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Elegies for those lost to coronavirus

They came from all walks of life, and they all left behind both a legacy and people who loved them. Coronavirus has brought sorrow to every corner of the state. Now, as Massachusetts seeks to move beyond the pandemic, the Globe is remembering the victims as unique individuals, memorializing them more for how they lived than how they died.

We aim to profile as many Mass. coronavirus victims as possible. If you’ve lost a loved one to the virus, please reach out and tell us about them.

Rosemary Monroe, 86: ‘Intrinsically optimistic about life’


Photograph of Rosemary Monroe

Rosemary Monroe was a music lover, a determined teacher, an enduring Francophile, a beloved wife of over 60 years, and a kind mother. She enjoyed living in the moment, appreciating the little things around her, her family said.

She would take in every detail, admire anything she touched, heard, saw, or smelled. Her son, Michael Monroe, remembers walking through department stores with her and watching her run her hands across the racks of clothing, feeling every piece of fabric.

She was “intrinsically optimistic about life,” he said.

Rosemary died May 3, 2020, from complications of COVID-19. She was 86. A 50-year resident of Acton, Rosemary spent the last few years of her life at an assisted living facility in Concord, where her family visited multiple times a week.

Rosemary left a lasting impression and a lifetime of memories for her family. She cared deeply for her children, Michael and Jean, and her husband, Larry.

Born in Brookline in 1933, Rosemary attended public school and pursued interests in music, literature, and athletics. She excelled in all kinds of sports, from field hockey to softball. She adored tennis star Billie Jean King, Jean recalled, describing her mother as a “lifelong tennis fiend.”

After high school, she attended Oberlin College, where she was the cocaptain of the field hockey team. She graduated in 1956 and joined the Quaker’s American Friends Service Committee and headed off to help a war-torn Europe. Rosemary traveled across the continent but mainly worked in Italy and France, assisting in orphanages. It was during that time that she fell under the spell of French culture.

She appreciated French cuisine and the country’s culture, music, and pace of life. Her love did not fade when she returned to the United States; her son recalls paintings of the Arc de Triomphe or Notre Dame Cathedral hanging in their home. She helped her children learn the language; Michael remembers her teaching him when he was just 3 or 4.

Rosemary’s love of French culture expanded far beyond her own household. After her time abroad she earned her master’s degree in education from Case Western Reserve University in 1960 and spent her career teaching French and English as a Second Language in Lexington and Acton.

Rosemary was one of the main proponents of teaching languages to students in elementary school, her son said. She developed her own curriculum for foreign languages for young students and pushed for it to be implemented in the Lexington public schools. In Acton, she helped refugees learn English.

Rosemary loved hearing other people’s views and was “always interested in finding someone in the room from somewhere else,” Jean said.

She also held a love for music. She often sang with local choruses, and at home, the sound didn’t stop. Her humming or singing were signs of her happiness, and when she sat down at the family’s 1911 baby grand piano, everyone stopped to listen.

Jean took piano lessons of her own, and Michael’s favorite spot was directly under the piano as his mother played, letting her sweet tunes wash over him. If Jean wanted to learn to play a certain song, her mother would sc our catalogs or the phonebook to buy the record or sheet music.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Ronald G. Phillipo, 70: A family man


Photograph of Ronald G. Phillipo

After much persistence, Ronald G. Phillipo finally persuaded Ellie Macora to attend a Christmas party with him. When he took her home, he gave her a bottle of Chanel No. 5. Flattered by the expensive gift, she told Ronald they were just friends. But he told her it did not cost him a penny; it was his sister’s.

Ronald, who was known as Ron, was always a flirt, said Bena Phillipo, his youngest sister. But when he met Ellie, he was smitten.

“He pursued her until she relented and went out on a date with him,” Bena said in her eulogy at his funeral. “He was going to marry this woman and make her the center of his world and he the center of hers.”

Ron and Ellie were happily married for 45 years and raised two sons, Matthew T. Phillipo and Timothy Phillipo.

“They were meant for each other,” Bena said.

Ron died from complications of COVID-19 on May 17, 2020. He was 70.

Born in Marlborough on Nov. 22, 1949, Ron served in the Navy and then started his own plumbing business. He loved his family and all things NASCAR.

Even after 45 years of marriage, Ron never stopped chasing after Ellie, who called him “Honey Pot.” He called her “Tootsie Roll.”

“He told me he loved me all the time,” Ellie said.

Once in a while, Ron would fly to Ellie’s work conferences to spend time with her in different states. One freezing winter day, he met Ellie at the airport in Arizona and they had lunch together at the Grand Canyon the next morning.

Ellie recalled Ron telling her: “You know, when I saw you the other night at the airport, I thought ‘That’s exactly what a 60-year-old guy wants to see when he lands.’”

His plumbing business kept him busy, but he always managed to find time for family vacations. Every year, they went to Cape Cod for a few weeks. But Ron always helped out relatives who had a plumbing problem and never thought to charge them.

“He loved his family,” Bena said. “He did anything he could for them.”

Ron would spend hours on the floor coloring with Matthew when he was a child. When his sons grew up, Timothy would make music with Ron on his iPad keyboard. Ron’s favorite band was the Rolling Stones — he took Ellie to see them twice in concert.

The couple did everything together. Ellie said he was not just her husband, he was her best friend.

“His kindness is what made me fall in love with him 46 years ago,” she said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Ruth Fish, 89: Delighted in her grandchildren

North Attleboro

Photograph of Ruth Fish

Several years ago, Ruth Fish’s wish for Mother’s Day was to meet her great-granddaughter, Scarlett.

It soon became a family tradition: a trip to Florida each May to visit Scarlett. Ruth’s grandchildren would come along, and they’d all spend time by the pool, paint pottery, and treat Ruth like a queen.

“It didn’t have to be anything special, it was just the power of being together with family and that was always really important to my mom,” Mary Fish, Ruth’s daughter, recalled. “Nothing made my mother happier.”

Ruth was extremely proud of her grandchildren and often talked about them with her friends.

Barbara Lamb, Ruth’s best friend, quickly became a member of the family. They met at the senior center and would spend time handing out tickets at children’s piano concerts, enjoying girls’ weekends, and doing just about everything together. Barbara died one day before Ruth.

“Sometimes it was like watching junior high school girls. They’d be giggling and talking about things and setting the world to rights I guess is the expression,” Mary said. “As long as they were together, they were happy, they were having fun.”

Ruth died from complications of COVID-19 on May 1, 2020. She was 89.

While the family was unable to gather after Ruth’s death, they plan to have a cookout and celebrate her life.

“It was kind of always the central place, let’s go back to mom and dad’s,” Mary said.

Ruth was a loving person and had a spark to create and learn. She took night classes to learn how to sew. She converted the dress she wore to Mary’s wedding into a cocktail dress to wear to her other daughter’s wedding. She was featured on the cover of Weight Watchers Magazine in this ensemble.

When she was 70, she began woodworking with her late husband’s tools. She took fine art classes at the Hunakai Studio in Foxborough and at 81 was recognized for being the oldest artist in the exhibition.

She had five children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, but Ruth still found time to volunteer with children, many of whom called “Grandma.” “We have ‘adopted’ siblings all over the place just because of the way she shared and was helping,” Mary said.

Ruth was a Girl Scout Leader, band parent, and camp counselor. She was the supervisor of housekeeping at the Wrentham State School, and later worked at the YMCA after retiring. She always approached tasks with a “Come on, let’s do this together” mentality, Mary said.

Ruth led a life of drive and purpose.

“It was just the way she was,” Mary said. “It’s just that commitment to being with people and doing good things.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Josefina Nieves, 94: A joy felt around the world


Photograph of Josefina Nieves

Josefina Nieves touched the hearts and souls of everyone she met, from kind strangers on journeys far from home, to those who made her an integral part of their lives.

“She was a homemaker,” said her son, Wilfredo Nieves, by the side of his wife, Regina. “She always managed to create a warm place.”

Josefina was born in mountainous Comerio, Puerto Rico, which cultivated her gentle spirit and her tough side. Her mother died when she was 8, leaving her to care for her six younger siblings. Yet Josefina always made the most of her circumstances, no matter how difficult.

Josefina died of complications from COVID-19 on May 15, 2020, with her rosary in hand. Half of her ashes will be buried alongside her husband, Domingo Nieves, in Arlington National Cemetery in August. Her remaining ashes will be laid with her mother in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

On her first trip away from home, Josephina went to France, where her husband was deployed in the US Army. The couple ultimately had four children, 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Domingo Nieves, 94, died in 2014.

Josefina embarked on many journeys abroad with her family during Domingo’s deployments, and did so with just a third grade education. She always emphasized the importance of education and college to her children and grandchildren. But for Nieves, the “Colegio de la Vida” — “College of Life” — was enough.

The most important thing Josefina learned was to create space for those around her to flourish. “Sundays were beach day or lake day,” Wil and Regina Nieves recalled. “We would go picnic: six or seven families would get together for a potluck like we would not believe; the grill going on and Spanish music blaring.”

After years of adventure, Josefina and her family settled in Clinton, Mass. In 1985, the couple began spending their retirement in Orlando, Fla., where they enjoyed the sunshine and the daily company of their longtime family friend, Victor Aviles.

“Fina was like a mother to myself and my wife,” he said. “She was the most wonderful person anybody would want to meet.”

Josefina returned to Massachusetts to live at the Life Care Center of the South Shore. She made daily rounds, taking her rosary and the hands of her new friends — all strangers to her at first — to pray. Her dedication to her routine earned her the nickname of “The Ambassador” in the nursing home.

“For her to be there for other people was just part of who she was and a part that would never change,” said Kathy Behm, director of business development at the Life Care Center.

To her many friends, she was known as Fina. But she had other nicknames too. Josefina was often called “Baila, baila!” meaning “Dance, Dance!” Her favorite song was “En mi Viejo San Juan” (“In My Old San Juan”) by Noel Estrada.

“She always said to us, ‘You know, you got to do these things. And whoever does it for you, please pass it on,’” Wil Nieves said. “I called her my saint.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Rosarina Hassan, 88: Believed in her students


Photograph of Rosarina Hassan

Rosarina Francesca (Madonna) Hassan, known as Ma Hassan to her students, was a woman of grace and compassion who changed lives, said those who knew her well.

Rosarina died on April 21, 2020, the same day as her husband of nearly 70 years, Frederick Ephrem Hassan. Both died from complications of COVID-19. Rosarina was 88.

She had a passion for education and was bound for a career as a nurse. But when she married her husband before he left to serve in the Korean War, she made the difficult choice to put her professional goals on hold.

While Frederick was away, she worked as a seamstress. Later, she and Fred started a family. As a mother of four, Rosarina earned her degree in teaching at Fitchburg State University, graduating summa cum laude.

Rosarina’s daughter, Tammi Hassan, said her mother worked tirelessly for her family.

“I don’t ever remember running out of ketchup or milk. She was extremely organized. She probably slept three hours a night,” Tammi said.

Even with all her responsibilities, she found time to organize Sunday school at the local church. Every responsibility was an opportunity to guide people with her wisdom and knowledge, her family said.

She became a teacher in the Brockton public schools. At Brockton High School, she taught home economics, using real-world tasks like creating a home budget to make the coursework more meaningful. If students wanted to make their own prom dresses or refine their cake decorating skills, she made it happen, sometimes reaching out to have materials donated.

Rosarina helped to develop a work-study program at the high school. Many of her students had difficult home lives that made school feel trivial or overwhelming. Tammi found a stack of letters students had written Rosarina over the years, thanking her for helping them lead successful lives.

The letters describe an educator who truly believed in her students, regardless of their background or previous academic standing. She was never judgmental. She was respected, an inspiration to her students and a friend.

Rosarina encouraged her two daughters to pursue an education. Gender roles were nonexistent in the Hassan household, regardless of the societal norms at the time.

“My mom did outside work with my dad. When my mom went back to school, my dad was doing laundry and helped cook meals,” Tammi recalled.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Stephen Chamberlin Jr., 91: ‘He had to be working with his hands’


Photograph of Stephen Chamberlin Jr.

Stephen Chamberlin Jr. will be remembered as a father, husband, and passionate engineer, loved ones said. On lake vacations and cookouts he built lasting memories for his children and grandchildren. He loved to build and tinker.

“He had to be working with his hands, he was always working at his house in Maine and he loved radio-controlled airplanes. He made so many of them himself, he had a whole gallery of them in the basement, said his daughter, Jean Theurkauf.

