One of the biggest challenges of this unsettling time is the isolation we feel as we’re separated from friends and family, all the people for whom we care most deeply. But just being alone is only part of the difficulty. Our sense of remoteness is intensified by a pall of unease we can’t define: Loss and sorrow are also in the air. We fear losing—or we may have already lost—people we love. And when we work up the courage to look beyond our individual personal spheres, we see that many people who have made our world better, in big and small ways, have vanished before we were ready to let them go.
But not even sorrow is one-dimensional. There can always be at least a glimmer of joy in remembering things that people gave us while they were here. In his jubilant and revivifying memoir, I Remember, the artist and writer Joe Brainard tabulated all the little things that can come to shape how we think about life. It’s a book of large truths disguised as small ones: “I remember,” he writes, “those times of not knowing if you feel really happy or really sad. (Wet eyes and a high heart.)”
We have no roadmap for this new territory. But we all, at one time or another, have reason to mourn. Maybe we can be better at celebrating life even as we’re saddened by its loss. That’s the goal of this list: to acknowledge the remarkable and joyful lives of some of those we have lost. It’s not comprehensive, nor is it meant to be. These are just some of the people who have been taken from us, even as they have left us much to remember them by. Let’s think of them with wet eyes and a high heart. —Stephanie Zacharek
On April 3, police officers from across Northern California solemnly lined up their vehicles to honor Marylou Armer, a police detective in Santa Rosa who is the first known law enforcement officer in the state to die of complications from the coronavirus. As a helicopter whirred above, a line of black-and-whites stretching to the horizon traveled more than 50 miles, escorting a hearse that drove her body from a hospital in Vallejo to a cemetery in Napa.
“Marylou made a difference, as a detective and as a person,” Santa Rosa Police Chief Rainer Navarro told the Sonoma Index-Tribune. “She exude[d] the professionalism and the character that I think every person in our department carries.”
Law enforcement officers throughout the country have been struck by the virus, as they have continued to go to work amid the pandemic. Acknowledging these circumstances, local officials described Armer’s death as occurring in the line of duty. The detective tested positive for COVID-19 in early March and died on March 31, leaving behind her husband and daughter. She was 43.
“Marylou was a bright light in this organization,” Navarro said in a video statement. “Marylou was always proactive and there with a smile. She was a thoughtful and committed public servant who loved helping people and loved the people she worked with.”
Armer began with the department as a field evidence technician in 1999 and went on to become a sworn officer in 2008. Her latest assignment was working for the city’s domestic violence and sexual assault team.
She grew up in the San Diego area, where she took part in a police department explorer program as a teenager. A fellow explorer, Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, now the mayor of National City, Calif., recalled Armer as one of few young women of color who took on a leadership role in the program. In a Facebook post, she described Armer as a “true role model” and reminded her constituents to, please, stay home.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom also praised Armer in a public statement, and ordered Capitol flags flown at half-staff in her honor. “Amid the current fight against COVID-19, Detective Armer selflessly and courageously served her community and the people of California,” he said. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to her family, friends, colleagues and members of the Santa Rosa community as they mourn her loss.” —Katy Steinmetz
Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong
Firefighters and hospital staff at the Luton and Dunstable University Hospital in Luton, England held a minute of silence on April 16, after 28-year-old Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong—a pregnant nurse who worked at the hospital—died of COVID-19 while her baby was saved.
Agyapong, who also went by her married name, Mary Boateng, tested positive for COVID-19 on April 5 and was hospitalized two days later. Agyapong underwent an emergency C-section shortly after she was admitted, and gave birth to a baby girl. The new mother died on April 12.
Her daugher, who was named Mary in memory of her mother, is “doing very well” according to hospital officials. Agyapong’s husband is currently self-isolating and has been tested for COVID-19.
“Mary worked here for five years and was a highly valued and loved member of our team, a fantastic nurse and a great example of what we stand for in this Trust,” David Carter, CEO of Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said in a statement.
Agyapong completed her last shift on March 12 and had not returned to work in the subsequent weeks. While working, she had not been treating COVID-19 patients. It is unclear where Ms. Agyapong contracted the virus and whether she had any pre-existing medical conditions that put her at higher risk
Since her passing, a GoFundMe page for Agyapong’s family and newborn child has raised more than $200,000 by April 17. The campaign creator, Rhoda Asiedu, wrote “it is humane for us to take care of them in every way we can during this heavy and trying time.” She added, “we will forever miss you.” —Melissa Godin
Aileen Baviera was a professor, a government analyst, the head of an NGO and a public speaker. But she will be remembered as an expert who studied China for the sake of her home—the Philippines.
Baviera got her start as one of the Philippines’ foremost China watchers in 1979, when she began her graduate studies at the University of the Philippines, specializing in contemporary China. Later, she became one of the first researchers to receive a Chinese government scholarship to spend two years as a foreign student in Beijing. She also worked part-time at the Chicago Tribune’s Beijing bureau, compiling clips of Western media reports on China.
In 1980, she returned to the Philippines and worked as a government researcher at the Department of Foreign Affairs. From there, she ventured back into academia, teaching at Ateneo de Manila University and the University of the Philippines, where she earned a Ph.D. in political science in 2003. She then served as dean of the university’s Asian Center from 2003 to 2009. Her colleagues and students remember her for her balanced insight on Philippines-China relations and influential ideas about the social and economic issues common to the two developing countries.
“She shared her network with us her students and was responsible for making the study of international relations in the Philippines accessible to as many people as possible,” Ederson Delos Trino Tapia, one of Baviera’s former students, says. He is now a public administration professor and dean at the College of Continuing, Advanced and Professional Studies at the University of Makati in Manila. “I will never forget Aileen’s impact on my life as a young international relations student.”
Baviera died at age 60 on March 23 at the San Lavaro Hospital in Manila after contracting the coronavirus. She had attended an academic conference in Paris where one participant was diagnosed with COVID-19, her university said.
She was founding president of the Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress, an NGO that promotes peace and cultural understanding through international dialogue and cooperation.
“She was an exacting but generous mentor to the next generation of social scientists and strategic thinkers in the country and in Southeast Asia,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post. “She was a dear friend and an exceptional individual.” —Hillary Leung
María Teresa de Borbón-Parma
Despite being a descendent of Spanish royalty, María Teresa de Borbón-Parma made a name for herself in her own right, forging a career as an academic and political activist.
After studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, she reportedly served as a professor there and at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and developed a reputation as an outspoken socialist and a defender of women’s rights. For her views, historian Josep Carles Clemente dubbed her “The Red Princess” and described her “vehement defense of the most needy and of democracy.”
As the daughter of Francisco Javier de Borbón-Parma, a member of a cadet branch of the Spanish royal family, she also carried on her heritage by supporting Carlism, which advocates an alternative succession for the Spanish throne. Members of the Carlist movement claimed that Francisco Javier was the legitimate Spanish ruler, and he laid claim to the Spanish crown in 1952, although he was not widely recognized as Spain’s ruler.
Her brother, Sixto Enrique de Borbón, said she died at age 86 in Paris from COVID-19, in a message posted on Facebook on March 26.
“Don Sixto Enrique is saddened, and asks you to pray for his sister’s eternal rest,” the message said, according to a TIME translation from the original Spanish.
A funeral service was held for her in Paris, where she was born. —Tara Law
When the coronavirus crisis infiltrated her beloved New York City, Lorena Borjas sprang to action like she always did. In mid-March, the pillar of the city’s trans Latinx community set up a fund to help trans people who had lost their jobs to COVID-19. Yet on March 30, Borjas, 59, lost her own life to complications from the virus.
“Lorena was like a mother for many in the transgender community,” Bianey Garcia, one of many people aided by Borjas over the years, tells TIME. “She used to help anyone.“
Borjas had been a prominent community organizer and health educator for decades, working to end human trafficking, which she herself survived, according to the Transgender Law Center.
Her community health work included an HIV testing site Borjas set up in her own home, and a syringe exchange program for trans women using hormone injections. In 2012, she and activist Chase Strangio co-founded the Lorena Borjas Community Fund, which helped cover bail and pay legal fees for LGBTQ immigrants.
Lynly Egyes, 38, legal director of the Transgender Law Center, tells TIME she first met Borjas while working for the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center. At the time, Egyes remembers she was representing two incarcerated transgender women; Borjas “just showed up” with a much-needed birth certificate for one of the women, pulling it out of the Mary Poppins-style roller bag she always carried with her. “You never knew what was in there,” Egyes laughed.
“She’s made the world better so selflessly, so humbly, without often any type of recognition,” Egyes added. “I think she taught everyone she knew about how to be a better person.” —Madeleine Carlisle
Freddie Brown Jr. and Freddie Brown III
On March 26, Sandy Brown lost her 59-year-old husband to the coronavirus. Three days later, she lost her only son, 20, to the same invisible foe. She announced the devastating news on Facebook and offered a prayer, asking that the lives of Freddie Brown Jr., and Freddie Brown III be seen as sufficient sacrifice for the angel of death. “Take no more spouses or children from their families,” the mother pleaded. Their deaths, she said, mean “My entire immediate family is gone!”
The men lived in the Flint, Mich., area, where the younger Brown had played on the football team at Grand Blanc High School, despite suffering from asthma. He graduated in 2018 and, according to his mother, planned to enroll at Michigan State University this fall.
To remember the defensive lineman, the Grand Blanc Bobcats shared a quote on social media, plucked from the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize lecture of Mother Teresa: “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” That, the team said, was Freddie. Clinton Alexander, the team’s head coach, described Brown as “one of the kindest players I have ever had the pleasure to coach.”
Brown, Jr., served as an elder at a local church, which was feeling the loss of both men, as well as a third church member who had succumbed to the coronavirus at the end of March. According to his obituary, Brown Jr., was also an athlete, attending Southern Methodist University on a basketball scholarship. He went on to work as a produce clerk at a shopping center for 32 years. He was a snappy dresser. And, like his son, he also had an enduring habit of greeting people with a smile. —Katy Steinmetz
Araceli Buendia Ilagan
Araceli Buendia Ilagan first registered as a nurse in Florida in 1982 and was there, on the front lines, until the very end.
