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Tulsa Church Mourns First Coronavirus-Related Death

Posted at 12:38 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 19:53:50-04

TULSA, Okla. — The first person to die from coronavirus in Oklahoma passed away in Tulsa on Wednesday night. A longtime friend says the man who died was heavily involved with Metro Pentecostal Church.

Pastor Don Martin at Metro Pentecostal in Tulsa says Merle Dry passed away Wednesday night around 8 p.m. Dry was 55 years old, in great health, and was involved with the church for decades, according to Pastor Martin.

Tulsa Health officials confirm this was the city's first community spread case.

The church had already been live streaming services, but as a precaution the church and Dry's family are all in quarantine, Pastor Martin says.

Tulsa Health officials said Dry was confirmed with coronavirus just one day before he passed. Pastor Martin says the symptoms came on quickly.

"All we know is he had a cold. He didn't even go into ER until Sunday because he was having trouble breathing," Pastor Martin said. "And he wasn't diagnosed with the virus until Tuesday, and he passed away the next day, this past Wednesday."

Pastor Martin says Dry told him Monday, "I'm going to beat this thing."

Pastor martin says Dry was a dedicated groundskeeper at Oral Roberts University, working for Sodexo. ORU President William M. Wilson has released the following statement:

“Our prayers go out to the family and the entire Sodexo team during this time of loss. ORU is also earnestly praying for all who are being impacted by this pandemic around the world.”

Satya Menard, CEO for Sodexo Education, also passed along condolences to Dry's family:

“Our hearts break for the friends and family of our team member. For more than 16 years, Mr. Dry saw after the grounds at Oral Roberts University. He will be dearly missed on campus, at work and in the community.”

Menard says Sodexo is making grief counseling and other resources available to Dry's family and for Sodexo employees at ORU, "to ensure they have the support they need."

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