Stephen died on April 21, 2020, from COVID-19 at Notre Dame Long Term Care Center in Worcester. He was 91. He leaves his wife of 54 years, Jean, three children, and seven grandchildren.

“He was kind and generous, a real family guy,” Jean said. “He loved to entertain people.”

Stephen bought property at Great East Lake in Maine and loved to bring his grandchildren there to water ski. He worked for years at the US Army Corps of Engineers, an intense job with a pace he described as “full steam ahead.”

In 1990, he was inducted into the Aircraft Engine Hall of Fame in Ohio.

He was born in Washington, D.C., and went on to live in Topsfield. He went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received his master’s degree at the California Institute of Technology. He served in the Army during the Korean War. After his military service, he started his career and strived to maintain the work-life balance he desired.

He was head of engineering at the General Electric Aircraft Engine design and assembly facility in Lynn and worked on many notable projects, including the TF-34 engine, which powers the Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt.

Shortly after he retired, he was diagnosed with dementia. That was when “things started to crumble.” Jean said. He moved into a long-term care facility, where he and Jean would play checkers together. Although his memory was fading, they shared many special moments.

One year after his death, his family is paying tribute to his life as a respected leader, a caring grandfather, and a passionate engineer.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Roberta McMann, 92: Called sons each night ‘like clockwork’


Photograph of Roberta McMann

Roberta McMann was known for her kind heart and selfless personality. A lover of art and history and a devoted mother, wife, grandmother, sister, and daughter, Roberta led her life with faith and kindness at the forefront, those closest to her said.

“She was all about family. That was her primary concern in life,” said James McMann, one of Roberta’s three children.

She called her two sons every night at 7 p.m. “like clockwork,” said her other son, John. Since childhood, she made it a priority to remain in contact with her family through letters and phone calls.

Roberta died in April 2020 due to complications related to COVID-19. She was 82.

Born in Roxbury, Roberta called Boston home her entire life. She spent time in Europe and lived in New York before settling in Mission Hill.

She met her husband, James, while on spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the 1950s. The couple moved in together while James attended Boston College.

“It’s my mom’s free-spirit attitude of willing to pick up and go somewhere else and roll the dice that made an impact on me,” James said. “And I thank her for that.”

A graduate of Saint Elizabeth’s College, Roberta placed a high value on education and was an avid reader and student of history. According to her sons, she could tell stories about each US president and was a particular fan of John F. Kennedy.

“She never watched television; she hated television,” James said, explaining how her love for knowledge was a theme of his childhood. Art books and visits to museums reflected Roberta’s deep love for the arts, an appreciation that she passed down to her children.

Recalling trips to Cape Cod every summer, Roberta’s sons described how their mother always found ways to make their childhood exciting, although they didn’t have much money. “My mom had a great sense of humor; she would laugh at all my bad jokes,” said John, citing some of his favorite memories of his mother.

Two of Roberta’s defining features were her kindness and her faith, which was a guiding force in her life.

“She was guided by strong intentions and the idea of being a good person,” James said, recalling how she would make fruitcakes to give to her doctors and nurses at Christmas. “She believed in following the way of living that Jesus taught,” James said.

A lover of gardening, cooking, art, and history, and a devoted family member, Roberta is remembered for her kindhearted, loving nature. She was always in touch, and always there to help.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Madeline Elizabeth Brown, 98: Art teacher with a love of fun


Photograph of Madeline Elizabeth Brown

Madeline Elizabeth Brown loved a good party, no matter what the occasion. Whether it was celebrating the 1981 release of the American hostages in Iran or the annual Massachusetts Art Education Association conference, “she wanted a party all the time,” said Elizabeth Brown, Madeline’s granddaughter.

“A cocktail, a party, dancing, dressing up, being fancy getting her hair done — she was always into looking fabulous,” she said.

Madeline died of COVID-19 on April 14, 2020, in Norwood. She was 98.

Born in Boston, Madeline attended the Girls’ Latin School and then earned a Bachelor’s degree in the fine arts from Boston University.

She spent decades teaching art in the Dedham Public Schools and in 1979 was named Art Educator of the Year by the Massachusetts Art Education Association.

“She was a talented artist but also a very gifted teacher,” Elizabeth said.

Madeline raised her two children, Donald Jr. and Richard, with the help of her parents after her husband left a few years into their marriage. She lived in West Roxbury for most of her life and moved to Norwood in the 1980s.

Madeline brought art with her wherever she went. Elizabeth said she remembers Madeline, called Dee Dee by her grandchildren, marching around the dining room table telling them to “hold their folds” so the paper snowflakes they were cutting would turn out just right.

“She would come to visit and she would have us do these crafts. My parents could go out to dinner or for a break or something and Dee Dee would just have a massive craft project for us,” Elizabeth said.

Madeleine’s apartment “looked like a hoarder’s” because of all the craft projects she was working on, Elizabeth quipped.

“She had this huge old car that was just sinking to the ground all the time because it was so stuffed with arts and crafts equipment,” Elizabeth said.

Madeline was a skilled visual artist, specializing in pencil drawings and oil paintings. She especially loved painting seascapes.

“She was the reason we went to museums and knew about art, music, and, you know, all the fun things in life,” Elizabeth said.

In her younger days, Madeline was a fashion model with the Rogers Modeling Agency. She enjoyed traveling, especially to Ireland, and made a name for herself as “Granny Brown” on Dave Maynard’s WBZ radio show, “Maynard in the Morning.”

During the 1980s, her occasional calls to Maynard’s show to express her opinions became a regular feature. Eventually Maynard started calling her “Granny Brown.” When he was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame, he said of Madeline: “Granny Brown always had something to say.”

“She was like ‘crazy Granny Brown,’ but also highly educated, very smart, and sophisticated,” Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth said Madeline did crazy stunts with Maynard, once floating down the river in an outhouse until it started sinking and she had to be rescued.

Madeline enjoyed being the center of attention. If she saw a news reporter looking for an interview, Madeline would volunteer or nudge those around her to do so. And she loved to rub elbows with anyone famous.

“She was very, very funny and wild and annoying a lot of the time too, because she was the star of the show,” Elizabeth said. “She was just vivacious, she was opinionated, she was a party girl.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Brian J. McKeown, 74: A lively soul


Photograph of Brian J. McKeown

Brian J. McKeown lived life to its fullest. He was dedicated to his wife Sue and had a passion for storytelling, battlefield dioramas, and Liverpool Football Club.

Born near Liverpool in Birkenhead, England, Brian immigrated to Massachusetts in 1972, settling in Worcester to continue his job in computer services for Digital Equipment Corp., where he worked for 30 years.

His daughter, Joanne Sutton, said Brian had “that kind of Liverpool humor.”

“He was the type of person that if you’re in company, he would draw the room. He would be the one telling all the stories, telling all the jokes and everything,” Sutton said. “When I was young, we went to a department store and he bought me a Barbie doll. And when we got it back home, the ring was missing, so we went back to the store and he took a Barbie doll and just took the ring off and gave it to me. He did crazy things like that.”

Sutton recalled her father as a great man: lively, interesting, and fun to be with.

Brian died on April 26, 2020, from COVID-19. He was 74. He leaves his wife, who was by his side as he developed dementia, two children, and two grandchildren.

His sense of humor fueled his passions. He published a collection of satirical essays on the equestrian sport dressage entitled “Enter at A, Laughing: A Tongue-In-Jowl Examination of the Sport of Dressage As Seen Through the Satirical Eyes of a Dressage Husband” in 2003.

Brian went on to publish another work in 2014, a historical fiction novel called “Hannah’s Left Hook.”

“It was based on his maternal grandmother, Hannah Corcoran, who was quite a formidable woman and had a very powerful punch. If anybody crossed her or her family, she would just go for it, you know?” Sutton said. Having two books published was a source of immense pride for Brian, she said.

Brian also enjoyed the building of historical battlefield dioramas. He researched military history, painted the miniature figures with the correct uniforms and displayed them throughout the basement of his Worcester home. Brian was particularly interested in the Napoleonic era but built scenes inspired by British history as well.

As his memory loss deepened, his passion for battlefield diorama making took a back seat to his stamp collection, a hobby he had taken up as a young boy.

“He just had thousands and thousands of stamps, I would sit with him and we would kind of pick out ones that were similar and put them on a page, and he thought it was great,” Sutton recalled.

One of Brian’s favorite pastimes was playing with his dogs, Toby and Darcy. He would blow up balloons and throw them in the air for them to pop.

“I like to think of them doing that in heaven. That’s how I kind of remember my dad, playing with the dogs,” Sutton said with a wistful smile.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Betty Lou Donovan, 93: ‘Being unkind is the biggest sin’


Photograph of Betty Lou Donovan

Betty Lou Donovan devoted her life to kindness and family. Not to mention iced tea.

When her daughter, Lisa Jane Donovan, moved home some years ago, she saw the moving van but could find no trace of the movers.

Then she heard the sound of laughter coming from the back of the Needham house. She arrived on the backyard deck to find the moving men laughing hysterically as they enjoyed sandwiches, fruit, and the company of her mother.

Lisa reminded her mother that the men were being paid by the hour. “You can’t have guests in your home and not feed them,” Betty Lou replied.

Born in Wheeling, W.Va., on Aug. 6, 1926, Betty Lou was a proud Southern woman who carried her roots north when she moved to Needham with her husband, James F. Donovan. Together, they raised two children, Lisa and William.

On May 7, 2020, Betty Lou died of complications from COVID-19 in Needham. She was 93.

“She had a good attitude towards life,” Lisa said.

Betty Lou valued empathy for other people. When she would tell her mother about problems with other people at school, she always gave the same advice — be kind because “you don’t know what they’re going through,” Lisa recalled.

Betty Lou passed her traditional Southern hospitality on to her children. She taught Lisa to respond to her teachers with, “yes ma’am,” and if the teachers got upset, Betty Lou said “well that’s just the way things are done.”

Betty Lou spread her love of Southern manners and food far and wide. Disappointed that her favorite drink — a tall glass of iced tea with extra ice — was generally not served around here during the winter, she set out to convince some restaurants to change that policy.

“She personally takes credit for restaurants now having iced tea year-round,” Lisa said.

Betty Lou shared her food with everyone: family, restaurants, even moving men. It was one of the many ways she showed her love.

Whenever a family member died, pots and pans would clang in the kitchen, Lisa recalled. Soup or baked goods were the go-to comfort foods; ham and pea soup was Lisa’s favorite.

A member of three bridge groups, Betty Lou played the game the way she tried to live her life, with passion and goodwill.

“Being unkind is the biggest sin you could commit,” Lisa recalled her mother saying.

She was an English teacher, medical technician, tennis player, and plant lover. Above all, Betty Lou was a family woman.

“She was my rock,” Lisa said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Michael B. Walsh, 67: ‘People were drawn to him’


Photograph of Michael B. Walsh

When Michael Walsh met someone, he made sure to make them feel special.

“People were drawn to him. He was a loving human being, he showed true interest in everything they had to say to him, and he truly focused in on them,” said David Levin, Michael’s former boss and the best man at his wedding. “He really listened; not many people truly listen.”

Michael grew up in Yarmouth Port. He attended Cape Cod Community College, then earned his nursing degree in Fayetteville, N.C., where he started work as an EMT. “It was difficult and took a lot out of him, but he loved it,” said Sherry Walsh, Michael’s wife of 19 years.

After that, he worked for the Veterans Administration in North Carolina, and then transferred to the Northampton VA Medical Center where he met Sherry and many dear friends.

“He had all the characteristics of what a nurse needs. He had them all. He was very intuitive. He was very kind and very generous,” said Louise Dunphy, a close friend of Michael and Sherry’s.

Michael died of COVID-19 April 22 at the Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. He was 67.

“He had a lot more years left to live,” Walsh said, who also contracted the disease in early April.

Family was paramount to Michael. Sherry and Michael both had children from previous marriages, and he loved hers as his own.

“My daughter thought of him as her father,” Walsh said. When he retired in 2015, he dedicated his time to his granddaughters, who called him “uppa.”

“He considered himself the most blessed man in the world, he loved those little girls so much. He made sure he had one day a year with each one of them,” Louise said. “Michael had his priorities right, that’s for sure.”

Michael loved to share his passion for Scottish music and culture with those around him. He was an enthusiastic spectator at the New Hampshire Highland Games, and he tried to learn to play bagpipes, although as Sherry put it, “he just could not get that thing to make noise like it was supposed to.” He was otherwise a talented musician, and he lent his deep bass voice to many choirs. “He just loved music,” Walsh said.