According to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she worked in the intensive care unit, she completed a shift in Miami on March 24. Three days later, Buendia Ilagan died due to complications from the coronavirus. She was 63.
On social media, coworkers described her as a mentor, a loyal caretaker and a fount of knowledge. Buendia Ilagan was a 5 ft., 1-in. “giant,” a fellow nurse named Garfield Phillpotts wrote on Facebook. He described her as passionate and protective, as someone who had a knack for knowing other nurses’ patients even better than they did. The veteran healthcare professional “would have been the perfect general to help lead us through this fight.” Instead, he lamented, she was among the first to fall.
According to the Miami Herald, the woman known as “Celi” to friends was the second healthcare worker in South Florida to succumb to COVID-19. The Filipina-American trained at a campus of St. Louis University in the Philippines in the late 1970s, records show, and later studied to become a nurse practitioner at Barry University in Florida.
“Araceli dedicated nearly 33 years of her life treating some of our most critically ill patients,” Jackson Memorial Hospital said in a statement. “During her long and storied career, she also mentored and trained other nurses, and was a champion for the profession.” Buendia Ilagan and others like her, the statement said, are “true heroes.” —Katy Steinmetz
On March 17, Revall Burke spent his day as a poll worker in the Illinois primary at the Zion Hill Baptist Church in Chicago’s 17th Ward, as he had done so for years. Fifteen days later, on April 1, he passed away from complications related to coronavirus. He was 60.
His death has resurfaced a debate over whether the state should have held its primary, which took place just four days before Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order to stem the virus’ spread.
At the time, Gov. Pritzker said he did not have legal authority to shut down the election and instead encouraged people to vote by mail. NBC 5 reports that at least four voters or poll workers, including Burke, tested positive for COVID-19 after the primary (although it is not clear when or where they contracted the virus).
A spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners tells TIME voters and poll workers who may have come in contact with positive cases of coronavirus at their precincts are being notified.
“He was loving and caring, a family man,” his son Malcolm Burke told Chicago Patch of the hardworking and health-conscious ex-Marine and father of six. “Everybody felt his presence in the room, because he always brought positive energy.”
“He never complained about anything. He kept a smile on his face,” Burke’s friend Mickey Powell told WGN9. “You never saw Revall frown, never.”
Burke had worked as a city employee for 15 years, most recently as a parking enforcement aide, the Chicago Sun Times reports.
He had also been a precinct captain in Chicago’s 17th ward’s Democratic organization for years, “serving our residents and working the election polls,” David Moore, the 17th ward alderman, wrote on Facebook on April 6.
“Stay safe and stay home,” Moore also wrote. “Do it in remembrance of this good brother.” —Madeleine Carlisle
When Floyd Cardoz opened Tabla in Manhattan’s Flatiron district in 1998, it was a rarity — a modern Indian restaurant with the creative precision of fine dining yet none of the pretense of a staid tasting restaurant. A place like Tabla asked diners to forget what they thought they knew about Indian cuisine — standard curries, doughy naans — and surrender to new interpretations. A spirit of celebration and warmth was pervasive; Cardoz was both fearless about expectations and passionate about his heritage, combining traditional Indian cooking with American, Italian and French twists and techniques.
The restaurant is now part of his legacy. He died on March 24 due to complications from COVID-19 after returning to New York from a trip abroad in early March. He was 59.
At Tabla, a broad, sweeping wooden staircase welcomed diners to a space that was raucous with noise and fragrant with dishes like his take on a clam pizza, or halibut with watermelon curry. (The main floor even hosted a casual “Bread Bar.”) That was Cardoz’s sweet spot: surprising customers and fellow culinary pioneers like critic Ruth Reichl, business partner Danny Meyer and restaurateur David Chang with dishes that challenged perceptions of what Indian cooking could be.
“He was a super-taster, big-hearted, stubborn as the day is long, and the most loyal friend, husband, and dad you could imagine. My heart is just broken,” Meyer said after his death.
Cardoz, born in 1960 in Mumbai, India, trained partially in Switzerland before landing in the U.S. in 1988. After Tabla, he worked at two more restaurants in New York before launching the cozy, hip downtown spot Paowalla (later reimagined and renamed Bombay Bread Bar) and two destinations in Mumbai. At Paowalla, colorful murals decorated the interior’s brick walls, and dishes like bacon-stuffed naan, masala-spiced popcorn or burrata in daal were meant to be shared, epitomizing his style of open-armed hospitality. (His New York locations are now closed.)
He became a food celebrity after winning Top Chef Masters in 2011, where his Indonesian-style short ribs won the day, and also wrote a popular cookbook in 2016, Flavorwalla, filled with spiced-up riffs on family-friendly classics like chicken soup. His latest venture, the imaginative Bombay Sweet Shop, launched this spring. He leaves behind his wife, two sons, five siblings and a trailblazing culinary legacy. —Raisa Bruner
There’s a common misconception about sports journalists: that they’re mostly a collection of repressed misanthropes, the guys (yes, mostly guys) who could never make varsity, but who somehow found a way to make an easy living going to ball games. And while this stereotype might be true in rare cases, for the most part, the traveling pack of sports journalists who type the words and shoot the pictures at arenas and stadiums across the country are passionate professionals who work odd, long nighttime and weekend hours far away from their families. The best of them would never complain about their fates—it’s still a hell of a way to make a living—but the job involves its fair share of inglorious gruntwork.
And in those moments after the games, before they have to head back to another faceless hotel room to rest up for the next event, sports journalists often only have each other to lean on. The pack forms a family. They’re good, funny people. They’re guys—and, more commonly these days, women—with whom you’d love to share a late-night beer.
So the April 12 death of New York Post sports photographer Anthony Causi, at age 48 after battling Covid-19, was a particular gut punch to that Big Apple family, which is competitive in the photo pits and press boxes, but particularly tight off the field. Causi was a favorite son. He was the person who, before or after a game, would drop his 50 pounds of photography equipment and insist on snapping a group shot of his colleagues and their families, if they happened to be at the field. “He was always looking to make people happy,” says Post sports columnist Mike Vaccaro, who had the unenviable task of eulogizing his friend in print after his death (Causi carried the Post’s back page). “I know it sounds too good to be true. But it really was.”
Causi, who leaves behind his wife and two children, won the respect of his colleagues and the athletes he covered because he combined kindness with sheer talent. His work speaks for itself: The shot of Derek Jeter touching the “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee” sign, Serena Williams at a US Open evening appointment, Megan Rapinoe flashing hardware at a ticker-tape parade, Jeter’s comically unenthusiastic response to Alex Rodriguez joining the Yanks in 2004. Tributes to Causi came pouring in, from Jeter and A-Rod and Conor McGregor, and the New York pro sports teams.
“Great sports photographers are like great point guards,” says Vaccaro. “They have to anticipate what’s going to happen two or three plays ahead.” Vaccaro points to his favorite Causi picture: of Eli Manning hugging his daughters at MetLife Stadium in December, after he played his final game as a New York Giant. “You can see all the other photographers in the background,” says Vaccaro, “not getting the picture Anthony managed to get.”
Among his colleagues, one moment stands out: at spring training in 2016, New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes took to arriving at the Florida facility in a variety of tricked-out cars. A Polaris Slinghot one morning, a Black Lamborghini the next. The photogs took to staking out the Mets parking lot each day, waiting to snap a shot of the next vehicle. “Only Anthony had the freaking balls to ask Cespedes for a ride,” says Christian Perez, a cameraman for the SNY cable network. Cespedes said yes. So he and Causi went streaking out of the parking lot at about 60 miles per hour. Causi got the shot. He always did. —Sean Gregory
Rabbi Romi Cohn
He was condemned to die at age 13, but his life was spared.
Rabbi “Romi” Cohn explained this as he performed an opening prayer for the U.S. House of Representatives in January. It was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and Cohn, a man credited with saving the lives of 56 Jewish families, was there, in part, to remind everyone of the Holocaust that many others didn’t survive — including his own mother and four siblings.
The man known more formally as Avraham Hakohen Cohn died on March 24 after being hospitalized with the coronavirus in his adopted New York City home. He was 91.
Born in 1929 in what is now Slovakia, Cohn was just a teenager when his family slipped him across the border into Hungary as those around him were being forced into concentration camps. Returning home after Hungary started mass deportation, he successfully worked to help Jewish refugees evade the Nazis, supplying them with housing and false papers, according to the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation. After the war, he moved to the United States and became a successful real estate developer on Staten Island. Cohn was also a passionate mohel, a figure who performs ritual circumcisions; he performed some 35,000 and did so for free. He also trained more than 100 other mohels, on the condition that they also refuse payment.
“Rabbi Cohn lived an incredible life of service,” his congressman, Rep. Max Rose, tweeted upon the news of his death. “His legacy reminds [us] to never accept bigotry,” Rose previously tweeted less than two months earlier, to commemorate his constituent’s prayer at the U.S. Capitol.
That day in January, Cohn was also there to impart a blessing on America’s leaders and lawmakers, people who would soon be struggling to save American lives amid the pandemic that took his own. “May the Lord deal kindly and graciously with you,” the rabbi told them. “May the Lord bestow his favor upon you and grant you peace.” —Katy Steinmetz
As one half of the open-hearted couple who famously welcomed a random teen into their Arizona home for Thanksgiving, Lonnie Dench was renowned for helping give rise to one of the most heartwarming holiday traditions known to the internet.
Now, the annual custom is how he’ll be remembered by many it inspired.
On April 5, the husband of the grandma who went viral for accidentally inviting the teen to celebrate the holiday with her family in 2016 died from complications from the coronavirus.
Jamal Hinton, the now 20-year-old who spent every Thanksgiving afterward with Lonnie and Wanda Dench since Wanda mistakenly sent him a text meant for her grandson four years ago, announced on Twitter on April 1 that Lonnie had passed away.
