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Remembering Oklahomans lost to COVID-19

Posted at 8:34 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-12 15:33:51-05

TULSA, Okla. — This holiday season is the first hundreds of Oklahomans will spend without that special someone. Numerous families mourn the loss of at least one loved one to COVID-19. The victims have different backgrounds, stories, and are various ages. What they have in common is an early departure from those who love them.

The COVID death toll in Oklahoma surpasses the 2,000 mark. 2 Works for You remembers some of those taken too soon.

66-year-old Nona Johnson from Skiatook died from coronavirus, October 29th.

Virgil Busby, also known as Ray, spent the last several years of his life in the memory unit of a Tulsa nursing home. That is where he got sick.

“Not being able to be with your loved one when they’re passing, knowing that they’re going… he deserved to have his daughters on each side of him holding his hand,” said Tiffany Tillman, Busby’s granddaughter.

Dennis Davis and Linda Jennings of Oklahoma City both died in November. Davis was Jennings’ son-in-law. Davis was a machinist with a love for life and his family. Jennings was a stay-at-home mom who adored her children and loved to decorate, cook, and sew.

“We lost both of them within three days of each other. Wear your mask, social distance. having a party is not worth going through what we’re going through right now,” said Lizanne Jennings, Linda’s daughter and Davis’s wife.

Joey Phillips was an incredible servant to the Tulsa community. He was a 911 dispatcher for 23 years. Phillips died of COVID-19 complications in November. He is described as irreplaceable.

Sheila Elizabeth Black died at 72 years-old of COVID complications. Black earned an english literature degree from the University of Tulsa and loved to write poems.

“She was a gypsy and she was sassy and bright and very creative and she wore beaded jewelry that her friends made and always looked very coordinated and put together,” Nancy Vitali said of her friend Sheila.

Susan Abell Morgan Niemi died July 19, leaving behind two daughters. Niemi's brother, Tim Morgan, describes her as a simple woman whose life was definitely taken too soon.

“She didn’t want much in the world,” Tim said. “What you saw in Susan was someone who was real. I’m her little brother, and she left behind an older sister and four younger brothers.”

Abel and Brenda Archie from Coweta both passed in October. Abel was 78-years-old, Brenda 66. Their jobs were taking care of their grandchildren and cheering for them at sporting events. Abel was a retired plumber. Brenda was a retired nurse.

“There’s not a moment I don't think about them and wish they were still here,” said Joetta Toppah, daughter of Abel and Brenda.

Larry Swimmer was a 67-year-old retiree of American Airlines. He lived in Tahlequah. Swimmer was a husband and father of two children. In the same family was Rhoda Anderson. She was in a nursing home when she got infected with COVID-19. Anderson lived in Durant and was a teacher

“My brother is Cherokee, my aunt was Choctaw. She spoke Choctaw and taught it. Now, we don’t have the elders to go to,” Kim Swimmer Holmes said, niece of Anderson and sister of Swimmer.

Their stories do not stop here because their memories live on with those who loved them and the strangers hearing their names and seeing their faces.

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