His favorite aspect of Scottish culture was whiskey. He hosted tastings and took pride in teaching friends, family, and new faces about its nuances. “Michael was an educator. When he developed an interest in something, he went into it in depth. He learned more and more about it,” Levin said. Michael even went to a distillery during one of his many visits to Scotland to learn from the experts the process of making single malt scotch, what he called the only true whiskey. “I know more about single malt scotch than I ever cared to know,” Walsh said. “He loved it.”

Michael’s many loved ones will especially remember his extraordinary sense of humor and good nature. He would play practical jokes and tell stories that were so funny you’d be crying. “He had great tact and great insight. He wasn’t just a clown, he was brilliant,” Dunphy said. “Never a dull moment with Michael.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

James Ozelis, 81: A tough guy with a big heart


Photograph of James Ozelis

After a stroke cost him his speech, James Ozelis could only say, “Go, go” –– but that never stopped him from singing alongside his daughter.

“I used to sing for him all the time. I would give him the microphone, or I would hold it for him,” said Sharon DiFronzo, his eldest daughter and a singer. “Even though he couldn’t say all the words, he was always in tune.”

Known as Jim, he loved Elvis and anything from the ’50s because it took him back to “when he was a teenager, and he was free,” Sharon said. Jim’s favorite, though, was “Crazy” by Patsy Cline.

Jim died on April 27 due to COVID-19 at Woburn Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, where he lived after suffering multiple strokes and paralysis on his right side. He was 81.

Originally from Roxbury, Jim was a simple, no-frills man, primarily working in manual labor. He started shining shoes when he was 12 before working at Stop & Shop bakery for about 35 years. He later worked at Massport until he retired at 70.

At 18, he married Camille, known as Sue. Before they married, she often went with her friends to Roxbury to see Jim.

“The girls were adventurous –– they went over to a rough neighborhood from the North End of Boston, which was a very protective Italian neighborhood,” Sharon said. “My mom met this little, rough guy from Roxbury. He was tough on the exterior, but not in the interior. He had a really good heart.”

Jim was creative, sentimental and over the years became extremely family-oriented, Sharon said. Jim was also generally quiet, until he got a beer.

“He wasn’t always an easy person to approach or understand,” Sharon said. “Some people would think he was kind of grouchy until he loosened up and someone gave him a beer.”

Jim and Sue had four children together: Sharon, Joseph, who died of AIDS in 1993, Colleen, and Kimberley.

The family lived in Medford, starting in 1974, before eventually moving to Wilmington in 1994. There, Jim’s creative side continued to flourish. He started to garden, planting beautiful bushes all around the house, which still bloom every fall.

Much to Sue’s dismay, he also loved taking photos of her and their family, assembling collages and slideshows. When his granddaughter Kristen was born, Jim softened a bit, which photos of the two together showed clearly.

“She really brought out the cuddly side of him, the softer side,” Sharon said.

Jim was also a big sports guy. He loved to bowl when he was younger, but softball was his favorite, and he played in a senior league. He also loved Boston sports, especially the Red Sox and the Patriots. After he lost mobility after his second stroke, he was “glued” to the TV whenever his favorite teams were playing, Sharon said.

When her father became sick, it was terribly jarring, she said.

“It had become like the roles were reversed, which happens, I guess, when parents get older anyway,” she said. “But this was just so sudden because of the way the strokes happened. And then, we developed the nicest relationship.”

At the nursing home, everyone called Jim “GoGo,” and he was a riot, Sharon said. When she would come to sing, Sharon knew he was always cheering her on, even if he couldn’t express it.

“Go, go, go,” he would say, nodding along as she sang.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Richard Barry Cooper, 77: Committed to family


Photograph of Richard Barry Cooper

A Jewish holiday did not go by without Richard Barry Cooper appearing on a family member’s doorstep, flowers in hand, ready to celebrate.

Richard was a good-hearted man who more than anything wanted to be surrounded by those he loved. Born in Boston on Aug. 20, 1942, he attended Antioch College in Ohio and lived in California for a while. But he always found his way home and eventually settled in Wellesley.

“Richard was a very kind and gentle person. He loved being around family. He especially liked the Jewish holidays when he came to our home to celebrate them,” said Deanna Cooper, Richard’s sister-in-law, who lives in Swampscott.

Passover was Richard’s favorite holiday. Cooper’s daughter, Jody, recalled her uncle’s kind smile as his “essence and being.”

Richard’s commitment to family did not end at the holidays. Deanna Cooper recalled that at her wedding, she and Richard danced the polka with such intensity that the buttons on her dress burst.

Richard was dedicated to helping others, especially those he loved.

“He always had a need to be needed,” Cooper said. “He was so thoughtful.”

Richard’s nephew, Marc Cooper, described him as a gentle soul, saying he “found great meaning in being of service to others and making people happy. He was a host at the Wellesley College Club for many years and always greeted guests with a big smile.”

Richard adored his family, and they adored him in kind. He “loved spending time with his great nieces and nephew and shared a youthful spirit with them,” Marc Cooper said.

Richard was blessed with a rare ability to love unconditionally. He was kind to his core.

Richard died from COVID-19 on April 14 at age 77. His funeral service was small, just family, but Deanna Cooper said every person there had a different story to share about how Richard had touched their lives.

“I was really taken by the fact that each of them had something that they could relate to with him as part of their life,” she said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Richard Rome, 91: A Southerner with a sense of style


Photograph of Richard Rome

Richard Rome was always well dressed, up until the end.

Richard’s passion for style and clothes began when he opened a men’s clothing store in Houston with his friend William called “William Richard.” His family had been in the retail business, too, so they like to say it was in his blood.

The store was one of his greatest accomplishments, his “baby.” William Richard sold fine men’s clothing but was also a lifestyle store. Richard eventually closed it and did more retail work, and later became involved in the test preparation business. His last job was as a private tutor.

“The happiest time for him was when the store was doing well, and he was never the same after he had to close it,” said his daughter Emily Rome, of Wellesley.

Richard died of COVID-19 on April 25 at a senior facility in Roslindale. He was 91.

Richard never stopped caring about his appearance. Everything he wore had to be color-coordinated, his daughter said. He loved his wide-wale corduroy trousers with a leather belt or suspenders, a button-down shirt with a pattern that would pick up the color in the trousers, and knee-high wool socks. He would always wear nice shoes to match.

“He definitely had a very strong sense of style,” his daughter said. “He always looked great.”

One of Richard’s best qualities was his quick wit and sense of humor. Blessed with excellent comic timing, he always had something to say at just the right time.

“His humor was a big deal. The personal delivery of a story or a joke is rare these days because of stuff online, and that is something that will always come to mind when thinking of my dad,” his daughter said.

Richard was athletic and enjoyed playing tennis, running, and working out. He was also interested in foreign languages, specifically Spanish, and spent time living with a host family in Spain. He stayed in touch with friends he made there.

“He wasn’t afraid to try things or to practice them to get good at them. He was such a natural. He was good at a lot of things,” his daughter said.

Going out to eat was something he enjoyed, as he did not know how to cook. He loved good barbecue and “had a hell of a sweet tooth,” his daughter said.

With his friends, he enjoyed going to the Avalon Diner in Houston. They called it “the office.” Each of his friends was a character, and he fit right in.

Richard grew up in Monroe, La., and lived in the South for most of his life, including during his first and only marriage. Shortly before turning 80, he moved to Massachusetts to be closer to family, but felt like a “fish out of water” with his heavy Southern accent.

He lived in the Simon C. Fireman Community in Randolph, where he was a part of a musical group that sang and performed songs from Broadway shows.

In the summer of 2018, he moved to the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale where he received long-term care. Each week, he looked forward to lunch with his daughter, his only child. It was a special time they shared that was cut short by the pandemic.

“The most important thing in the end was that he knew I loved him, and he was able to tell us that he loved us,” Emily said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Bob Parretti, 57: A father who was always there


Photograph of Bob Parretti

The day after Robert Parretti died at 57, all the golf courses in Worcester reopened. To those who knew him well, it was a sign that he was in heaven, doing what he loved best.

Robert died May 3 from complications of COVID-19. Just two days before, Robert’s father, William Parretti, had died at 83 after contracting the virus. Both were both lifelong residents of Worcester. Both worked at the local Norton Co. plant and lived in the same home.

Robert’s former wife, Hope Parretti, 49, said they remained “best friends” after they divorced, devoted parents to their son, Zachary. Robert always took care of them, she said, consistently paying child support plus extra money to help her move, get her hair and nails done, or buy a new car when the transmission on hers went.

He told her to consider the $3,400 “Zachary’s child support early,” she recalled, telling her “you’re a good mother, go get your car, Hope.”

Hope said she and Robert had a big, beautiful wedding, which he paid for by selling his treasured white Jeep. She thinks of him and his “beautiful blue eyes” whenever she hears the Eric Clapton song, “Wonderful Tonight.”

“I knew that he was going to take care of me and that he would be a good dad,” she said. “And he really was.”

Robert was a hero to his son, teaching him the importance of integrity and faith, she said. They attended Emanuel Lutheran Church, where Robert is remembered as a dedicated family man. Robert lives on through Zachary, a “straight shooter like his father” who graduated from Bryant University just days after his father and grandfather died.

Hope brings Robert’s urn out every day. Depending on the weather, she’ll talk to him about whether the conditions favor golfing.

Cheryl Orrico, the general manager at Leicester Country Club, said Robert played there “very faithfully” as a member of Norton Co.’s Wednesday league with his co-workers. Robert worked at the Saint-Gobain Abrasives plant as a molder for more than 25 years.

He loved fishing and was an avid gambler. Robert was known for his luck, with a wallet full of winning lottery tickets at the time of his death.

Robert is remembered as an honest, hard-working man who did everything he could to ensure his son’s success and teach him the values of family and God. His generosity and love were evident to everyone who knew him. “He’d give anybody anything, and never ask you for a damn dime,” Hope said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Richard Harris, 86: Devoted friend


Photograph of Richard Harris

Even a fall from a third-story window couldn’t stop Richard Harris.

His family never expected him to walk again after the terrible accident. But he recovered and began walking every day. Fast enough that his niece, Michele Maurice, 58, of Danvers, had trouble keeping up.

Richard was a friendly, fun-loving spirit. He could always be counted on to pull up in his Chevy Impala with a kind smile, ready to share a pizza or play a game of cards.

“He was an affectionate guy,” Maurice said. “He’d always give you a little smile with a twinkle in his eye.”

A lifelong resident of Lynn, Richard was drafted into the Army to fight in the Korean War shortly after he graduated from Boston University with a degree in business. He sustained hearing damage in the service. When he returned home, he worked as a bookkeeper for several restaurants and cafes during his career.

On April 26, Richard died from complications of COVID-19. He was 86.

Richard never married or had children, described by Maurice as an “Italian bachelor type.” But he had countless friends. Extremely generous, he was known to bring gifts for his friends’ children, many of whom were being raised by single mothers. He even spent Christmases with his friends and their children.

“He was one of those people,” Maurice said. “He was just a very kind person. He’d give you the shirt off his back.”

Maurice took her uncle to vote and get some pizza just a few weeks before he died. She recalled the waitress joking about his appetite.

In all of his relationships, Richard’s friendly nature shone through. Richard cared for people regardless of their background, at a time when that was far from the cultural norm.

“He accepted people for who they were, not for the color of their skin or where they came from,” Maurice said.

In his youth, Richard was sometimes called “Dick the Greek” although he was only part Greek. He was “a bit of a wild child” and on occasion got into trouble. But his kindness and charm were constants.

Richard lived in the same apartment nearly his entire life. As dementia took hold, he moved to Twin Oaks Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Danvers.

Visitors were not allowed at Twin Oaks beginning in March, so Maurice had limited contact with her uncle in the weeks before his death. But she was allowed to visit once, under layers of personal protective equipment, and hold his hand. He died a week later.

Since his death, Maurice has been working to organize a proper veteran’s funeral for her uncle, but the pandemic has delayed the process. Richard was able to build beautiful relationships with family and friends, though few are left to say goodbye.

“He outlived a lot of people in his life,” Maurice said, “and that was tough for him.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Stella Shilko, 101: “An amazing grandma''


Photograph of Stella Shilko

Stella Shilko was a loving and genuine woman who appreciated everything in her life. Most of all, she cared for her grandchildren and enjoyed spending time with them.

“She was an amazing grandmother and amazing woman,” said her grandson, Ryan Manewich, of St. Albans, Vt. “She lived a simple life, but she was always happy and it is just something [that] inspired us to live by.”