“As some of you may have already found out tonight Lonnie did not make it… he passed away Sunday morning,” Hinton wrote. “But Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that!”
People looked forward to their meaningful connection each year. “We just sit at the table for a couple of hours and talk the whole time and tell stories and see how we’ve been,” Hinton told TIME in November of the group’s shining hospitality example.
News of Lonnie’s passing comes a week after Hinton tweeted that both Lonnie and Wanda had COVID-19 and that Lonnie was in the hospital with pneumonia in addition to coronavirus. Wanda is under a two-week quarantine, Hinton and his girlfriend, Mikaela Grubbs, said in a YouTube video.
Hinton also recently shared a brief video of Lonnie with Wanda, which demonstrated his fun and generous spirit. “We miss you Lonnie,” Hinton wrote.
Wanda also confirmed Lonnie’s death to local news site AZFamily, describing him as the first to welcome people on Thanksgiving and the last to say goodbye. “He had the truest heart of love, like no other,” she said in a statement to the outlet. “He did so many acts of kindness that no one ever heard about. He was my hero. And I’m a better person because of him.” —Megan McCluskey
Through her painstaking translations, she brought examinations of Russian folk tales and Austrian psychoanalysis to France.
Now, her work is part of her legacy. Marguerite Derrida, a prominent French psychoanalyst and translator, reportedly died of the coronavirus on March 21 in a Parisian retirement home. She was 87.
She translated the books of Melanie Klein, an Austrian-British psychoanalyst studying children, as well as Russian authors like Vladimir Propp, a scholar focused on the structure of Russian folk tales—bringing their works to a wider audience. She also worked as a clinician after attending the Psychoanalytic Society of Paris.
Ms. Derrida was also known for her marriage to Jacques Derrida, deemed by some as the world’s most prominent philosopher. On Twitter, Philosophy Matters praised her as a “brilliant and dynamic woman” in her own right, who was also “very kind.” The Institute for Advanced Studies in Psychoanalysis also lamented that with her death, “a whole world is leaving.”
From the beginning of her life, Ms. Derrida was surrounded by intellectuals. Born in Prague, her father, Gustave Aucouturier, served as editor-in-chief of Agence France-Presse, an international news agency. Her brother, Michel Aucouturier, eventually became a renowned French expert in Slavic studies.
It was Ms. Derrida’s brother who introduced her to Jacques Derrida in 1953. Four years later, they married in a non-religious ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Mr. Derrida was studying at Harvard University. In the late 1960s, the couple moved to a modest home in the Parisian suburb Ris-Orangis where Ms. Derrida began studying anthropology with André Leroi-Gourhan.
In the decades that followed, Mr. Derrida’s philosophical work gained international attention. He became known for deconstruction theory—the notion that language and ideas carry contradictions and thus, should not be embraced wholeheartedly. He died in 2004.
The couple is survived by their two sons, Pierre Alferi and Jean Derrida, who have become notable thinkers in France, carrying forward their parents’ intellectual legacy. —Melissa Godin
Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, essential workers who have always worked behind the scenes to keep American society moving have shifted into the spotlight as they’ve been called upon to continue working during the pandemic. One of these workers was Roml Ellis of Jeffersonville, Indiana, who worked as a UPS employee for 36 years.
At the time of his death, he was working as a supervisor at Worldport, UPS’ worldwide air hub based at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, according to WDRB, a Louisville-based news source. Although he had no known preexisting health issues, he died on April 4 after testing positive for COVID-19, Clark County Health Department in Indiana confirmed to WHAS. He was 55. UPS declined to comment to TIME on his death.
Growing up in Louisville, Ellis always dedicated himself to anything he set himself to, whether it be his studies or football, Tim Murphy, Ellis’s friend since elementary school, told TIME. A teammate of Ellis’ through elementary school and high school, Murphy said that while Ellis was reserved, he had a sly sense of humor and was always someone you could count on.
“You could trust in what he’d say. If he said he would do it, he would do it,” Murphy said.
Ellis’ dedication later carried him to a football scholarship at Georgetown College, and he later graduated from the University of Louisville, according to his obituary.
Later in life, Ellis’ priority shifted to his three sons, according to Murphy, and his dependability served him well as a father. “There was always a sense of calm around him, because there was never any doubt that he would keep up his end of the deal.” —Tara Law
Alan Finder wore many hats during his three decades at the New York Times. As both a reporter and editor, he covered New York City government, international news, sports, higher education, labor, transportation and much more.
But no matter the subject, Finder approached his stories with the same even-keeled work ethic and attention to detail. He challenged power structures and gave voice to the disenfranchised; he was beloved by colleagues and served as an essential mentor to several generations of budding journalists. He died at 72 on March 24 after battling coronavirus for several weeks.
On Twitter, Times editor and reporter Richard Perez-Pena called him “the greatest colleague I’ve ever had and one of the best people I’ve known” and also noted that “Alan was a font of sanity, decency, wisdom, humor and calm in a crazy, often harsh business.”
Finder was born in 1948 in Brooklyn and started his career as a local cub reporter for the Bergen Record in Hackensack, N.J. After a four-year stint at Newsday he joined the Times in 1983, where he distinguished himself for his diligent approach to covering highly technical and corruption-plagued realms like housing, labor and transportation.
When Joan Nassivera arrived at the newspaper in 1988 as an editor, the first story she edited was one of Finder’s. “He understood who pulled the wheels of power and how these people intersected—and could explain it all to the average reader and make it interesting,” she said. “He treated editors as equals or better, even though he didn’t really need any help.”
In 1994, his reporting deflated New York City’s claim that it was giving more city contracts to women- and minority-owned companies. The next year, he uncovered the grotesque practices of New York City’s sweatshops, writing about 12-hour-days and fire doors sealed shut by large padlocks.
Over the next decade-plus, Finder would prove his flexibility, serving as a sports editor, then an education reporter, then an editor on the international desk. He took many journalists under his wing, offering them invaluable advice or just an open ear.
“He was a guy who people looked to for guidance and for help,” said Patrick McGeehan, a New York Times reporter who called Finder a friend and colleague for more than a decade. “It was not at all uncommon to see him huddled with someone, talking very quietly.”
When Finder died he was still working editing shifts at the Times, but was spending more time with his wife Elaine, daughter Lauren, and son Jacob. “He didn’t take himself seriously, and he took his job seriously enough to be one of my two favorite editors ever,” Nassivera said. “But what he did take seriously was his family.” —Andrew R. Chow
Fred the Godson
Fred the Godson’s lyricism often seemed to emanate from a different era of hip-hop. The compact Bronx wordsmith constructed his verses with a keen attention to cadence, puns, punchlines, assonances and homonyms; he was revered by many rappers and producers as one of the sharpest writers in the rap community.
“I always try to bust my brain to think about things nobody would think about, so I can prove to people I belong in this joint,” he said on the radio show The Breakfast Club in 2011.
After a decade-long career, Fred the Godson died on April 23 from complications of the coronavirus. He had been in the hospital for several weeks; on April 6, he posted a picture of himself wearing an oxygen mask on Twitter, writing, “Please keep me in y’all prayers!!!” He was 41, according to his manager David Evans.
Born Frederick Thomas in the South Bronx, Fred the Godson grew up in poverty, with a father who struggled with crack cocaine use. When he was a child, a fire in his apartment forced his family—which included his parents and five siblings—into a two-room shelter.
As a high schooler, Fred the Godson was a firsthand witness to New York’s golden age of hip-hop in the ‘90s, in which the Notorious B.I.G., Nas and Jay-Z all rose to prominence out of low-income neighborhoods. Fred the Godson idolized that slick-talking, verbose trio and rapped casually himself, but was hesitant to pursue it as a career: “I looked at rappers like superheroes,” he said in a 2012 interview. “I have rappers on this pedestal that was so high, I never thought that I could reach it myself.”
But as he progressed as a wordsmith, lacing his rhymes with metaphors and witty homonyms, he quickly realized his skill far outpaced that of many in the field. His first two mixtapes, Armageddon and City of God, became cult favorites in an era when mixtapes were still a dominant part of the hip-hop landscape. In 2011, he landed on the cover of XXL Magazine as part of their annual Freshman Class, alongside Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill and Mac Miller.
Over the next decade, Fred the Godson would deliver hundreds of voluminous, pugilistic verses on his own mixtapes and other artists’ projects. He collaborated with Diddy, Pusha T, Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Meek Mill and many other high-profile artists. He continuously resisted signing with a label: “There’s a lot of rappers I know that are signed and don’t make as much as me,” he said in a 2017 interview.
While he didn’t receive the chart success of his aforementioned colleagues, he became a respected underground veteran. His verses were stuffed with double entendres and wordplay that made listeners rewind their tapes. These included: “No label, the block signed him/ Flow off the noodle, I’m top rhymin’ [top ramen]’”; “These A&Rs are comedians like Jerry/ Cause everything they sign fell [Seinfeld]”; “Professionals built the titanic, but amateurs built the arc/ Yeah I nailed it, the hammer is in the park/ My flow they cut and paste, my grammar is very sharp.” =
He was especially active over the past six months, releasing three tapes: God Level in November, Training Day with SNL alum Jay Pharaoh in January, and Payback in March. But in early April, he was taken to the hospital, where he died several weeks later. His numerous health isses, including kidney failure, high blood pressure and diabetes, put him at higher risk after contracting the coronavirus.
The radio personality Sway Calloway said that Fred the Godson “personifies what a true MC is.” The DJ Clark Kent called him “easily one of the most dangerous MC’s around.” And the rapper Kemba, who is also from the Bronx, said he looked up to Fred the Godson as an aspiring lyricist. “Everyone thought he was the best,” he wrote on Twitter. “I was trying to be as good as he was.” —Andrew R. Chow
Conjoined twins are a rare phenomenon, occurring in about 1 of every 100,000 births. Also rare are doctors who have the ability to navigate the daunting complexities of their condition. James Goodrich, a pioneering neurosurgeon, was world-renowned for developing a method that could separate twins who were joined at the brain and skull. He shared his expertise in hundreds of cases and led teams through marathon surgeries that famously yielded independent lives.
