If you’ve been watching our show for a year, you know that every Friday we marked the deaths of a handful of people from COVID-19. It was a poignant and painful reminder of the sad toll of this pandemic.
Now that the United States has hit over 600,000 dead this week, and the daily death toll has fallen to its lowest rate in months, after tonight, we’re going to put our weekly memorial on hold. We plan to return to it occasionally on Fridays, as we know this pandemic is far from over.
Let’s take a moment now to remember five remarkable Americans lost to the pandemic.
Melvin Greennagel has lived a long and full life of music, service and family. Raised on a farm in Metamora, Ill., He played tuba in the United States Army group during World War II and was the last living member of the group that marched under the Arc de Triomphe on the day. of Victory in Europe, 1945.
After the war, Melvin married and settled in Arlington, Virginia, where he continued to play music for the United States Army and raise a family. His granddaughter told us he was a calming presence who embraced quiet times and, in retirement, loved raising his grandchildren, bassets, and many plants. He died at the age of 103.
Amber Elisabeth Aguirre Galvan was a loyal daughter, mother and teacher, who offered the best of herself to others, her mother said. A competitive athlete, the Sinton, Texas native was passionate about raising children. Her mother told us that she believes anyone can learn.
Amber contracted COVID during her pregnancy and gave birth to her third son at just 30 weeks. She died a few months later, at the age of 34. His son Axel is doing well now.
Tom Shrump was a loving father and husband, his wife, the best guy she’s ever met, told us. The Irwin, Pa. Native managed supply chains and was a huge fan of the Duke Blue Devils and trainer Mike Krzyzewski.
He also enjoyed teaching and volunteering with his high school marching band and drum corps. His wife said Tom always had a smile for people and would do whatever he could to help. He was 54 years old.
James Herrera has always been there for his children, no matter what, his son told us. A multisport athlete in high school, he served for seven years in the infantry of the United States Army, notably during the Gulf War. He then became a deputy in the Denver Sheriff’s Department, where he worked for 25 years in prison.
His son said he was respected by his colleagues and inmates because he always treated people the way he wanted to be treated. James Herrera lived to be 51 years old.
Mark Suttles was a dedicated teacher, coach, husband and father, his wife told us. The Albany, Ga. Native taught special education in Clayton County and also coached football and track and field. His wife said he went above and beyond for his students, walking them home after practice and buying clothes for those in need.
He believed every child mattered, his wife said. Today, June 18, would have been Mark Suttles’ 47th birthday.
Thank you very much to family members for sharing these stories with us. Our hearts go out to you and to all of you who have lost a loved one in this pandemic.