Stella died of COVID-19 on April 28 at the Buckley Health Care Center in Greenfield. The evening before, she had spent several hours with two of her grandchildren, Ryan and Katie Manewich.

Born in Athol, Stella had three brothers and four sisters. In the late 1940s, she joined the VFW Auxiliary after her husband, Joseph Shilko, served in World War II. She traveled around the country organizing fund-raising events and helping veterans obtain their pensions. After years of active participation, she became president and commander of the Worcester Country VFW Auxiliary.

Stella later worked for L.S. Starrett Co., a tool manufacturer in Athol. She spent much of her time with her grandson, Patrick, once taking him to see the Red Sox on a work-sponsored trip to Fenway Park when he was in elementary school.

In the late 1970s, about a decade after her husband had died, Stella retired from L.S. Starrett. She later moved to Weldon Associates Apartment in Greenfield to be closer to her daughter Joanne and her family, who lived in Shelburne at the time.

Stella spent most of her time in the senior center assisting with events and doing office work. Everyone at the Weldon knew Stella, and residents and employees alike were glad to have her company. Patrick once titled her “overseer of the Weldon” because of her prominence there.

Stella was devoted to all of her grandchildren, said Patrick, who spent a lot of time with her when he was attending college in Greenfield. Stella would have dinner with him and let him stay and do homework. “It was a real second home for me,” he said.

Stella was an excellent cook and loved to bake as well. She was especially good at making authentic Polish pork dishes such as chop suey, golumpki, and perogies. Also, desserts.

“She would make cake, cookies, apple pies. Nothing extravagant,” he said. “But really loved by us kids.”

After 30 years in the Weldon, Stella moved to the Buckley Health Care Center when she was 97.

“She was an amazing woman,” said Ryan, who noted that Stella drove until she was 90. She “lived an amazingly long but fulfilling life.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Bob Stout, 95: A class act through and through


Photograph of Bob Stout

Robert Runyon Stout will be best remembered as a man who loved adventure nearly as much as he adored his family. He was “Pop Pop” to his grandchildren and known as a caring person with a big heart who contributed much to his community.

“Bob was the most wonderful, loving husband and father. He built up his own business, worked very hard with long hours, and sent all five of our children to college,” said his wife, Joan Stout, who lives in Dennis.

He died on April 17 at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis from complications related to COVID-19.

Born the youngest of three sons on March 19, 1925, in Plainfield, N.J., Bob joined the Army during World War II at 18.

His troopship, the SS Leopoldville, was torpedoed while crossing the English Channel and sunk on Dec. 24, 1944. Bob managed to escape by swinging on a rope to another destroyer, and Christmas took on added meaning for him in later years, having thought that night he would never celebrate another.

Bob met his wife on a blind date on New Year’s Eve, and they married in June 1955. She was the love of his life. After the war, Bob graduated from Rutgers University and he and Joan lived in Plainfield for many years, raising five children.

“Growing older together never dimmed his light for her. He loved nothing more than finding the perfect gift for my mom and sitting back to watch her open it, eyes twinkling,” said Bob’s daughter, Susan Spahr, of East Hampton, N.Y.

Moving to Cape Cod in 2001, the family found a little yellow house near the sea and renovated it from the ground up to create a home for their children and nine grandchildren.

Bob looked forward to the various cultural programs the Cape has to offer, such as performances at the Dennis Playhouse and exploring the area on long drives or birdwatching trips. Telling stories, sharing jokes, lending an ear or a hand to anyone in need, he could always be relied upon, his family said.

He celebrated fellowship with friends at his book club meeting and had a lifelong hobby of restoring antique cars, completing his personal favorite, a 1941 Ford Woody Wagon, in his 90s.

“Bob was a very precise and patient man who insisted on perfection for his beloved Woody. When he finished with it, the car looked as though it had just come off the assembly line. It really was perfect,” Joan said.

Bob enjoyed watching “Seinfeld” episodes and laughed infectiously at every joke. Bob had a passion for his community, working for Meals on Wheels for more than 10 years. His routes always took longer than they should, since he stopped to chat with many people along the way.

Bob never complained about the various physical ailments he developed near the end of his life, and his thirst for knowledge and love of history did not diminish. Readers of The Cape Cod Times will miss his regular letters to the editor, the last of which was published a month shy of his 95th birthday.

“My dad was truly exceptional: a Renaissance man, a family man, a man who loved his country,” Susan said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Albert Richards Jr., 94: Sharp-as-a-tack spirit


Photograph of Albert Richards Jr.

Albert W. Richards Jr. was a proud veteran who was devoted to golf, Daniel Silva spy novels, and his 5 o’clock martini.

After graduating from Wellesley High School, Albert attended Dartmouth College but quickly realized that he belonged in the Marines. He was a World War II veteran, serving in the 4th Marine division, and proud of it.

“He was 17,” said his daughter, Gianna Regan. “I cannot imagine any 17- or 18-year-old going through what he went through in Iwo Jima.”

Albert had a great sense of humor, never letting his age dim his vibrant spirit. He would frequently make up different phrases or words to his family’s delight.

“One thing I used to love about him … it’d be a Sunday or Saturday afternoon and he’d say, ‘Do you want to go for a ride-er-oonie?’ We’d end up at a great ice cream place,” recalled Regan, who lives in Somerville.

After serving as a Marine, Albert earned a business degree from Boston University and worked for his father in wholesale meat distribution at the Albert Richards Co. in Boston. Regan fondly recalls her father taking the family out to fancy dinners when she was a child, and she was happy to return the favor in his later life.

“We’d take him out to eat, and he’d get a dozen oysters for dinner and his martini,” Regan said.

Albert and his wife, Eleanor L. Richards, retired to Marion, where Albert enjoyed going to the ocean to sit and watch the boats. After his wife died, Albert moved to Buzzards Bay before moving to the Jeffrey and Susan Brudnick Center for Living in Peabody.

Albert died July 12, about three weeks after contracting COVID-19. He was 94.

“I got to see him a couple of times … my son and I, we went and stood out at the windows,” Regan said. “[He had a] full military Marine funeral. He’s buried at Otis [Air National Guard Base]. It was beautiful, I have a flag.”

Regan said she is grateful to the nurses and staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston for working with her father in his fight against COVID-19.

“Beth Israel was really wonderful,” Regan said. “I’m fortunate they took the time to get to know him, to know me.”

Albert will be remembered not only for his military service and devotion to the Marine Corps League but for his lively personality and love for his family.

“He was a vibrant, feisty, sharp-as-a-tack old vet,” Regan said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Reynolds Pignone, 79: “The Pizza Man”


Photograph of Reynolds Pignone

To the people of Somerville and Charlestown, Reynolds Pignone was more than a truck driver. Some knew him as “Rennie,” but most simply as “The Pizza Man.”

Born in Somerville on April 29, 1941, Reynolds loved giving back to the city where he grew up and will be remembered as a friendly spirit who knew every customer he served.

Renaldo’s Pizza came to be when Reynolds decided one day to quit his job as an MIT groundskeeper and buy a pizza truck from a friend. His investment proved successful, as within six months he was able to pay back a $10,000 loan from his mother. He would drive that truck for 22 years.

“People come to me all the time and remember being a little kid and now their kids are going to the truck,” said his son, Gerald Pignone, who lives in Melrose. “He was a hard worker and a fixture of the community. He loved what he did.”

Reynolds died May 5 from complications of COVID-19 three weeks after he was diagnosed. He was 79.

Reynolds was an avid sports fan, with a special love for the Boston Celtics. Reynolds attended all of his son’s basketball games. The two bonded over sports and even attended Larry Bird’s first game together.

“He could tell you about the stats of players that played four years ago. He could tell you everything about the game he watched 40 years ago,” Pignone said.

Nona Pione of Hollywood, Fla., met her future brother-in-law as a college student.

“I first met him when I was moving out of the dorm at BU and just started to date his brother. I had to move all my stuff over to this apartment,” she recalled. “[Reynolds] helped me take everything up three levels. He didn’t know me or anything, and he was as nice as he could be.”

Reynolds made it a priority to stay active and stay in good health. He often competed with his older brother, Rene, running races together and comparing their times and distances. Both men lived with Parkinson’s disease for almost 15 years. Reynolds died almost a year after his brother.

“He and my husband ran many miles a day, even after they had Parkinson’s. After they couldn’t run anymore, they were walking great distances,” Pione said.

When he moved to a nursing home from his home in Quincy, Reynolds stayed active, walking around the facility four to five times a day, Pignone said. Every day, he walked the four miles to and from the grave of his wife, Laura Weir, who died in 2016.

Reynolds will be remembered as a caring and supportive man who put others before himself.

“He was a great guy,” Pione said. “If his brother or I needed anything he was always there for us.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Catherine Lugar, 77: Matriarch of a chosen family


Photograph of Catherine Lugar

After she had a stroke in her late 60s, Catherine Lugar amazed her close friends by carrying on her regular activities. She remained an avid rower, even with drastically reduced mobility. Without asking for help, she’d make her way down the long path to the scull, dragging one leg behind her.

“She was determined, at the beginning, that she was going to get it all back,” said Gretchen Sterling, one of Catherine’s close friends from her days at the Newton College of the Sacred Heart. “It was an effort to get out of her chair, walk to the front porch, walk down the stairs, get in the car. But she was determined.”

Known as Cathy to her many friends, she was known for her resilience. Lacking a strong connection to her relatives, Cathy built a close-knit network of friends: work colleagues, college classmates, and friends from her high school days in St. Louis and Miami.

Joel and Naomi Rosenthal were working in Stony Brook University’s history department 55 years ago when they met Cathy, then a resident assistant in a dorm. Her brilliance instantly dazzled the couple.

The following year, Cathy became an administrator for the department’s new graduate program. She ended up a student in that same program.

Cathy earned her doctorate 10 years later, writing a dissertation on trade between Europe and Bahia, a merchant colony in Brazil. She spent almost two years in the country, learning Portuguese and tapping local sources. According to Naomi Rosenthal, many scholars still cite Cathy’s “The Merchant Community of Salvador, Bahia: 1780-1830,” in their research.

Cathy spent the late 1970s picking up jobs as an adjunct professor of Brazilian history whenever she could. Classes with Cathy were always lively, and she encouraged her students to engage with each other and the course material, rather than simply listening to her lectures.

“She stayed curious about the world and politics and kept up with Brazilian studies, even when she was no longer teaching,” Joel Rosenthal said.

Cathy’s interest in the world went beyond her studies; she loved a good adventure. She visited the Canadian Maritimes, Portugal, and the Panama Canal. Cathy even spent a year tracking distant relatives to various Midwest cities, traveling by train.

“She got a yen, she picked up and did something,” Joel Rosenthal said. “She never had a lot of money, but she was careful enough with it to subsidize that sort of thing.”

Cathy’s stroke ended her days of traveling. She eventually lost mobility, despite her efforts to regain physical strength. After living on her own for years, she moved to the Youville House Assisted Living facility in Cambridge, and then to the Belmont Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Belmont.

Friends and colleagues visited as often as they could. Sterling showed up weekly with seven or eight books. A week later, Cathy would have read them all. Mysteries, biographies, and historical fiction were her favorites.

Sometimes, Sterling would bring another friend who had grown up in St. Louis. Cathy “remembered the names of bakeries that they went to and places that they shopped,” Sterling said. “They’d talk about things like that and laugh. Cathy loved talking about St. Louis!”

Catherine had been living in Belmont Manor for about a year when she contracted the coronavirus. She died on April 21 at age 77.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Joseph Policelli, 71: Married to the music


Photograph of Joseph Policelli

For every birthday, holiday, or family celebration, Joseph Policelli could be counted to arrive with the dessert. Joe was a regular at Giovanni’s Italian Bakery in Worcester, where he often picked up assorted Italian cookies and a specialty yellow cake, laden with Italian cream frosting.

“He loved that bakery,” said his sister, Lorraine Mayne. “Every, every occasion we had, he would get a cake from there, and they were the most delicious cakes we have ever had.”

“He had a special order,” said his younger brother, Rick Policelli. “These weren’t off-the-shelf cakes. He had to order them in advance. I would joke with him and say, ‘You are single-handedly keeping that bakery in business.’ ”

Joe died from COVID-19 in April. He was 71.

Beyond his love of sharing sweets with his family, Joe’s greatest passion was music. For as long as his siblings could remember, music was everything to their brother. His love was first nurtured by their mother, who first taught him to play the piano.

“He was like her prize student,” Lorraine said.