Goodrich died on March 30 due to complications from the coronavirus, according to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, where he worked for more than 30 years. He was 73. In a statement, colleagues at the institution remembered the director of pediatric neurosurgery for his singular skills, but also for his humility. Every year, they noted, he baked holiday cookies and brought them to the nurses at the children’s hospital.
“His expertise and ability were second only to his kind heart and manner,” said Dr. Philip O. Ozuah, the CEO of Montefiore Medicine.
One of Goodrich’s highest profile cases came in 2016 when he successfully led a team of 40 doctors in a procedure to separate Jadon and Anias McDonald, who were just over a year old. The surgery lasted 27 hours. In an interview with CNN afterwards, one of his fellow doctors said that it was incredible to see, one millimeter at a time, “one turn into two.”
Another case involved Carl and Clarence Aguirre, twins from the Philippines who were joined at the top of their heads. In 2004, Goodrich led a team that performed several surgeries to separate the boys, who were then two years old. “You gave me a greatest gift,” their mother, Arlene Aguirre, wrote on Facebook on the day he died. “We will never forget you and you will always be part of our lives.” —Katy Steinmetz
Stephen Gregory was breathing OK around 8 a.m. on Thursday, April 9. A few days earlier, Stephen had tested positive for the coronavirus. He asked one of the nurses for water that morning; though he’d had an up and down fever, Stephen, who’s my father’s brother—my uncle—hadn’t been displaying any great respiratory distress. We thought he’d pull through.
But COVID-19, my family learned firsthand, ravages quickly. At some point that afternoon, his breathing stopped. Stephen Gregory—whose lanky moves propelled him to Best Dancer honors at the Park Gardens Rehabilitation and Nursing Center annual Academy Awards ceremony—was pronounced dead, after complications from the coronavirus. He was 68.
COVID-19 has stolen an all-too broad swath of humanity. This pandemic, however, has taken a particularly cruel toll on homes housing the sick, the old and infirm, the developmentally disabled. Those able to fight the coronavirus least. COVID-19 has stolen people like my uncle Stephen, who spent his life suffering from mental illness. He existed in the shadows of society, largely forgotten by all except his immediate family and those who cared for him, daily.
Stephen spent the majority of his adult life under state care. He couldn’t leave the nursing home unless someone signed him out. And while my aunt Anne and my father, Chris, were devoted to taking him to the diner or to Dunkin’—he liked buying chocolate munchkins for the nursing staff—Stephen still lived a lonely existence.
But at least Stephen had a family who cared for him, relatives he could entertain on Christmas. Despite overseeing a facility overcome by fear of the coronavirus, and despite worrying about their own safety, his health care workers looked after him, until he took his final breath. COVID-19 has taken an untold number of people far more forgotten than Stephen Gregory.
That’s something we can’t ever forget. —Sean Gregory
If some university professors come off as stuffy or aloof, William Helmreich couldn’t have been further from that stereotype. The sociology professor at the City University of New York spent years of his life walking around his city, engaging with residents face-to-face and unearthing their local histories. His quest to cover every single block of the city was documented in a series of acclaimed books, most notably The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City.
“People told me that people are not going to talk to me in New York: that they’re busy, they’re running around, and they’re nasty,” Helmreich said in a 2015 interview. “All of that turned out to be false.”
On March 28, Helmreich died at 74 from the coronavirus in his home in Great Neck, N.Y. He was in the midst of writing a study of Staten Island; his already completed study of Queens is slated for publication this fall.
Helmreich was born in 1945 in Zurich. His parents, Holocaust survivors, brought him to America a year later. They settled on the Upper West Side, but didn’t stay within the confines of the neighborhood: On weekends, Helmreich’s father would play a game with him called Last Stop, in which they would take a subway line to its final destination, then get out and discover the neighborhood.
“When we ran out of last stops, we went to the second to last stop, then the third to last stop,” he said in the same interview.
Through these explorations, Helmreich developed a deep fascination with under-documented parts of the city. After attending Yeshiva University and obtaining a doctorate at Washington University, he became a sociology professor at City College—a position he would hold for over 40 years, exploring urban sociology, religion, gentrification and the lives of Holocaust survivors. He was fearless in seeking out cloistered interview subjects—whether black power advocates, Orthodox Rabbis or a leader of Hamas—and delving deeply into their worlds.
It was this inquisitive, relentless approach that led him to his most well-known project: a four-year stroll through New York that would cover 6,000 miles and wear out nine pairs of shoes. In his journey, he found vintage auto shops, delectable hole-in-the-wall pizza joints and fishing communities. He found an old man living in a cave in upper Manhattan’s Inwood Park and struck up a relationship with him.
William Kornblum, emeritus professor of sociology at CUNY’s Graduate Center, was a friend and colleague of Helmreich for 40 years who accompanied him on some of his walks, including one to College Point in Queens. “We stopped at a lot of funky old boat yards, talking to a lot of people there, and just had a wonderful day together,” he told TIME. “That was Willie: He never let a moment go by without talking to people about where he was.”
Helmreich was the author or editor of 18 books and a frequent guest on television and radio programs. After he finished his trek through the city, he was keen to repeat it: “I might just start over,” he said in 2013. “I could keep doing this for the rest of my life.”
Kornblum says that Helmreich’s documentation of the city only takes on increased significance in the wake of coronavirus. “We’re going to be consulting his books for a very long time as we try to assess what has happened to us and our city,” he says. “The restaurants that he visited—will they still be there? Will the people in the gas stations be the same? I think we’ll look to Willie for the baseline for a lot of it.” —Andrew R. Chow
Those who knew 5-year-old Skylar Herbert the very best have described her as beautifully affectionate, always ready to give the things that are most precious. “She was the type of girl that would just run up to you and jump in your arms and hug you,” her mother, police officer LaVondria Herbert, told the Detroit News. “It didn’t matter what she was doing, she would stop what she was doing and tell me she loved me like 20 times a day.”
After weeks of struggling against complications of COVID-19, Skylar Herbert died on April 19. The young girl, whom Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has called “a real daughter of the city,” developed a rare form of meningitis after contracting the coronavirus. She is believed to be the youngest person in the state of Michigan to succumb to the disease.
Both of Skylar’s parents are first responders. Her mother has been a police officer in Detroit for 25 years, while her father, Ebbie Herbert, has worked as a firefighter for 18. In the wake of their only child’s death, the couple has been warning others not to be complacent about a virus that tends to be most deadly to older individuals. “It doesn’t care what color you are. It doesn’t care about your nationality,” her father told NBC News. “It’s just a monster that is trying to destroy whatever is in its way.”
There are no words that can capture the loss of a child, the world suddenly devoid of their habits and aspirations, the devastation of the mementos they left behind. At age 5, Skylar liked shiny things and dressing up and had dreamed of becoming a pediatric dentist, according to reports.
Many who knew the kindergartener described her as sparkling and vivacious. “Skylar touched our hearts with her cheerful spirit and brightened our [Sundays] with her smile,” wrote members of Detroit’s Metropolitan Church of God, which she attended.
In the days following her death, there was an outpouring of empathy on social media for her family. “Surviving is what my family and I will be doing here on out,” her cousin Vonte Javon wrote on Facebook. “Thank you everyone from around the nation for the love and support.” —Katy Steinmetz
Donald Reed Herring
Don Reed Herring was an Air Force veteran who dedicated his career to serving his country. But what made him “extra special,” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said in a series of tweets about her oldest brother, “was his smile—quick and crooked, it always seemed to generate its own light, one that lit up everyone around him.”
Herring, who lived in Newcastle, Okla., died of the coronavirus on April 21. He was 86. According to the Boston Globe, the cancer survivor had been diagnosed with COVID-19 approximately three weeks before he passed away and had struggled earlier this year with pneumonia. The outlet reported that although he was moved to an intensive care unit, he was not on a ventilator when he died.
Herring, who enlisted in the Air Force at 19 after a brief stint at the University of Oklahoma, was “a natural leader,” Warren said, describing him as charming and funny. According to Warren’s office, he flew bombers in the Air Force, which included combat missions to Vietnam over a five-and-a-half year period. By the time he retired in 1973, he had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel. He went on to start an auto-detailing business.
Herring is survived by his second wife, Judith Anne Hart, whom he married after his first wife, Nancy, passed away from cancer. He is also survived by his two sons, John and Jeffrey. Herring was the oldest of four siblings and leaves behind Warren and their two brothers, John and David.
In addition to his own contributions to public service, Herring’s death also serves as a stark reminder that the thought and policy leaders shaping the response to the coronavirus are not immune to the personal grief this pandemic has wrought.
“I’m grateful to the nurses and frontline staff who took care of him, but it’s hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say ‘I love you’ one more time—and no funeral for those of us who loved him to hold each other close,” Warren said. “I’ll miss you dearly my brother.” —Lissandra Villa
Nur Hassan Hussein
Nur Hassan Hussein, the former Somali Prime Minister who led his country out of one of its darkest periods, hadn’t lived in Somalia for years. But when the 82-year-old died in London, on April 1, of complications relating to the coronavirus, Somalia’s current president declared three days of national mourning. In a moving statement, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo said it was in recognition of all that Hussein had done for Somalia and its people, and that it would give the prime minister “the respect he deserves.”
Hussein took office in November of 2007, when Somalia was still reeling from a devastating civil war between Islamist insurgents, western-backed Somali forces and proxies of neigboring rivals Ethiopia and Eritrea. Tens of thousands had fled into exile; nearly a million were displaced from fighting in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, creating a humanitarian disaster. As prime minister, Hussein directed negotiations between the warring parties, which resulted in a groundbreaking peace agreement and the formation of a unity government in 2008. Somalis call him by the nickname ‘Nur Adde,’ both an honorific and a play on his first name, which means light.
