grip. So did kidney failure from his diabetes and hypertension. He seemed to improve, then suddenly declined again. 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 will be greatly missed. ”

  Yu was a doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Aside from Memorial, he was a consulting doctor at four local nursing homes. He also had owned rehab medicine clinics in South Bend and Merrillville.

  Born in the Philippines, Yu moved with his parents to Japan, where he resided for almost 10 years before returning to the Philippines. There he finished high school and enrolled in and graduated from medical school at the University of Santo Tomas in 1979, at just 22 years old.

  He was the youngest in his graduating class, a group that he stayed close to over the past four decades, said classmate and close friend, Dr. Greg Tan, who is a cardiologist in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

  Locally, Yu was a regular at the noon Sunday Mass at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Granger, where he dressed in a suit and tie. He was deeply faithful and proud to serve as a lector, said the Rev. Bill Schooler.

  “He would never brag about anything,” Schooler said, noting that he became pastor at the church 20 years ago, when Yu was already a parishioner. “He was very humble about his ministry. He never brought attention to himself.”

  Yu had settled in the South Bend area after completing his residency at the University of Alabama. 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


  Name: Ralph Inabnit

  City/Town: New Carlisle

  Age: 76

  Died: Dec. 11

  Brent Inabnit remembers telling his retirement-age father, Dr. Ralph Inabnit, to slow down.

  The concept was foreign to “Dr. I.”

  In Ralph Inabnit’s prime, the primary care physician worked 65 to 70 hours a week. In recent years, Inabnit finally cut back but kept seeing patients at an office at the South Bend Clinic and making rounds at several nursing homes.

  Inabnit was still visiting his patients at nursing homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, suited up head-to-toe in protective gear.

  “He said, ‘You should see me. I look like I have on a space suit,’” his daughter, Mindy Higginson, recalled, though she still worried.

  Inabnit began to feel tired the weekend after Thanksgiving. That Monday, Nov. 30, he started having trouble breathing and tested positive for the coronavirus. 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. “He treated every person like it was the queen of England or the president of the United States.”

  Born in central Indiana, Inabnit initially worked in home construction and pharmaceutical sales. At age 32, with two young children, he decided to go to medical school.

  He brought his family to South Bend in the early 1980s and became the first osteopathic resident at Memorial Hospital. When it came time to decide where to practice medicine, he settled on New Carlisle and stayed there for almost three decades.

  Inabnit was a jack-of-all-trades “country doctor,” Higginson said.

  He stitched up wounds. He set broken bones. He delivered babies. He made house calls.

  “He just became the legend of New Carlisle,” Higginson said. “Everybody knew my dad.”

  Soon after opening his office in New Carlisle, Inabnit began throwing an annual summer picnic that started as a modest cookout but grew to a bash that drew hundreds and featured live music, catered chicken and door prizes from area businesses.

  When Curtis took over as head football coach at New Prairie, he asked Inabnit to serve as team doctor. 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. “That’s really unusual for a primary-care doctor.”

  Contributed by the South Bend Tribune