He went on to study music at Boston University, where he earned a master’s degree in sacred music. During a 50-year career, Joe served as a music director and played the piano and organ at churches and places of worship across Massachusetts. When he wasn’t traveling from service to service, Joe was meeting with couples from around Boston, planning the music for their weddings.

“He was kind of married to the music,” Rick said. “He was just totally, 100 percent involved, committed to church music.”

Joe loved to share his love of music, teaching students at choir schools around Boston without regard to experience or talent level.

One of his students at the Boston Archdiocesan Choir School wrote the family after Joe’s death.

“Even though I wasn’t very good at music theory, I remember the passion that Joe had teaching it. I wore his patience thin when he was trying to explain something to me for the second, third, or seventh time, but I wouldn’t be who I am today without Joe as my teacher.” Multiple letters echoed the sentiment, some from students he taught decades ago.

“I think he got great joy and satisfaction from his teaching career,” Lorraine said. “And sharing his knowledge and his love of music with other people as well.”

Joe also worked as an adjunct professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he taught a popular music theory class. Affectionately known by students as “Joe P.,” he was renowned for his willingness to provide extra help outside class.

“He’d stay for hours after class and help them,” Lorraine said. “If they didn’t understand a concept, he would work with them until they got it.”

When Joe’s niece toured WPI “she achieved something of a celebrity status,” Rick said. “A lot of the students were like, ‘Oh wow, you’re Joe P.’s niece?’”

In February 2020, the family celebrated their mother’s birthday, gathering at Lorraine’s house in North Reading. It would be the last time they were all together.

As always, Joe brought the cake.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Theodore Bialecki, 92: Proud Polish patriarch


Photograph of Theodore Bialecki

Even after retiring from the Worcester Fire Department, Theodore “Ted” Bialecki set his alarm clock for the same time every morning. The routine-driven homebody began each day with breakfast and a front-to-back reading of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

“He would read his paper for two hours and he would read it thoroughly and do the crossword puzzle,” said his daughter, Cynthia Bialecki Kerekon of Shrewsbury. She remembers seeing her father immersed in the paper, reading quietly under a swing arm lamp until he finished the last page.

Ted was measured and stoic but found joy in many aspects of his life. He loved Polish food and polka dancing, swimming, and spending time with his two grandsons.

Ted died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and complications from COVID-19, on May 20 at the Notre Dame Long Term Care Center in Worcester. He was 92.

Born in Worcester to Polish immigrant parents, he was the youngest of six children. Ted raised his daughter in the triple decker he grew up in, and when he moved out in his 80s it was to a house just a half-mile down the road.

In 1946, Ted served in the Army as a military police officer in Japan after World War II. When he returned home, he briefly attended East Coast Aero Tech in Connecticut before joining the Worcester Fire Department in 1954.

Around that time, Ted met Esther Tryba at a Polish picnic in Medford. Their shared Polish heritage and faith made them a perfect match, and they married in 1955.

They never ventured too far from home but would take their daughter on family trips to Cape Cod. They were parishioners of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Worcester and enjoyed traditional Polish meals. His wife’s kielbasa and beet soup were among his favorites.

The family, which eventually included his daughter’s husband and their two sons, observed the holiday custom of Wigilia, a traditional Christmas Eve vigil supper in Poland that begins with the family patriarch breaking off a piece of a large Christmas wafer called opłatek. The family would take turns breaking off their own piece and exchanging wishes for health and prosperity.

In 1982, Ted retired as a lieutenant after 28 years at the Worcester Fire Department. It’s a vocation he shared with two of his brothers. While he rarely spoke about his time at the department, he considered it a brotherhood.

Ted was a doting grandfather of two boys, attending their Little League games, band concerts, and academic events. He was fascinated by technology and overjoyed to learn that his elder grandson had chosen to study computer science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Ted lovingly cared for his wife during her nine-year battle with cancer before she died in April 2019 at the age of 88. They had been married for nearly 64 years, and he expressed a desire to see her again.

“He felt his earthly work was done,” said Bialecki Kerekon, 55. “He was looking forward to being reunited with her.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Shanie Rabinovitz, 90: A resilient, kind soul


Photograph of Shanie Rabinovitz

Abby Stern remembers her mother Shanie Rabinovitz as a woman who made stunning 7UP cakes, was a lousy driver, and spent her weekends hosting book and movie clubs and being treasurer of her stock investment club.

Shanie was beautiful and lively, resilient and kindhearted, said her daughter, who lives in Westwood.

Shanie “Sandler” Rabinovitz, who had two children and five grandchildren, died April 13 from COVID-19 at NewBridge on the Charles, an assisted living residence in Dedham. She was 90.

Shanie got married at the age of 31 and shared a remarkable bond with her husband, the late Melvin Rabinovitz. They loved going on cruises together and devoted most Sunday mornings to listening to the music of Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, and George Gershwin. She was adored by her friends, played bridge with her “Wednesday girls,” and attended concerts at Boston Symphony Orchestra on Friday afternoons with her friends and sister, the late Sylvia Wain of Swampscott. Another sister, Miriam Green, known as Mickey, lived in Revere.

Shanie and her husband were a classic couple for their generation but “in some ways they did not follow the stereotypical gender roles,” said their son, Joel Rabinovitz, of Potomac, Md. “My father would do basic cooking and my mother handled the finances.”

In 2016, Shanie was diagnosed with temporal arteritis and later developed mild dementia. But she remained “so cheerful and strong at the same time,” Stern said. “It was hard to see her age.”

Shanie grew up in Chelsea and moved to Newton after getting married. She helped found the League School of Greater Boston, which is now a leading educator of children and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She also organized fund-raising events at WGBH and Hadassah, a Jewish women’s group.

“She was kind and thoughtful, always dedicated her time to charities in various organizations,” said her daughter.

Shanie was a talented writer and loved to be entertained. Her favorite movie was the romantic drama “The Way We Were,” starring Streisand and Robert Redford.

She had a serious side, too.

“Starting in high school and through my adult life, we would talk about politics and the world generally much more so than talking about personal stuff,” Joel said. He remembered his mother’s endless encouragement and how she was always there for him.

Shanie was a worrier at times but knew how to overcome her fears. Stern said she is grateful she inherited this strength from her mother.

“I had a hard pregnancy for which I was in the hospital for about six weeks and she would visit me every day,” Stern said. “The nurses always used to tell me that ‘your mom got you through this.’ ”

Stern shared a deep friendship with her mother. They talked on the phone four or five times a day, and Stern credits her mother with giving her a shoulder to cry on during her loneliest times.

Shanie died apart from her family because of the coronavirus, a tragedy that still distresses her children.

“Everybody has the right to die with family and it breaks my heart that she passed away alone,” Stern said. “She was my best friend.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Anna Venuto, 90: ‘A typical Italian mother’


Photograph of Anna Venuto

On April 25, Anna Venuto sang happy birthday by phone to one of her 13 grandchildren. She died later that day.

Anna was extremely devoted to her family. She was a “typical Italian mother,” said her daughter, Valerie Ottaviani, 55, of Framingham.

“She was one of those moms. A hot meal on the table every night, laundry done, house was immaculate,” she said.

Anna was mother to six children. Every day, she would buy fresh groceries and was a prodigious cook. Every week in the fall, she would bake coveted pies for friends and relatives.

In their later years, Anna and her husband Frank moved to Cape Cod after raising their children in Newton and Ashland. They later moved to Boston to be closer to Ottaviani and other family members.

“They got to do things in their older years that they never got the opportunity to do” before, her daughter said.

In her free time, Anna enjoyed going to the beach, playing bingo, watching movies with her husband, and going on boat rides. She spent much of her time visiting her children, 13 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

The Venutos celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary shortly before Anna died. They both grew up in Newton and were introduced by mutual friends. Frank was in the Army and Anna worked at a bank. They fell in love quickly, got married, and started their family.

“My dad would visit her every single day” in her senior living home, Ottaviani said.

Two decades ago, Anna was in a serious car accident that left her with life-threatening injuries. She underwent multiple surgeries but ultimately recovered.

“She beat every odd,” Ottaviani said. “We used to say she was a cat with nine lives and she was just so, so, so enjoying her life.”

She was hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19 and died at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham. She was 90.

“After everything she made it through, just COVID is what did it to her, and I think that’s the most heartbreaking thing,” Ottaviani said. “She’d overcome so many things, and people would look at her and never believe that she was 90.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Bob Aldrich, 84: Family man, Cape resident


Photograph of Bob Aldrich

William Robert “Bob” Aldrich hated sitting still. He often puttered around his house, toolbox in tow, finding things to fix and projects to take on.

One Christmas, he built a large wooden dollhouse, furnishing its rooms with miniature beds, tables, and chairs while hanging tiny, framed family photos on its walls. He presented the completed dollhouse to his daughter as a gift from Santa Claus.

“It was one of my most cherished gifts I ever got as a kid because he built it,” said his daughter, Michelle Aldrich, 49, who still has the dollhouse in the basement of her home in Cape Cod. “It was from a kit, but he built it and it was just amazing.”

Bob died May 10 after developing COVID-19 while residing at the Cape Regency Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Barnstable. He was 84.

Raised in Londonderry, Vt., Bob had moved to New York when he was 18 to attend Albany Business College. He later worked as a bookkeeper and payroll supervisor at Central Hudson, an electricity and natural gas company.

When not at work, he loved spending time with his family. He settled with his wife, Rena Aldrich, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where their two children grew up in a three-bedroom ranch with a big backyard and a swimming pool Bob had installed.

The family often went on walks in the woods behind their house, Michelle said. Bob often took them out to dinner or to Friendly’s for ice cream.

“In retrospect, it was the four of us. We were a unit,” said his son, Mark Aldrich, 51, who lives in New Paltz, N.Y.

When celestial events like lunar eclipses and meteor showers occurred, Bob drove his family in a station wagon to dark parts of town to watch them.

“We didn’t have a telescope. We didn’t have anything fancy,” Mark said. “It was just doing what could be done. There was a lot of giving and sharing of experiences.”

When his health declined due to Alzheimer’s disease, Bob willingly stopped taking long walks alone so his family wouldn’t worry.

“That was a huge relief,” Mark said. “But also, I think it spoke to my dad’s character. That shined out even with that condition.”

Shortly before he died, Bob had a lucid conversation with his son. Even near the end, he was good-natured and funny.

“He was genial and kind and awkward and did not seem to be aware that he was awkward, which was its own kind of charm.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Bill Finlay, 62: ‘It’s all in your attitude’


Photograph of Bill Finlay

William “Bill” M. Finlay could brighten a stranger’s day by sparking up a friendly conversation, often while sporting his cherished fluorescent-green lawn maintenance shirt.

Bill, who lived in Townsend, was the epitome of a family man and would sacrifice anything for his loved ones, even as he fought battles of his own.

Bill dealt with a host of medical issues during his life, including kidney disease, knee replacements, leg amputation, and brain aneurysms. But he never let his struggles break his spirit, his relatives said.

Bill died at Leominster Hospital on May 3 from COVID-19. He was 62. His family believes he contracted coronavirus while traveling to dialysis treatment three days a week from an extended rehabilitation facility.

“He remained my muffin through it all,” said his widow, Debbie Finlay. Debbie memorialized Bill’s life by creating a “Bampa” shelf, a name one of Bill’s five grandchildren had given him. The shelf includes photographs and collages of Bill and his family, as well as some of his ashes.

Bill stayed with Lauren Finlay, one of his five children, and her wife, Tara, in Winchendon before he moved into the rehab facility. Lauren recalled the “red racing stripes” Bill would leave on the bathroom floor from dragging his walker across it. Bill would bang on the door to get in, knowing it irritated her, she recalled with a chuckle.

Now, she’d give anything to hear him pounding on the door again.

“All of us lost a great man, great father, great friend,” she said. “But I know he is watching over my oldest stepson up there, gives me some type of comfort.”

Bill was particularly close to his 8-year-old granddaughter, Skylar Demers. They were like “two peas in a pod,” Debbie said. “She misses him terribly, and I wish we could go back to when he was alive and lived with us.”

Bill’s proudest accomplishment was working as a police officer in Groton and Lunenburg.

Ray Finlay, one of Bill’s four siblings, also shared a very special bond with his brother, whom he called Billy. Even through typical sibling fights and tussles, they were always there for each other.

“Gives a whole new outlook on life, looking at what he went through,” he said. “He was amazing. ... I admired his attitude most — never let anything bother him.”

Ray remembered how in the moments before Bill had his leg amputated, his brother jokingly asked the nurse if she could save it for his dog, Echo, to chew on at home.