In early 2009, influential Somali newspaper Hiiraan Online named him the 2008 Person of the Year, for “giving the war-weary people of Somalia hope,” and “contributing to national reconciliation in Somalia in the face of stiff internal and external resistance.” His 2007 predecessor for that award, Somali-American humanitarian Abdi Muuse Maaxaay, tells TIME that Somalis will never be able to forget what Hussein did for them. “His vision was to bring Somalia a lasting peace through dialogue. This would have never happened without Nur Adde.” —Aryn Baker
If you’ve ever wondered why Batman, James Bond, Rey Skywalker and Bilbo Baggins talk the way they do, the answer can be traced back to one man: Andrew Jack. Over a three-decade career, the dialogue coach worked on more than 80 movies, including some of the biggest franchises in film history, from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings to Avengers.
Jack helped Robert Downey Jr., a New Yorker, master Sherlock Holmes’ brusque London accent. He transformed Chris Hemsworth’s Australian drawl into Thor’s Asgardian intonations. He was instrumental in creating the many strange languages and dialects of J.R.R. Tolkein’s Middle Earth, from elvish to Black Speech to the Hobbit’s Gloucestershire-based lilt. And with his flowing white hair and towering figure, he also secured a role as Major Caluan Ematt in Star Wars episodes VII and VIII.
On March 31, Jack died at 76 from complications from the coronavirus. “He was in no pain, and he slipped away peacefully knowing that his family were all ‘with’ him,” his wife, Gabrielle Rogers, tweeted.
Born in 1944, Jack began his career as an actor, with his voice serving as his main talent: He did radio broadcasting for the BBC and overdubbed lines in films.
In the ‘70s, his acting gigs ran dry and he became a flight attendant. “I flew around the world and suddenly discovered I was learning all these accents,” he said in a 2009 interview. He got a job teaching voice and dialect at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art for many years before securing his first major dialect coaching gig, on 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Over the last two decades, Jack was in high demand, working on some of the biggest projects in Hollywood. In addition to helping Pierce Brosnan become James Bond and Christian Bale become Batman, he taught Greek and Trojan accents on 2004’s Troy, and became a crucial part of the fabric of the Avengers and Star Wars franchises. Just a few weeks before his death, he finished working on the upcoming film The Batman starring Robert Pattinson.
In an Instagram post, the Star Wars actor John Boyega paid tribute to Jack, calling him “one of the most supportive people in our industry” and “a nurturer on set and the kind of person that was always up for an uplifting conversation.” —Andrew R. Chow
“My butterfly deserves to go home like a warrior,” Zenobia Shepherd told The Washington Post, calling her daughter, Leilani Jordan, by her childhood nickname. “A woman warrior that fought for doing the right thing.”
Jordan, 27, worked part-time as a greeter at the Giant Food grocery store in Largo, Maryland. As the novel coronavirus spread across the U.S. in recent weeks, this role saw her classified as an essential frontline employee.
Shepherd told the Post Jordan was going out of her way to help elderly shoppers. When Shepard tried to tell her daughter, who suffered from cerebral palsy, about the risks associated with her work, Jordan remained undeterred.
“She said, ‘Mommy, I’m going to work because no one else is going to help the senior citizens get their groceries,’” Shepherd recalled. “She only stopped going to work when she could no longer breathe.”
Jordan tested positive for the coronavirus, and was admitted to the hospital on March 26. She died on April 1st. “It was so fast,” her brother Cedrick Jordan told Fox 5 WTTG, adding that he’d spoken with his sister every day. “Do not take this lightly … I lost my best friend.”
“Our Giant Food family is mourning Leilani’s passing,” Felismina Andrade, a spokesperson for the company, said in a statement sent to TIME. “We are committed to providing resources and support to Leilani’s family during this difficult time.” (Shepherd has also set up a GoFundMe to cover Jordan’s funeral and medical bills. It has raised over $144,000, as of April 10.)
Shepherd said her daughter loved to sing, loved going to church and loved animals — her service dog, Angel, in particular.
Jordan addressed Angel, along with her family and friends, in a message she had recorded on her phone in the days before she died, her stepfather told CNN. “She made a video saying goodbye to all us, and wished everybody the best,” he said. “She told [us], ‘See you on the other side.’” —Josiah Bates
Ronald Lewis had long been a pillar of the New Orleans community as the owner and operator of the House of Dance and Feathers, a museum that celebrates the city’s street culture and performance traditions. He died on March 20 after contracting the novel coronavirus. He was 68.
“Our hearts are heavy with the passing of Ronald Lewis. Ronald was the very definition of a culture bearer,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement. “He survived so much, and gave us so much.”
Lewis started feeling sick on March 18 and was taken to the hospital by his family, where he was tested for COVID-19. His family didn’t find out that he had tested positive until after his funeral.
“We have to take this thing seriously,” Lewis’ nephew Brent Taylor told The New Orleans Advocate. “Once it hits home, you know this virus is not playing.”
A lifelong resident of the city’s Ninth Ward, Lewis started his museum in 2003 as a way for people to experience the rich, storied culture of marching and parading in New Orleans.
Its exhibits include memorabilia, costumes, parade and marching props along with photos from social clubs. Lewis also started the Big 9 second-line parading group, where he was in charge of costume design.
“I want to educate the world about our great culture, how we do this, and why we are so successful at it even though the economics say we ain’t supposed to be,” a quote from Lewis on the museum’s website explained.
Now, Lewis is being mourned by his community and his family. “The man who molded me to be person I am today… You’ll truly be missed,” Lewis’ son Rashad wrote on Facebook. “You’re a legend in the city. And once the smoke clear we will send you off right and give you the biggest celebration possible.”
That celebration, a “jazz funeral,” is reportedly being planned — if social distancing rules allow — for July, on Lewis’ birthday. —Josiah Bates
“Gonna have to call today off bro,” Andre Ljuljovic, a doorman at the upscale UN Plaza in New York City, texted to one of his closest childhood friends, Tim Kehayas, at 8:07 a.m. on Friday, March 20. That afternoon, Keheyas, who referred to Ljuljovic as “Big Sexy” in his phone, had planned to visit his pal at the condo Ljuljovic and his new wife had recently purchased in Westchester County. Ljuljovic followed up with a picture of a CVS thermometer, showing a 100.7 degree fever. “I think I have the normal flu,” he told Keheyas. Three hours later, however, his condition had taken a harsher turn. “Whatever this is it’s knocked me down like nothing ever has before,” Ljuljovic wrote to Kehayas, who shared this text exchange with TIME, at 5:46 p.m. that same day. “Getting from spot to spot is hard my body is drained.”
The following Monday afternoon, March 23, Kehayas checked back in. “My body is killing me,” Ljuljovic responded. Still, Ljuljovic remained hopeful. “They say the 4-5 day mark are very important,” he texted. “I can get either better or worse.”
Two days later, on Wednesday, March 25, Ljulovic informed Keheyas he had checked into the hospital the night before. “Had a hard time breathing,” Ljulvocic wrote from the hospital. “Feeling better now tho.”
Those were his last words to his friend.
On Friday, March 27 — two days after Ljuljovic told Keheyas he was improving — Ljuljovic died of complications from coronavirus. He was 31.
Ljuljovic played offensive and defensive line at Archbishop Stepinac High School, in White Plains, NY, where he graduated from in 2007. Gifts purchased for his wedding the previous October include a black George Foreman 4-Serving Non-Stick Classic Contact Grill and a Lenox Tuscany Classics Martini Shaker Set. Friends from his childhood neighborhood in Yonkers, NY remember Ljuljovic as a voice of reason: When Danny Hoffer, for example, kicked an older kid during a basketball game many years ago, it was Ljuljovic who pulled him aside, gently reprimanded him, and brought him back to his house for some lemonade and a timeout. They then played some NBA 2K. Hoffner tells TIME Ljuljovic “was the most loyal man I’ve ever met.” —Sean Gregory
Shortly before he died, the young Zimbabwean journalist Zororo Makamba was preparing a segment on coronavirus and his government’s seemingly inadequate response to it. “We had written a script on health and disaster preparedness, basing our findings on Cyclone Idai and the Cholera outbreak of 2008,” Henry Hakulandaba, who co-founded the digital media company Eleven Dogs with Makamba, wrote in a message to TIME.
But on March 23, Makamba died “alone and scared” in a hospital in the capital city Harare, becoming the country’s first recorded death from the virus. He was 30. His brother Tawanda was quoted in local news media saying that the hospital where he was treated lacked a ventilator, oxygen equipment and other medical supplies. “The government is ill-prepared, it is not ready to deal with the virus,” he said.
As a journalist, Makamba often used his platform to advocate for reform and transparency. In his online talk show, “State of the Nation,” as well as appearances on other current affairs programs, Makamba argued for renewable energy, school reform, anti-corruption measures and youth empowerment.
A native of Zimbabwe, he also had ties to the United States. He attended college at Michigan State University, then received his master’s in producing from the New York Film Academy. He was also a member of one of the wealthiest families in the nation: His father is a media entrepreneur and former broadcaster, while his mother is the managing director of a food bank network.
But Makamba was also plagued by health issues. He had myasthenia gravis, a chronic neuromuscular disease, and had a surgery to remove a tumor from underneath his lung last fall. In late February, he traveled to New York to visit his college friends; when he returned, he reported flu-like symptoms and was admitted to a hospital, where he died. According to the BBC, the country’s health ministry said his pre-existing condition made him vulnerable to the disease.
His death was a warning to his nation, one final statement from a person who made it his mission to inform his fellow citizens and hold power to account. “He would easily tell a story in a very simple way for the ordinary person on the street,” Hakulandaba wrote, “and was speaking truth and facts to power.” —Andrew R. Chow
One night during my freshman year in high school, I called Ellis. The famed pianist, who died April 1 at 85 due to COVID-19, was my teacher—so it was “Mr. Marsalis” then, and I was terrified. One didn’t call him at home. But I’d found a chord progression I thought had never been heard on earth, so I dialed. His deep “Hello” still echoes in my mind.
“Mr. Marsalis! Listen to what I discovered!”
I explained it thoroughly.