“He had that spirit,” Ray said. “He never felt down or sorry for himself. Just another hurdle to go through.”

Bill could make those around him happy with an unshakeable devotion to his loved ones, mischievous commentary, and unique life stories.

“He had no fear. He would do anything and everything,” Lauren said. “It’s a Finlay thing.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Sister Dorothy Cooper, 88: Brought joy to everyone


Photograph of Sister Dorothy Cooper

Whenever people around Sister Dorothy Cooper worried, she had a mantra she would repeat: “It is what it is, and all will be well.”

These words embodied her humble and optimistic spirit, those who knew her said. In 2003, she founded Neighbors Who Care, a nonprofit in Waltham that matches volunteers to elderly residents for friendship and emotional support.

“She knew back in 2002 that the older population was growing at such a rate and she really zeroed in on that,” said Martha Ryan, the group’s executive director. “And she was a lot of fun too. She had a great sense of humor. She loved people, she was so human.”

Sister Dorothy died April 14 from complications of COVID-19. At the time, she lived at Mary Immaculate Nursing Home in Lawrence, a healthcare facility founded by the Grey Nuns, the religious community she belonged to.

“She wasn’t your typical nun that people might think of, but she really believed in service to God and she had tremendous faith,” Ryan said. “It’s so hard to put everything this woman was into words.”

Parties and gatherings were among Sister Dorothy’s loves in life, her friends said.

“I think she just loved life. She loved going to people’s houses. She loved going to parties. She loved her grey nuns,” said Nancy Mulvihill, who met Sister Dorothy in 1988 and helped her establish Neighbors Who Care. “She loved people more than anyone I knew. She would never say anything bad about people, although I tried to get her to.”

Sister Dorothy was born in Toledo, Ohio. She earned degrees from the University of Michigan, Boston College, Catholic University, St. Peter’s School of Nursing, and an honorary degree from Rivier College in Nashua, N.H.

She worked as a health administrator and nurse, among other roles, in places such as Montreal, Africa, and Boston. In Toledo, she spent time working at St. Vincent’s Hospital, which was founded by the Grey Nuns in the 1800s during cholera and malaria outbreaks.

“This is amazing to me,” Mulvihill said. “Five grey nuns traveled by stagecoach from Montreal to Toledo, Ohio. And that was the beginning of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Toledo where Sister Dorothy served. So that same spirit that carried those five grey nuns by stagecoach, she had.”

Neighbors Who Care still operates today, although the pandemic has complicated its work. Another one of Sister Dorothy’s favorite sayings was, “Just trust, do the work, and it will come about.”

“It struck me,” Ryan said, reminiscing over when she met Sister Dorothy, “what her whole life had been, and what her mission was when I met her, was to be of service to the poorest of the poor. And that’s why she started this organization.”

Those who knew Sister Dorothy best feel grateful for having learned from her example.

“I think she changed me in the fact that I look at life differently,” Ryan said. “I look at people differently. I empathize a lot more than I did. I feel people’s struggles, the way she would feel people’s struggles.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Columbia Swinson, 97: Good will and Italian meatballs


Photograph of Columbia Swinson

Columbia Swinson never turned away a dinner guest. There was enough warmth, good will, and Italian meatballs to go around.

“She always found room at her table for whoever I brought home,” said her daughter, Ginger Zeller. “She was always making sure that everyone was taken care of first.”

Columbia died April 23 at the Devereux Nursing Home in Marblehead due to complications of COVID-19. She was 97.

Born prematurely and weighing just one pound, Columbia proved her resiliency early. “She was strong and had a certain spunk to overcome the odds,” Ginger said.

Columbia had dyslexia but never let it get in her way. She didn’t miss a day of primary school, an accomplishment she was proud of, even holding on to the certificate she received.

She didn’t go further in school. Instead, she went to work as a seamstress so that her sisters, Mary Jane and Rose, could finish high school. She continued this work until she retired in 1997. She was a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and its retirees club in Easton, Penn.

Columbia continued her needlepoint and crochet after she retired. She would make “beautiful crochet afghans for friends and family,” Ginger said.

Family was the most important thing in Columbia’s life. She was a single working mother, raising two girls on her own. “When times were tough, she fought harder to make life better for her family,” Ginger said. “She never gave up and always said to me that I must be strong and not give into the hardships of life that I may face.”

Columbia was extremely proud of her three grandchildren, Kayla, Merina, and Michael.

In 1995, she moved to Swampscott to live with Ginger, her son-in-law, David, and two granddaughters. “She was like our live-in babysitter,” her granddaughter, Kayla, said. “She was always looking out for us and making sure we were safe.”

Columbia spent time traveling with her family. She visited her daughter, Barbara, and her family when they lived in Ireland. The trip was memorable for everyone, her granddaughter Merina recalled.

Columbia loved playing bingo with friends at the Swampscott Senior Center. So much that she was thrown a bingo-themed party with a bingo-themed vest as a gift. “I’m pretty sure she would only wear it to go and play bingo,” Merina said.

Columbia played for the competition and companionship, not the money. “If she won, she would always give us the prize,” Merina said.

Columbia loved animals and had three dogs and two cats. “She would talk to them all the time like they were best friends,” Ginger said. She loved to feed all the animals, including the Koi fish in their front yard pond. “She fed the dogs and cats their own food, but would also feed them at the table,” Merina said with a laugh.

A year ago, Columbia moved into a nursing home.

“Her smile made others smile even when life seemed sad,” Ginger said. “She had an inner strength that everyone admired, and all will never forget her strength of character.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Donald Comer, 82: ‘If somebody was sick, he brought them soup’


Photograph of Donald Comer

“Gentleman” is the word Donald James Comer’s children use to describe their father.

“If somebody was sick, he brought them soup, if somebody was feeling down or something happened, he’d always drop in,” Daniel Comer, Donald’s son said. “Family friends, neighbors. That’s just the guy he was.”

Donald also looked the part, well dressed and impeccably groomed.

“He always projected this appearance of someone who was respectful, distinguished,” Katherine Holliday, Donald’s daughter, said. He was even tempered and never got angry.

Donald died from complications of COVID-19 on April 20 at the age of 82 in the Good Samaritan Hospital in Brockton.

Donald was born in Boston in 1937, and lived both in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood and in Canton. He graduated from Canton High School in 1955 and went directly into the Air Force. During his two-year service, in which he took great pride, he traveled to Greenland and Iceland.

After the Air Force, Donald had various accounting and comptroller jobs as well as working as a security guard. “Career wasn’t really his focus,” his daughter Katherine said.

Donald and Mary, whom he married in 1969, also had a son, Daniel.

Donald returned to Hyde Park to raise his family. “We lived in a very close knit community,” Katherine said.

His children described their neighbors as their family, and have fond memories of barbecues. The families would all go to York Beach in Maine together every year.

Katherine described her father as someone who had “a sense of community and groundedness, but also an openness to new people and experiences.”

Donald lived in the moment. “He wasn’t a man focused on milestones,” Daniel said. He was “more about living his life, you know? And he took great delight in those moments. “

He loved taking his children to Bruins and Red Sox games. They went to Fenway Park three or four times a year, often sitting behind the first-base line.

Katherine said her father had “an exceptional ability to remember numbers.” He could remember anything from a birthday to a license plate. During their visits to Fenway, “he would remember all the stats of every player that went up to bat,” Katherine said. “And people around us would just be amazed.”

When her parents grew older, Katherine took them on day trips to the Berkshires or the White Mountains. Donald would relish seeing the leaves change color or visit the Norman Rockwell Museum.

“In his later years, we would always go out for every single holiday to a nice restaurant,” Katherine said.

When his wife grew ill, the couple moved together to Kindred Transitional Care & Rehabilitation-Highgate, in Dedham. Donald helped care for Mary until she died in 2017.

“I really feel that even though he was 82 and failing, he wanted to make it to 83,” Katherine said. He died 10 days before his birthday.

“He didn’t have long to live, but he had more to live,” she said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Edgar Van Buren, 104: Golfed until 100


Photograph of Edgar Van Buren

Edgar Van Buren’s accomplishments were anything but subpar. A regular golfer until he was a century old, he taught his family the importance of a strong work ethic and the meaning of longevity.

Edgar died May 18 at Carlyle House in Framingham due to COVID-19 complications. He was 17 days shy of 105.

The oldest of five children and the father of five, Edgar grew up in upstate New York, graduating from New York University in 1936 with a degree in civil engineering before becoming an assistant superintendent at Turner Construction Co. in Manhattan.

Three years into his career, Edgar was drafted into World War II, where he served as a lieutenant in the Navy Civil Engineering Corps. He witnessed the iconic moment of US Marines raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima in 1945.

Following the war, he continued at Turner for nine years before transferring to H.G. Protze Inc., working for more than 30 years as a consulting engineer, specializing in concrete and steel, said his son, Stephen, 78, a retired accountant from Bolton.

“He worked his a-- off,” said his younger son Robert, a manufacturing engineer in Washington state. Edgar was “one of the best [engineers] on the East Coast,” he said. “His phone wouldn’t stop ringing.”

But he also made time for his loved ones and for his hobbies. He was active in a bowling league into his late 80s and played senior ice hockey until his mid-70s, when his doctor suggested he quit.

But golf was his favorite. “His love of the game never ended,” Robert said.

Edgar was introduced to the sport in his teens while working as a caddie in Westchester County. When he moved his family to Wellesley in the 1950s, he became a member of the Marlborough Country Club, playing from “dark to dark” almost every weekend during the summer, Robert said.

Teaching his children his pastime, Edgar also gave them lessons that came along with the game, like integrity and etiquette. Robert said that as a child, he learned to call his own penalties and mind his temper after spending over 10 years on the greens with his father.

Golf was an escape for Edgar, especially after his wife, Caroline, died in 1985 after 43 years of marriage. “It was for his mental health and exercise,” Robert said.

Stephen added: “You’re spending hours in the fresh air, usually with like-minded companions. Dad wasn’t that great a golfer, but the handicap system made him competitive with most. And boy, was he competitive.”

Edgar was nothing short of a tough guy, even in golf. Robert recalled seeing him get knocked down by a ball going “100 miles per hour.” Edgar reacted by exclaiming, “Yell, ‘Fore!’ next time,’” Robert said.

At Edgar’s surprise 90th birthday party at Marlborough Country Club in 2005, he was made a lifetime member. He became the longest-tenured member ever at the club.

Robert said he’s most grateful that his father taught him that “one must earn their way in this world.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Eleanor Lowes, 94: Amid a life of hardship and strife, she loved ‘her Red Sox’


Photograph of Eleanor Lowes

Eleanor F. Lowes was the picture of a Boston Irish grandmother. Her Irish heritage, work ethic, and stubbornness built the foundation of a long life, along with a fierce dedication to the Boston Red Sox. While her life wasn’t easy, her foundation was her guide.

Eleanor never missed a Red Sox game. She kept wins, losses, and the final scores in a journal. When she would fall asleep watching the game, her son Bill could expect an urgent phone call the next morning. “What’s the score? I have to know the score!” she would say.

Surprisingly enough, Eleanor was not always a Red Sox fan. “She used to vocally admonish when sports interrupted her regularly scheduled television programs,” said her daughter, MaryEllen.

Eleanor died in the Penacook Place Nursing Home due to complications from COVID-19. She was 94.

Eleanor’s life was in Haverhill. She was born there, lived and raised a family there, and worked there throughout her adult life. Her life, however, wasn’t a simple one. It was threaded with hardship that she kept carefully hidden, family members said.

“Everybody loved her, but nobody knew her,” Bill said.

The hardships that shaped her life began early.

“There were eight kids in the family. Four survived,” Bill said. “Her mom died from tuberculosis while giving birth to a girl named June. My mom was only 6 years old.”

In eighth grade, Eleanor was taken out of school to work as a babysitter in Rhode Island. She never went back to school. She went on to work in the shoe industry, then made canvas equipment and backpacks, and later worked in the cafeteria the former Haverhill Municipal Hospital, now known as Merrimack Valley Hospital.

“I remember her as a hard worker, working a lot of overtime to either pay bills or give us a good Christmas and Thanksgiving,” said her daughter, Vickie. “I really don’t know how she did it.”

She was also shaped by the loss of her husband, Herbert, who died of cancer after 14 years of marriage, leaving her alone to raise their four children. For Eleanor’s family, it was a loss that would never fully subside.

Eleanor’s daughter, Kathleen Bask, said her mother “never forgave our father for dying.”

“After my Dad passed away when we were all young, we never talked about it,” Vickie said.

From then on, Eleanor kept an emotional distance, even from those she held dear.

“I can say that our mom loved us, but didn’t know how to love us,” Bill said. “It was more of a stoic love.”

In her later years, she reconnected with her previously estranged sister, Jessie Wilson. “After our father died, they kind of warmed to each other,” Kathy said.

After that, the two would watch the Red Sox together, wearing team shirts and having snacks galore.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Cugini, 91: Handmade mittens for warmth, love


Photograph of Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Cugini

Betty Cugini’s relatives never had a store-bought pair of mittens or gloves. They had handmade pairs knitted by Betty, probably near a certain tree on the beach at Peter’s Pond Campground while her husband sat in the shade.

A lifelong resident of Weymouth, Betty met her husband Joe when they were 14 and 17, respectively. They did not spend a day apart until Joe died at the age of 89.

Known as Betty, Elizabeth Cugini died April 27 of complications from COVID-19. She was 91.

Betty never had a paying career. Her job was raising her five children and, later, doting on her 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. About a month after Betty died, her first great-granddaughter was born.

“Now there are two more girls on the way,” said her granddaughter, Sara McGhee, 39 of Weymouth. “She would have just been out of her mind over them.”

When Betty and Joe’s eldest daughter died in 1987 at age 36, she left behind a husband and two young daughters. Since she lived next door, Betty was able to step in and serve as a maternal figure to her granddaughters.

“She had this horribly rough hairbrush and she would just put these braids in me and my sister’s hair,” said her granddaughter, Sara. “She was never going to let the neighbors say, ‘I can’t believe that grandmother let [them] out of the house like that!’ ”

With Betty, “there was no sugarcoating anything,” Sara said. “But you could call my grandmother and tell her the stupidest stories and she really made you feel like she cared. I think she was a really good listener and she really was invested in the little things in people’s lives.”

In her marriage, Betty was always well taken care of. For example, the day after Joe was hospitalized due to Alzheimer’s disease, she realized she didn’t know how to make herself lunch. He had cooked every meal for her. “He just loved taking care of her so much,” Sara said.

Betty loved playing bingo, bird-watching, soap operas, and listening to the Statler Brothers, a gospel acapella group. “They had this old CD player,” Sara said, “and she would just sit in the dining room on a stool and listen to the Statler Brothers. … My grandfather would dance around the kitchen and she would pretend to be like, ‘Oh, you’re crazy!’ But she loved it.”

Later in life, one of Betty’s closest friends, Myrle, would pick her up each week and drive to church and then to lunch at the 99 Restaurant. Betty always had fun with Myrle, a former bus driver known to “smoke” people while driving her Prius, relatives said.

Every Sunday, Betty could be found at Weymouth’s Community Baptist Church, which she attended throughout her life.

Betty’s granddaughter, Amanda Chatsko, 41, said she had many memories of her grandmother singing in the pews.

“She was the loudest voice during the hymns,” Amanda recalled. “She never missed a Sunday. Not because it was routine, but because her heart was filled under that steeple.”

Betty’s legacy is the bond shared by the family she leaves behind. “None of us are happier than when we’re all together,” Sara said.

“I know everybody has a special grandmother,” Sara said. “They’re really special people. They change your life. But my grandmother was … she was something. She was really something.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Dorothy Proietti, 92: Wanted a big Italian family — and got one


Photograph of Dorothy Proietti

A huge, Italian family was exactly what Dorothy Proietti wanted when she married her husband, John, in 1949.

A sociable, easy going woman, “Dottie,” as her husband called her, cared deeply for her family. Nothing made her happier than being a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Her six children were her proudest achievement.

Dottie died on May 25 at Life Care Center in Leominster after contracting COVID-19 and pneumonia. She was 92.

During her childhood, Dottie lost both her mother and grandmother and was abandoned by her father, relatives said. She and her four siblings were sent to different foster homes and she was eventually taken in by an elderly couple.

That’s why her favorite thing about the Proietti family was how big it was. Dottie loved to be around others and made everyone around her feel special.

“Anybody she met that was having a tough time, especially people with special needs … she interacted with them,” John said. “She tried to make them feel at home.”

Dottie met John after he went back to high school to get his diploma. He was intrigued by Dottie, who was a senior. A couple of weeks after first seeing her, he spotted her at the public library and Dottie told her good friend, “That’s the cute guy I told you about.”

One of their favorite activities was playing Scrabble, which Dottie had played since childhood. Even when she was living in a nursing home, John would bring the board so they could play together.

A resident of Leominster since childhood, Dottie loved to sew and passed her expertise down to her children.

“At home, we did a lot of sewing with her help and made dresses and everything,” said her daughter, Linda Grossi. “So when I look back at the photos, when I was in junior high and in high school, I often had an outfit on that we had made together.”

Dottie made sure that her children had the opportunity to do anything they wanted, a luxury she didn’t have growing up. She worked part time at Foster Grant, a sunglasses manufacturer, to earn money she spent on her children.

“She sent us to skiing lessons, tennis lessons. Anything we wanted to do, we could do,” Linda said.

Every holiday, she would have all the grandchildren work with her on a project, and the grandchildren now carry on the tradition, Linda said. Dottie often baked with her children and grandchildren, making sugar cookies with a cookie cutter of their choice.

Her own children and grandchildren weren’t the only recipients of her love. When one of Dottie’s sons brought home a girlfriend who had children, she treated them like family, too.

“My mother, she always treated those children like her own grandchildren,” Linda said. “It annoyed me a little bit at the time, but I think about it now, and I admire her.”

As family was the most important thing to her, she spent several years searching for her biological brother, Charles Herman Welch Jr., whom she was separated from as a child.

“She saw her brother only once,” John said. “That was shortly after we got married. And he showed up at our house unannounced. He was in the Air Force and he was stationed up near the Canadian border and ended up coming down to visit.”

After that, she never saw or heard from him again, John said. She spent a long time looking for him, even paying a private investigator who never found him.

Dottie was always there for people who needed her, her family said.

“Now I realize that it was because of the way she was treated as a foster child, not really being a part of anybody’s family,” Linda said. “She always made sure she included everybody.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Arthur Barstow, 93: A keen competitor

East Longmeadow

Photograph of Arthur Barstow

Every Thanksgiving, the Barstow family would get together and go bowling. In 2019, at age 92, Arthur Barstow rolled three strikes in a row in the final frame to win the match.

And the crowd went wild.

“He was that kind of competitor, he loved playing games and horseshoes or darts, back in the day, but bowling was one thing he did a lot of in a league,” said Arthur’s son, Alan. “He would be frustrated that he couldn’t play like he used to play but he impressed us all that last Thanksgiving.”

The three strikes came as a surprise but was in keeping with his father’s love of games.

“He was a huge card player. Whether it was solitaire or setback, or whatever, or dominoes,” said his son, Larry. “He loved board games in his later years, particularly once he retired. My mother and he would sit down and play cribbage almost daily.”

Arthur died April 17 of complications from COVID-19 at the Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. He was 93.

Even in his 90s, Arthur made it a point to stay active and would take his walker out every day to go for a stroll.

“He was a big believer that if you stopped moving, nothing good happens from that,” Larry said. “Even to the months before he contracted COVID and passed away, he was on an exercise bike or walking around outside, just wanting to stay fit.”

Born to a New England farming family, Arthur was the seventh of eight children and grew up in Hadley.

“He was born with a strong work ethic. He was an incredibly humble, caring, and gentle man, just very, very hard-working, a great father,” Larry said. “I have three siblings, and he taught us all how to be responsible and how to be accountable.”

After attending grade school in a one-room schoolhouse, where he was the only student in his grade, Arthur graduated from Hopkins Academy in Hadley. While waiting for his 18th birthday to enter the service, he met the love of his life.

Every spring, Arthur would drive his pickup truck to Amherst and pick up a group of high school girls to help with the asparagus harvest. On one trip, he met Marilyn Louise Moser, whom he married in 1948.

“He totally loved our mother through thick and thin, good times and bad, and there really weren’t too many bad times. She had Alzheimer’s and so it was a struggle,” said Patti Castelli, Arthur’s daughter and youngest child.

Five months after Arthur died, his wife died on Sept. 29 of complications from COVID-19. She was 93, and they were married for 72 years.

After graduating from high school, Arthur served as an airplane mechanic in the Fifth Army Air Corps in the Pacific theater in World War II. After a short stint in Korea, he contracted malaria and was sent home on medical discharge.

The only of his siblings to attend college, Arthur graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with an electrical engineering degree in 1951. He worked for General Electric and Northeast Utilities, now known as Eversource.

“His career was with electrical power generation and distribution across New England,” Larry said. “It was a big job. He was pretty passionate about it.”

Still, Arthur always made time for family vacations. He was fascinated with the western US, had read every Louis L’Amour novel, and loved to take his family on cross-country trips.

Arthur was an avid Red Sox and Celtics fan and even wired a light switch in the bathroom to turn on the radio and play whatever game was on.

“The radio was always on at home. And the game was always on,” Patti said.

Arthur loved food. Strawberry shortcake was a special treat for the family, and he always had butterscotch candies in the car and peppermint stick ice cream in the freezer.

“He never cooked for us, my mom cooked, always. But boy, did he love to eat.” Alan said. “He never saw anything on a dinner plate that he didn’t like.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Elinor B. Olney, 92: The ‘Card Shark Matriarch’


Photograph of Elinor B. Olney

“The Card Shark Matriarch” wasn’t always known as the feared queen of bridge. In her earlier years, Elinor Olney was much more reserved and pensive. But in her old age, she broke free from the societal norms she had adhered to most of her life, and became more candid and outspoken.

A loving mother, aunt, and grandmother, she often referred to herself as “GEM” — grandmother, Elinor, mother — to represent her cherished roles and dedication to those she loved, according to her son, Peter Olney, who said her life was filled with love, memories, travel, and community service.

She died May 1 due to complications from COVID-19. She was 92 and lived in Andover.

Her niece, Cruger Johnson Phillips, said, “Elinor was a woman of her times, reserved and traditional. But she was loving and humorous, nonetheless.”

Priscilla Loring, a close friend and her partner in bridge tournaments, said they would often place in the top two or three when they played duplicate bridge at a club in Woburn. The club manager came to know the pair and would exclaim, “Oh, you brought your ringer,” when he saw Elinor enter the building, Priscilla recalled.

She wasn’t just fierce at the card table. Cruger was struck by how honest Elinor became toward the end of her life about how she really felt, sometimes hurling insults at President Donald Trump while watching or reading the news. Family said she also professed her interest in handsome movie stars like George Clooney and Ryan Gosling.

“She would crack jokes and you would be surprised,” Cruger said. “She was always funny … she decided to show it more.”

A librarian at Andover High School and later the Andover Memorial Hall Library, Elinor loved to read. She was known to read multiple books in a week and loved to share her knowledge with others.

Elinor was a great friend and role model to the younger members of her family. Cruger described her as “smart, deep, generous, and talented.”

“She showed me being who I was at heart was OK,” she said. “We were sitting at the kitchen table. I was telling her something about my life and concerns at the time and she was listening. I was lighting match after match, watching them burn out in the ashtray between us. By the end of our conversation, I had a circular, stacked teepee of black and burnt matches. Aunt Elinor never told me to stop what I was doing. She just listened and gave me gentle feedback. What a gift!”

Elinor met Cruger’s son, Indy, when he was 6 months old, and they immediately connected. Indy would babble, Elinor would answer, and soon enough, the two seemed to be having a full-blown conversation, Cruger said.

Elinor’s granddaughter, Mimi Olney, spoke at the funeral service, which was held over Zoom. “I know Grandma was really smart,” she said. “She wanted me to be smart, too.”

Mimi works for Moderna, a biotech company that has produced a COVID-19 vaccine.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Dorothy Murphy, 83: A real-life Carol Burnett


Photograph of Dorothy Murphy

For Dorothy Murphy, family was the light of her life, the people she cherished and protected.

For all their fond memories, the image ingrained deepest in her son’s and nephews’ minds is her constant laughter. The “kind of laugh where you turn blue,” said her son, Newton Murphy.

“A real-life Carol Burnett,” said her nephew, Donny Patscheider.

Known as Sue, Dorothy Murphy died April 27 after a brief battle with COVID-19. She was 83.

A lifelong resident of Massachusetts, Sue was born in Peabody and was a longtime resident of Salem. She was one of four children.

Sue was a single mother until her oldest son, Robbie, was 10.

“Sue lived a very tough life in her own right,” Donny said. “Never stopped working.”