“That’s good,” he said. “Now I’m gonna go back to my dinner.”
Years later, I reminded him of the story. He laughed and admitted he’d known those chords too. I asked why he hadn’t just taught them to me. “Because,” he said, “you had to figure it out yourself.”
Mr. Marsalis gave me the gift of self-discovery, a gift he shared with many others too, as he spent his last years doing what he loved, working with underserved young musicians at the New Orleans music center that bears his name. I’m a better musician—and man—because of him. —Harry Connick Jr.
Connick is a Grammy and Emmy award-winning actor and singer.
After writing and delivering so many heartfelt tributes over the years to my dear friend, the great playwright Terrence McNally, I have felt at a crippling loss for words when it comes to his recent passing due to the coronavirus.
I have just felt gutted and heartbroken. Fortunately for all of us, he was never at a loss and always knew what to say and how to say it. That was his genius.
It’s not easy to have a biting wit while wearing your heart on your sleeve, but it was a magic trick he perfected like no one else. And somehow, in spite of all of the difficulties and stresses of being in the theater, he maintained a childlike innocence and excitement about it all.
There are countless stories, just like mine, of young artists he has supported and mentored and given their first chance. He was a huge hero to the LGBTQ community, a groundbreaker and openly gay activist and writer way before it became fashionable, while he was also able to consistently reinvent himself in the theater, prolifically playing with new forms and telling us challenging stories of people trying to connect, to matter, in love and art.
It has been very gratifying to see the enormous outpouring of love and respect for Terrence and his incredible body of work over the last week. He would be very pleased and touched. As Maria Callas says at the end of Master Class, “The older I get, the less I know, but I’m certain that what we do matters. If I didn’t believe that…”
Believe me, Terrence mattered. A lot. —Nathan Lane
Lane is an Emmy- and Tony-winning actor.
“To be interesting, you must be interested.” That was the quote Maria Mercader chose to post in her Twitter biography, one that speaks to her lifelong dedication to journalism, an industry for the curious and empathetic.
Mercader, a native of New York City, started her career as a page at CBS News in 1987 and went on to work as a producer and talent executive at the company. She died March 29 at age 54 after contracting the coronavirus, CBS said. The company noted that Mercader had battled cancer and related illnesses for 20 years and “was an inspiration each time she returned to work after a setback threatened to end her life.” She was a proud survivor.
Colleagues remembered Mercader as warm, loyal and conscientious, as well as a woman of “indomitable spirit.” Longtime news anchor Dan Rather called her a “paragon of grit and grace” and described her legacy as widespread education: because of her efforts to report the news for nearly three decades, Americans learned about the world.
Mercader covered breaking news events that defined whole decades, including the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She won a business and financial reporting Emmy in 2004 for producing a story about computer spam; it was one of two nominations she earned that year. Later in her career, she worked on diversity-focused efforts for the company.
“We would joke that I’d survived one type of cancer and she’d survived all the others. And now we’ve lost her to this hideous virus,” CBS News National Correspondent Manuel Bojorquez tweeted on March 29. He offered condolences to her family and said the beloved colleague was “as inspiring and lovely as any human being could be.” —Katy Steinmetz
“Through many dangers, toils and snares / We have already come / T’was grace that brought us safe thus far / And grace will lead us home.”
“Amazing Grace” was a favorite song of Keiko Neutz. And, thanks to one of her 28 grandchildren, those lyrics are some of the final sounds the Kentucky matriarch heard before succumbing to complications of the coronavirus on March 30. She was 87.
After the mother of eight was hospitalized in Louisville, Ky., 29-year-old Lacy Taylor set up a laptop with an app that allowed family members to “drop in” to see her and speak with her and sing to her, a workaround that was necessary given that Neutz was in isolation. Family members were, at least virtually, present to the last.
Born and raised in Japan, the young woman once known as Keiko Shoka met an American soldier named Carl Neutz while working as a stenographer at a U.S. Army base, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. The two married and moved to America. Through difficult times, including prejudice that Japanese-Americans encountered in the wake of World War II and the eventual death of her husband, Neutz turned to religion. In various interviews, her family members have recalled her fortitude and faith, as well as her “spitfire” personality that was belied by her dainty stature.
After her death, Taylor and other family members began an effort to repurpose old devices that can connect other families who have been separated by the coronavirus and the protocols it demands. In honor of the matriarch’s beloved hymn, they named it the Keiko Neutz Amazing Grace Foundation. The website is adorned with a passage from Romans 12:21: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” —Katy Steinmetz
John Prine, the resilient singer-songwriter who imbued his tales of American working-class life with both bleak despondence and uproarious wit, died on April 7 from complications of the coronavirus. He was 73.
Over half a century, Prine churned out heartfelt and unforgettable songs like “Angel From Montgomery,” “Sweet Revenge” and “In Spite of Ourselves,” gaining the respect of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler and many other music legends. After starting his own label in the 1980s, he became a symbol of fierce independence for younger musicians who longed to forge their own way, whether in between genres or outside the major label system.
Prine began playing open mic sessions at Chicago bars, where word-of-mouth buzz about his wrenching lyricism quickly spread. One night in 1970, the movie critic Roger Ebert walked into the Fifth Peg where Prine, still a mailman, was playing a set that included soon-to-be-classics like “Angel from Montgomery” and “Sam Stone.” Impressed, Ebert penned Prine’s first-ever review, writing, “You wonder how anyone could have so much empathy and still be looking forward to his 24th birthday.”
In later years, Prine endured two bouts with cancer that forced him to re-learn how to sing and deepened his idiosyncratic voice. But he pressed on, achieving his highest-selling album in 2018 and criss-crossing the country to perform and impart wisdom onto younger musicians.
He was an inductee of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was named as a 2020 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. In 2015, Kacey Musgraves wrote a song saluting him and his iconoclastic spirit: ”I ain’t good at being careful / I just say what’s on my mind / Like my idea of heaven / Is to burn one with John Prine.” —Andrew R. Chow
When Gita Ramjee embarked on a small research project to evaluate vaginal microbicides as a prevention tool for HIV among sex workers in Durban, South Africa in 1996, she did not know that more than two decades of her life would be spent committed to ending HIV.
Ramjee, who died on March 31 from Covid-19 related complications at age 63, was a leading South African HIV scientist. Originally born in Uganda, Ramjee escaped from the Idi Amin regime to India and the United Kingdom, before settling in South Africa in 1981 where she raised her two sons alongside her husband. Ramjee was the chief scientific officer at the Aurum Institute, a leading HIV and tuberculosis health care organization. She was also an honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Washington, and the University of Cape Town.
Two years ago, Ramjee was named an Outstanding Female Scientist by the European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships. In reflecting on the award, Ramjee told the HIV Vaccine Trials Network that “what makes it more rewarding is that I now stand among the female giants.”
Ramjee fell ill with the coronavirus after returning to South Africa from the U.K., where she had been presenting in London.
“The passing of Prof. Ramjee comes as a huge blow to the entirety of the healthcare sector and the global fight against HIV/AIDS,” South Africa’s Deputy President David Mabuza said in a statement. “In her, we have indeed lost a champion in the fight against the HIV epidemic, ironically at the hands of this global pandemic.” —Melissa Godin
When you graduated from Dez-Ann Romain’s class she didn’t leave your life, she became your friend.
“She supported us through all our future endeavors, personal or professional,” former student Curtis Turney-Rentas, 27, tells TIME. “She taught us how to become men and women … how to be leaders in our own light.”
Romain died last month from complications related to coronavirus. She was just 36, and worked as principal of the Brooklyn Democracy Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn, a transfer high school that aims to help students who struggled in traditional high school settings graduate and move on to postsecondary education or employment.
She was the first New York City public school staff member confirmed to have died from COVID-19.
Romain was born in Trinidad and Tobago and immigrated to the U.S. at a young age. During an online vigil, Romain’s friends recalled how she often spoke about her early struggles as an immigrant, knowing her personal story encouraged the many immigrant students in her community.
Janice Lawrence-Clarke, a former substitute teacher at Brooklyn Democracy Academy, also recalls how Romain would play music in the hallways every Friday when school let out, including traditional Trinidadian soca music.
“She had a huge heart. She loved her kids, she loved to teach,” Tia Brunner, 30, another of Romain’s former students — and now a teaching assistant herself — tells TIME. “She made us feel like family. I felt like one of her sisters … She was amazing and beautiful, inside and out.”
“Her work was dedicated to uplifting students,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said in a statement provided to TIME. “Too many in our society have written off the young scholars under her stewardship, but where others saw problems she saw promise and potential … The loss of Principal Romain is particularly painful for the Brooklyn Democracy Academy family, our larger public school community, and a borough grateful for her service.”
Romain is survived by her sister Delicia, who noted during the vigil that Romain’s loved ones were “celebrating rather than mourning the exuberance and personality that was Dez-Ann Romain.” —Madeleine Carlisle
If athletes are supposed to peak in their 20s, Mary Roman didn’t get the memo.
Over the last two decades of her 84-year life, Roman was breaking records left and right at the National Senior Games (also known as the Senior Olympics), racking up over 300 medals in events including shot put and hammer throw. She was still honing her shot put technique weeks before she died on March 23 from complications of COVID-19.
“She was getting ready to go to a track meet, but said she wasn’t feeling well. She said it was just a little flu,” her son Craig Roman told TIME. “I told her, ‘OK mom, sit this one out, get rested, and come back in the springtime.”
Sports were always a major part of Roman’s life, even if she waited until her seventh decade to become a world-beater. Born in Massachusetts in 1935, Roman contracted polio as a child and took up horseback riding to strengthen her legs. In high school, she played basketball and field hockey.
If she harbored any athletic ambitions early in life, she put them aside to pursue both a career—she ascended from a bank teller to a bank executive—and a flourishing family, which would include five sons. Her children quickly proved themselves to be extremely athletic as well, and their exploits filled up much of her time: “She was constantly taking us to track events, football games, baseball games, you name it,” Michael Roman, another son, said.
Mary’s husband Granville swam in the Senior Olympics. After he died in 1999, Mary entered herself into the competitions and proved a formidable opponent. She once ranked first in the nation in both the superweight and ultraweight shot put and second in the throws pentathlon. At various times, she held the American record in the shot put in the women’s 65-69, 70-74 and 75-79 age groups.
Roman served as the Norwalk, Conn., city clerk for many years. She held prominent positions in several community organizations, including the Rotary Club (where she served as president), the YMCA and the Norwalk Senior Center. With her gregarious personality, she was an outsize figure in civic life.
“Mary was very active in our city—everybody knew and loved her,” Harry Rilling, the mayor of Norwalk, told TIME. “She lived the life she wanted to live, and lived it to the fullest.”
Roman’s commitment to her sport gave her a renewed burst of energy and sense of purpose. “She was always working out and looking forward to her next competition,” Craig said. “Whenever she won, she would text or call me, to say, ‘I just broke another record” like it was nothing. She was always excited—like a little kid.” —Andrew R. Chow
When shoe designer Sergio Rossi died from complications of the coronavirus on April 2 at age 84, in Cesena, Italy, he left behind a large family and legacy that could not just be measured in feet.
Rossi was famous for his bold, sophisticated and shapely women’s shoes, and alongside Salvatore Ferragamo, Bruno Magli and Elsa Schiaparelli, was considered one of the leading lights of the Italian footwear industry.
The son of a shoemaker, Rossi got his start by making fashionable sandals to wear on the Riviera beaches and selling them in boutiques in Bologna and Rimini in the early 60s. After starting his own shoe label, he built on the success of his signature Opanca sandal, proving himself adept at everything from high heel pumps to thigh high boots.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, at the height of his influence, he was collaborating on the runway with such designers as Gianni Versace, Azzedine Alaia and Dolce & Gabbana.
In 1999, Rossi sold his business to the French fashion behemoth Kering, which sold it on to an Italian investment firm in 2015, long after Rossi had fashioned his last last.
“There are those who have had the good fortune to transform their art into a work and those who have the extraordinary talent of transforming their work into a work of art. Sergio Rossi was this man,” his family said in a statement in WWD. “The family offers, with love, their last goodbye. With the unquenchable fire of your passion, you taught us that there are no limits for those who love what they do.” —Belinda Luscombe
Sundee Rutter, a Washington state single mother of six and breast cancer survivor, died from complications related to coronavirus on March 16.
With the hospital keeping COVID-19 patients in isolation, Rutter’s children shared their “final goodbyes” with her from outside her room — over a walkie-talkie nurses had put by her bedside, her son Elijah, 20, told CNN. “I was able to tell her I loved her,” he said, “[and that] everything’s going to be all right with the kids.”
Rutter, 42, had reportedly entered remission in January after a long fight with stage 4 breast cancer, which had weakened her immune system. “We were just reaching the light at the end of the tunnel,” her daughter Alexis Rutter, 21, told People. “She finished chemotherapy, went through a double mastectomy and had finished radiation and things were just starting to seem like they were taking a turn for the better.”
“Sundee lived for her six kids,” Rutter’s friend Carrie Frederickson told TIME. “She was close with each and every one of them. Each one of her children are of outstanding character, which is clear evidence of her selfless job as an outstanding mother.”
Her children — who range in ages from 13 to 24 — now face a future without either of their parents; their father died in 2012 from cardiac arrest, according to reports. A GoFundMe created on March 17 to help support the family has raised over $500,000 as of April 9.
“For those of you who know or have ever crossed paths with our mother, Sundee, it was likely made clear to you immediately how genuine, selfless, courageous, hard-working, and caring this woman is,” a message attributed to Rutter’s daughter Alexis on the GoFundMe page reads. “She is always the first to lend a helping hand to those in need and has consistently remained positive and resilient through the many curve balls life has thrown her way.” —Madeleine Carlisle
Dr. Alfa Sa’adu
Even in the autumn of his life, Dr. Alfa Sa’adu could not keep himself away from the profession that was also his passion.
And when he retired in 2017, after 40 years of service, Sa’adu kept volunteering one day a week at a hospital near his home in London. “He just could not fully retire,” his son, Dani, told the BBC. “He just loved medicine so much.”
In March, as Britain began to shut down in response to the novel coronavirus that was already ravaging other parts of the world, Sa’adu kept volunteering at Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital part-time, doing crucial work behind the front lines to prepare Britain’s healthcare system for the inevitable surge.
He did not know he would be part of it. Even so, when he first came down with symptoms, his impulse was to prioritize public health over his own and he resisted his family’s urging to go to the hospital as a patient. “[He] did not want to take up a hospital bed,” Dani said, “because others would need it.” By the time he finally relented, it was too late. He died on Mar. 31 at age 68, becoming one of several British medical professionals who died of COVID-19.
Born in Nigeria, Dr. Sa’adu moved to the U.K. to complete his medical training and would spend the rest of his life committed to Britain’s National Health Service, the taxpayer-funded healthcare system that provides every Briton with free-at-point-of-use treatment. He eventually became one of the most senior ethnic minority medical professionals in the country, serving as the Associate Medical Director at a large hospital in east London just before his retirement.
But he also kept ties with his birth country. He served as chairman of Kwasang U.K., an association representing the diaspora community from the state of Kwara in Nigeria, and he was reportedly regarded as a community leader in Pategi, the town where he grew up. He leaves behind a wife, two sons, and grandchildren.
His legacy, fittingly, was one of public health, and his family hopes the circumstances of his death will help educate others. “People really need to take this seriously,” Dani told Sky News. “This is not a joke.” —Billy Perrigo
Some pop songs, even great ones, feel built from components: The right chord progression, a clever lyric that appeared in a burst of inspiration. But the songs written or co-written by Adam Schlesinger—for movies like That Thing You Do! and Music and Lyrics, for TV’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, for the bands he was part of, including Fountains of Wayne and Ivy—always felt as if they’d been grown, not built, from the inside out. They changed shape as you listened to them, like flowers turning to the light; they could fill you with joy, but they often held within their petals just a hint of melancholy, that last-day-of-summer feeling that reminds you how precious it all is. Schlesinger, who died on April 1 at age 52, made his name in the age of the CD, but his songs resonate with the spirit of transistor radio, capturing the anticipation of waiting to hear a song you love, rather than choosing it from a Spotify playlist.
Fountains of Wayne, the band Schlesinger formed with his frequent collaborator Chris Collingwood in 1995, did score a modest radio hit with the 2003 “Stacy’s Mom,” an ode to the charisma of older women. But the band’s work overall is a treasure trove of songs that are both clever and heartfelt, often ringing with internal rhymes but never at the expense of pure emotion. Schlesinger wrote songs filled with tenderness and question marks, from the power-pop moxie of “Red Dragon Tattoo,” the anxious hamster-wheeling of a man who’s just about to prove his love by getting major ink, to intimate observations of everyday life like “Sick Day,” a ballad about young women making the trek into Manhattan from Jersey or the outer boroughs, moving fast through their lives even as they still feel they’re waiting for them to begin. (It includes the line “Lead us not into Penn Station,” a miniature miracle of songcraft.)
Schlesinger knew the power of a great pop song, and he poured all of that knowledge, all of that cotton-candy feeling, into the fake hit he wrote for a fake band, the title track to Tom Hanks’s 1996 That Thing You Do! In the movie, the song becomes a major hit for a bunch of kids who just happen to have formed a band. (They’re called The Wonders; the “One-Hit” is implied.) In the movie, “That Thing You Do” pours out of radios everywhere, and when people hear it, they stop short, they start dancing, they pick up on the lyrics and start singing along. “That Thing You Do” is inherently an inside joke, the super-catchy hit every songwriter wishes he could write. Yet it isn’t parody; it’s pure love, as if every Beatles or Kinks or Bacharach-David song Schlesinger ever heard had been filtered through his ears, through his brain, and then handed to us on a gleaming, spinning 45. That was Schlesinger’s genius: he held pop-music history for safekeeping by reweaving its threads into new and splendid and lasting pleasures. It’s got a backbeat, you can’t lose it. — Stephanie Zacharek
Chilean author Luis Sepúlveda survived imprisonment by his country’s dictatorship, armed revolutions, and sea voyages with Greenpeace to protect the environment. But after contracting COVID-19 following his attendance at a literary festival in Portugal, Sepulveda died on April 16 in Spain. He was 70.
A far-left militant, Sepúlveda once served as a bodyguard to Chile’s socialist president Salvador Allende, who died by suicide during a military coup in 1973 and was replaced by the far-right dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The regime imprisoned Sepúlveda for almost three years. After Amnesty International helped commute his sentence to exile in 1977, he traveled around Latin America, working with theater troupes, fighting alongside the leftist Sandinista movement to overthrow Nicaragua’s dictatorship, and spending a year living with the Shuar indigenous community in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
The latter experience informed his 1989 novel, The Old Man Who Read Love Stories. Sepúlveda’s story of colonizers encroaching on the rainforest and its people became a bestseller across Europe in the 1990s, and was translated into more than 30 languages. The author’s concern for the environment continued into activism with Greenpeace in defense of marine life, and more works that urged humans to rethink their relationship with nature.
Sepúlveda settled in Spain in 1996 with his wife, Carmen Yáñez, also a writer and left-wing activist. He spent his final decades writing articles, novels and children’s books. Although he never moved back to Chile, he did not forget his militant roots. “I was always a writer, but when it was necessary to pick up a weapon, I picked one up,” he told Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia in 2017. “I’m very much at peace with my past. I risked everything for what I considered the most beautiful thing: my ideals” –Ciara Nugent
You didn’t have to speak Japanese to understand Ken Shimura’s humor. The comedian was a master of physical gags, pratfalls and exaggerated facial expressions; his sketches found success with audiences across the world on YouTube.
But Shimura, who died at 70 on March 29 from complications of the coronavirus, especially struck a chord in Japan, where he was a joyful presence on television for decades. After coming to prominence in the early 1970s as a member of the comedic rock band The Drifters, Shimura headlined his own sketch-based series in the decades to come. This year, he had been chosen to carry the Olympic torch in July to represent his hometown of Higashimurayama, a Tokyo suburb. Not long before it was announced that the Olympics would be postponed, Shimura was taken to a Tokyo hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. He was one of Japan’s first well-known figures to die from the virus.
“Pretty much everyone under the age of 50 [in Japan] grew up with Ken Shimura,” Aaron Gerow, a professor of East Asian cinema and media at Yale University, tells TIME. “He was a dominant figure on television.”
Born Yasunori Shimura in 1950, Shimura idolized Jerry Lewis and became a household name in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when The Drifters’ comedy television show It’s 8 O’Clock, Gather Everyone! became a major success. Over the next few decades he would perfect many slapstick routines, playing silly samurais, clumsy assassins, lecherous security guards, strange uncles and more. His variety show Kato-Chan Ken-Chan Gokigen TV was a direct precursor to America’s Funniest Home Videos, and he also led a comedy theater, Shimurakon (Shimura Spirit), beginning in 2006.
While Shimura mostly shed his risque brand of humor in his later years, he remained popular through his wildly popular animal-centric show, Shimura Zoo. On the show, he interacted with various animals and formed a particularly close relationship with one chimpanzee: “Pretty much everyone in the country knew Ken and his chimpanzee Pankun,” Peter Payne, the founder of the anime retailer J-List, wrote in a message.
The comedian Ike Nwala says that Shimura loomed large when Nwala moved from the U.S. to Japan in 2007 to start a career there. “He is definitely one of the pioneers of Japanese comedy,” Nwala says. “He used so many unique funny styles of makeup in his comedy acts, it makes it quite difficult for our generation of comedians to come up with something fresh and original, because people would always refer to the skits Mr. Shimura did back then.”
For many in Japan, Shimura’s comedy was a simple fact of life. “I watched his program on TV when I was a child,” the soccer star Keisuke Honda wrote on Twitter. The rugby player Timothy Lafaele wrote, “He brought so much laughter and happiness to the people of Japan and he will be deeply missed.” —Andrew R. Chow
A teacher to all, Michael Sorkin, who died at age 71 from complications of the coronavirus on March 26, had a unique ability to disseminate critical knowledge not so much as fact-finding but as coming into an inheritance.
Michael was many things—architect, critic, urbanist, educator, polemicist—but above all he was a humanist. Relying on his architectural lexicon to guide his positions, Michael passionately advocated for collective responsibility in architecture—not from a populist standpoint but from a fantastic tradition of intellectualism.
Within architecture, we tend to attribute authorship to the individual, but what Michael pushed for was an understanding that we blossom from a pre-existing body of knowledge that guides practical application. He didn’t suffer fools, but he was incredibly generous in imparting wisdom to those seeking it.
In material form, we are left with his contributions to the field— his architecture, urban plans, essays, and filmed lectures. However, his legacy transcends just his body of work; he will forever be the champion of the city and the public realm. And, it is a tragedy that we lost him at this particular moment, as his words and positions have never been more prescient. —David Adjaye
Adjaye is a renowned architect and a 2017 TIME 100 honoree.
“Hunger Won’t Win Here.” Those are the words posted above the front doors at Fulfill, a food bank in New Jersey where Diana Tennant worked for a dozen years, helping to sustain hundreds of thousands of people in coastal counties just south of New York City.
Tennant, a 51-year-old mother of three and grandmother who lived in Bradley Beach, died due to complications of the coronavirus on April 6. The following day, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy spoke about her during a public briefing, as he remembered the unfathomable number of “blessed souls we have lost.”
Murphy recalled Tennant’s work feeding “countless families” and her leadership in local Latino organizations and festivals. “She is remembered by her friends as someone who always had time to lend a hand,” Murphy said. “Diana was only 51 years old and had so much more to give.”
Tennant was “a champion for the hungry, a dedicated colleague, and a dear friend,” Kim Guadagno, the CEO and President of Fulfill, said in a statement. She had been many things to the organization: donor, volunteer, employee. Guadagno, a former lieutenant governor of New Jersey, emphasized that workers like Tennant have continued to brave the front lines along with other essential workers, “making sure people who need food and services receive help.”
On social media and in interviews, colleagues recalled Tennant’s kindness and support of civil rights. “I could write a book on all her accomplishments and achievements,” Frank Argote-Freyre of the Latino Coalition of New Jersey wrote in a post. “We are heart-broken,” he went on, “but we will cherish our memories.” –Katy Steinmetz
At the end of December, several weeks into a mysterious disease outbreak that was only starting to gain attention, an ophthalmologist in China’s central city of Wuhan sounded a stark warning.
“A new coronavirus infection has been confirmed and its type is being identified. Inform all family and relatives to be on guard,” Li Wenliang typed into a chat group with his former medical school classmates on Dec. 30, according to Caixin, a Beijing-based media group. Soon, Li’s message would resonate much farther. As the spiraling crisis emerged, he came to be known as the whistleblower of a virus that ultimately took his life.
Not everyone appreciated Li’s bombshell warnings. After he shared information about the strange infections he was seeing, he was questioned and reprimanded by local police for “making untrue comments” and “severely disturbing social order.” His messages about a SARS-like infection conveyed an urgency that undercut the official efforts to downplay the epidemic and its risk to the public. At the time, Wuhan’s health bureau said there was no evidence of spread between humans.
And yet Li was not dissuaded. He shared his ordeal online and carried out interviews with journalists through text message, conveying a picture of incompetence and mishandling of the virus at the crucial, initial stage of the outbreak. His insistence on speaking out defied a political system that does not tolerate dissent.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, Li was relatively unknown even within his hospital, according to local media reports. Wu Yan, another doctor from the same department, said he hadn’t heard of Li before news broke about authorities censoring discussion of the virus. Following Li’s death, he has been heralded as a hero across China, and police in Wuhan have apologized to his family.
“All I know is that he spoke the truth,” Wu said, “and said things many people wouldn’t dare to.” —Hillary Leung
Wiwit Widarto, a crew member on the coronavirus-stricken cruise ship MS Zaandam, reportedly died from complications of the virus on April 8. He was 50.
In a statement to TIME, the Zaandam’s operator, Holland America Line, confirmed that a crew member had passed away and said the cruise line was “working to assist the family.” “Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time,” the statement continued.
A former colleague of Widarto (whose name TIME is withholding to protect their employment) says Widarto is survived by a wife and two sons. When asked to describe Widarto, they put it simply: “A good human.”
Widarto, an Indonesian national, had tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized when the ship docked in Florida on April 2 after spending weeks at sea negotiating a place to dock, the Associated Press reported. After an outbreak of coronavirus spread onboard the Zaandam — which was originally scheduled to sail from Argentina to Florida — multiple South American countries rejected the ship’s request to dock. By April 2, 107 guests and 143 crew members had reported “flu-like symptoms” and nine passengers aboard tested positive for COVID-19. Four elderly passengers died aboard the ship, three of whom had reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
A second former colleague of Widarto’s, who worked with him on board the Zaandam, described him as a “very good and quiet guy” in a message to TIME. She said Widarto worked as a laundry coordinator and housekeeping supervisor.
“He was so kind,” Denny Setyawan, another former colleague from another ship, wrote in a Facebook comment. “Our favorite supervisor.” —Madeleine Carlisle
Willie Wilkerson Jr.
When Willie Wilkerson met Aretha Franklin around 1985 in Detroit, he couldn’t have swept her off her feet if he had wanted to—at least not physically: His leg was in a cast from an injury he sustained while in the line of duty as a firefighter.
But Franklin was nevertheless smitten with Wilkerson, and the pair embarked on an enduring romance and friendship that would last until her death in 2018. On April 8, Wilkerson died at the age of 72 from complications of the coronavirus after more than a week in the hospital.
“I receive a lot of male attention, but Will is more special than all the rest,” Franklin said in 2012.
Wilkerson was born in 1947 and grew up on the East Side of Detroit. “He always had a job: He worked at the candy store and the barbershop, and he was a paperboy,” Sandra Evangelista, his daughter, told TIME. He served in the Vietnam War; upon his return he became a fire engine operator in Detroit while also running a cab company.
Reginald Amos, a retired deputy fire chief, told the Detroit News that Wilkerson was “one of the best, if not the best, we had on the department at that time.”
“He served the citizens of the city of Detroit admirably, and he never turned his back on the city or its citizens,” Amos said.
The circumstances of Wilkerson and Franklin’s fateful meeting on the Detroit waterfront are somewhat contested. At the time, Franklin had been married and divorced twice; Wilkerson had three daughters from a previous relationship. Jet Magazine, in 1987, framed the encounter as Wilkerson asking Franklin for her autograph. Wilkerson later said it was the opposite: “He told me that she came up to him and wanted to sign his cast,” Evangelista said. “He had no idea who she was until after she had signed it.”
Regardless of who approached whom, the pair bonded quickly. Wilkerson made a cameo in Franklin’s 1986 video “Jimmy Lee.” Franklin, in the same Jet article, said of their relationship that “it makes you feel wonderful, like a year younger.”
In 1994, Wilkerson said in a Vanity Fair article that he and Franklin had been briefly engaged. They didn’t marry, though he became her road manager and handled security for her tours. In 2012, they became engaged and unengaged again, but remained close.
“We’re very compatible, and he supports me and I support him a lot, and he has given me specialized attention that I don’t think I’ve received from anyone else,” Franklin said that year.
Wilkerson had retired from his firefighter post in 1995; in the last decades of his life, he traveled the world with Franklin, meeting Barack Obama at his inauguration in 2008 and playing plenty of golf. And, perhaps unsurprisingly given his profession, his role as a father sometimes manifested in heroic ways.
“My father literally saved my life twice by getting to my house faster than the ambulance and getting me to the hospital,” Tequila Wilkerson, his daughter, told TIME. “He was my best friend, and the best father a girl could ever ask for.” —Andrew R. Chow