In 1966, she met Donald, the man who would become her husband. It was as if her “life fell into place,” her family said. They were married for 35 years and ran S & M Answering Services together for more than 20.

A graduate of Marion Court College, where she received awards for her shorthand writing skills, Sue never stopped learning, always keeping up with current events. Her interest prompted her to volunteer to help Ted Kennedy in his 1994 US Senate reelection campaign.

“She had what she needed and did what she wanted to do,” said her cousin, Joe Reilly.

While Sue’s love for her husband and sons ran deep, the love she felt for her nieces and nephews was rare. “Auntie Sue” forged special bonds with them, serving as a mother figure.

“She always remembered everyone’s birthday, she made sure everyone always got a birthday present,” said Joe, whom she nicknamed “Fella” and said he felt more like her nephew than cousin.

“She was my favorite person,” Donny said.

Later in life, Sue’s “favorite place in the whole world was going down to see her second family in New Bedford,” said Newton, referring to her sister’s home.

“It was where she felt at peace,” he said.

Sue would visit Joe and his family at least once a month. They would sit around the kitchen table for hours, catching up and laughing, relatives said. Sue loved music, so Donny would strum a guitar while sitting on the kitchen floor as the family gathered around the table and sang along. Sue would request anything from Patsy Cline to Elvis.

Sue was a young soul, whose presence was captivating, Joe said.

“She always knew who she was,” he said. “She always had that way about her. You always knew where you stood in her heart.”

If you caught her on the phone with any of her nieces and nephews, she would never be interrupted, Newton said. She always made sure you knew that when you were speaking with her, you had her full attention.

Sue was cracking jokes until the very end.

“I’ve never seen her mad,” Joe said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Anna M. Gayton, 82: Knitter of ‘nana blankets’


Photograph of Anna M. Gayton

Each of Anna M. Gayton’s 18 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren got a “nana blanket” shortly after they were born, complete with a “made with love by nana” tag. Even after she was declared legally blind in her mid-60s, she never gave up knitting.

“She had been knitting for so long, she knew the patterns and she could almost knit blindfolded,” said Debbie LeBlanc of Amesbury, Anna’s oldest daughter.

Growing up, Anna’s six children had hand-knit hats, mittens, and ponchos. Though they may not have had the top-of-the-line sneakers and the newest toys, LeBlanc said their mother always made sure “that even when they didn’t have a lot that they always had what they needed.”

A cancer survivor who beat lymphoma in 2012, Anna died May 4 at the Jeffrey and Susan Brudnick Center for Living in Peabody from complications of COVID-19. She was 82.

Born and raised in an Irish Catholic family in Salem, Anna was the second youngest of five children. After finding out at an early age that she was adopted, she struggled with abandonment issues her entire life but never abandoned anyone else, her family said.

“She had to keep picking herself up and trying to remind herself what she was worth, she just kept forgetting,” said her daughter Maryann Occhipinti, of Somersworth, N.H.

After graduating from high school, she went to work for the Bell System — the phone company — until she met Ed Lassiter, her first husband, through a mutual friend.

At 20, Anna had her first child, and over the next 10 years had five more. While her kids were young, she stayed at home with them and kept an immaculate house.

She separated from her first husband in 1977 when her youngest daughter was 9. She became a working single mother and was the longtime manager of the toy department at Ann & Hope in the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers. She always took pride in her work, her family said.

In the mid-1990s, Anna met Marshall Gayton, who worked as a security guard at the East India Mall in Salem where she was helping out in a T-shirt shop run by a friend’s niece. Their relationship quickly grew from flirtation into love and they married in 1998. Marshall died in 2018 of congestive heart failure.

“My mom always went by Anna her whole life, then when Marshall and her got together he called her Annie,” said her daughter Laurie Nagle of New Windsor, N.Y. “He loved his Annie. Anything Annie wanted Annie could have.”

“If she was the heart of our family, he was kind of our guardian angel,” Nagle said. “That was one thing that we took comfort from. As horrible as her death was, she is now with Marshall.”

Family was always at the center of Anna’s life — and a key element of her home. She had a picture wall featuring every grandchild throughout their life. It started with pictures of her “babies,” as she liked to call her children, but their photos were displaced to make room for her new babies, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Even when she wasn’t home, Anna had her “brag book” filled with pictures to share.

“I think there were probably three books at the end,” Nagle said. “She always had to have a big purse because she had to show people her babies.”

Family photos weren’t the only tradition Anna loved. She also cherished the holidays, with St. Patrick’s Day her favorite. Anna decorated to the fullest, and when her children moved out, she did her best to bring the holiday decorations and traditions into their homes.

“On every single cabinet, on every single windowpane, on anything that stood still, she would stick decorations,” said Kerri Rogers, Anna’s oldest granddaughter.

She was a force of nature — working full time while raising a large family, coping with her loss of eyesight, and beating cancer.

“She was very strong,” her daughter Laurie said. “She was a survivor.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

C. Jean Coates, 90: Devoted to Lexington


Photograph of C. Jean Coates

C. Jean Coates was devoted to her family, her friends, and the town of Lexington, where she lived for more than half a century.

As a member of Lexington’s Town Celebrations Committee, Jean helped organize the annual Patriots Day parade. While ensuring that the marchers were lined up at the start of the route, Jean would still check to see if her niece, Joanne Parhiala, and her kids were watching from the viewing stand.

“She always made sure that my children were able to sit on it with the town VIPs,” Joanne said. “That was always very exciting.”

Jean also worked in the Town Clerk’s office, a job she was perfect for because “she knew everyone in town,” Joanne said.

Jean died due to complications from COVID-19 on May 4 at Aberjona Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Winchester. She was 90.

The eldest of five children in a close-knit Italian family, Jean was born and raised in Arlington. She graduated second in her class from Arlington High School in 1947. She received a scholarship to Boston University, but her father wouldn’t let her attend.

Shortly after the Korean War, while volunteering with the Red Cross at Chelsea Naval Hospital, Jean met Norman Coates, who was in a wheelchair with an injury. At one point, Jean grabbed his wheelchair and brought him to a hospital performance she wanted to see, whether he did or not.

Norman proceeded to lay it on thick.

“A lonely guy from Kentucky, no family up here, getting sick and so she started to visit him,” her daughter Norma recounted.

Jean even drove to the Virginia Beach naval base where he was stationed, although she wasn’t a good driver. The couple eloped in 1956. Jean kept the elopement secret from their children for years, finally telling them on Norman’s 80th birthday.

After they married, Jean began working for a stockbroker in Boston and hoped to become a stockbroker herself. Then she got pregnant. “Unfortunately back then when I came along, they gave her my crib and stuff and said goodbye,” her daughter said.

The couple had two more children, Teresa and James, and moved to Lexington in 1959.

“Like a lot of women of that generation, she was told that she had to be a wife and mother but she had bigger ambitions,” Norma said. While her children were growing up, Jean worked full time, mostly as an executive secretary in a variety of places, including the former Youville Hospital in Cambridge and Middlesex Community College, where she earned an associate degree.

Even with work, Jean still “managed to see most of our plays and went to as many sports things as she could,” Norma said.

The Coates’ Lexington home was a hub of activity.

Norman, an MIT police officer, brought home graduate students with no place to go for the holidays. Jean “cooked enough for three armies,” Norma said. “My parents were very generous like that.”

Norman died in 1999. Toward the end of her life, Jean began to suffer from dementia and in 2009 moved to an assisted-living facility in Arlington.

“She had friends that she made along the way in every position in every career move that she made,” Joanne said. “They continued to stay in touch with her.”

“People liked to be around her,” Norma said. “It’s a great quality to have people drawn to you and I miss that.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Connie Rosato, 98: A sharp dresser

Hyde Park

Photograph of Connie Rosato

Connie Rosato was a sharp dresser who wore matching suits on special occasions and costume jewelry to accompany every outfit.

She loved a bargain. Her two favorite clothing stores were Frugal Fannie’s Fashion & Shoe Warehouse in Westwood and Savers in West Roxbury. She and her daughter, Lois Stevens, would often go “Senior Day Tuesdays” at Savers to take advantage of the discounts.

“When she moved out of her house, she had clothes and jewelry in every closet,” said her granddaughter, Kristin Wojciak.

Connie died on April 21 from complications of COVID-19, two months shy of her 99th birthday.

Connie was born and graduated from high school in Boston. She then attended cosmetology school and became a hair stylist. One day, Louis Perin, the owner of the salon where she worked, suggested that she and several other young female employees go dancing at a local club.

“At the end of the night Louis drove each one of the ladies home and left Connie for last,” her daughter Lois recalled. “He pulled up to her family home and walked her to the door. He kissed her and Connie admitted that she kissed him back.” They married not long after.

Louis served in the military during World War II, leaving Connie to run the salon. In the late 1940s, they sold the business and moved to California, where they had their daughter, Lois.

When Louis became ill and died in 1957, Connie and her daughter moved back to Massachusetts. A few years later, Connie married Anthony Rosato, a waiter at Boston’s venerable Locke-Ober restaurant.

She and Anthony enjoyed traveling. They went to the local race track and performed at nursing homes as part of a senior musical group.

“I remember them practicing their song and dance routines for their parts in Oklahoma,” Lois said.

When Anthony fell ill with Parkinson’s disease, Connie cared for him until his death in 1998.

Connie lived for another decade in her home in Hyde Park, where her family would gather for the winter holidays.

“Every year my aunt Kiki [Connie’s sister] would sit at the piano and everyone would grab a kitchen utensil and have a grand march through the house,” her granddaughter said. “It was a magical time.”

Always up for adventure, Connie made frequent trips to the Reagle Music Theatre and the South Shore Music Circus and Melody Tent.

At 90, Connie left her house in Hyde Park and moved into Traditions of Wayland, an assisted living facility. She remained active.

“She enjoyed the weekly excursions such as lunch at the Wayside Inn, a play in Boston, or just a ride to Target,” Lois said. Most of all, she loved winning at Bingo.

“She was highly competitive” at Boggle as well, Lois said. “When asked once by her niece, ‘You really like winning don’t you?’ Connie replied, ‘Well I don’t play to lose!’ ”

When her memory slipped, Connie moved to the Mary Ann Morse Healthcare Center in Natick. “Even when she got really old and had every reason to be grouchy, she continued to be patient and kind,” her granddaughter said.

Kristen said Connie was most proud of her daughter Lois, her only child.

“We both enjoyed each other’s company until the very end,” Lois said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Charlie Lowell, 78: Wore many hats


Photograph of Charlie Lowell

Charles L. Lowell wore many hats in his life, from veteran, businessman, selectman and EMT, to father, husband, brother, and uncle. In each role, he showed tenacity.

“Some people might call it sheer stubbornness or even bull-headedness, but tenacity sounds better to me,” Charlie’s youngest sister, Katherine Tyler, said.

Born in Ware, Charlie was one of four siblings, and the only boy. Charlie often referred to his three sisters as the “three B’s,” Katherine said, “the Bossy sister, the Beautiful sister and the Baby sister.”

Charlie joined the Air Force directly after high school, serving as an air launch missile guide technician for about eight years.

After the service, he worked at IBM for 27 years and then as an office manager for Hardwick Kilns for 14 years. His daughter, Susan, remembers him taking his suit and throwing it away to commemorate his retirement.

Outside of work, Charlie was an important part of his community. He was a volunteer member of the Hardwick fire department for more than 50 years and was a long-time member of the Eden Lodge of Masons, a group that believes in making “better men out of good men.” He twice served as master of the lodge.

He was a selectman in Hardwick for nine years, where he tried “to do what he thought was right amidst much opposition,” Katherine said.

Charlie was married to his wife Alice for 57 years and they had four children: Susan, Brenda, Michael, and Andrew. Susan Kenney remembers going to the hardware store as a child with her father and helping him with different projects around the house, as well as watching cartoons and eating cereal together on Saturday mornings.

Susan said her father had a great sense of humor. She recalled a time when they lived in Florida and were experiencing hurricane weather. “I remember being so scared about it, and my dad joked ‘Well, at least we won’t have to water the lawn,’ ” she said.

Charlie loved to camp. He and his family would often drive between Florida and Massachusetts, stopping at different campsites along the way. In his last few years, Charlie and Alice would drive to Florida in their RV to spend the winter. There, he and Alice volunteered at the Sun n’ Fun Aerospace Expo, an annual convention for aviation enthusiasts.

“My father loved airplanes,” Susan said. He had plans to build his own two-seat airplane from a kit. “He had some of the parts in the basement, and some of the tools, and I guess maybe just with his getting older didn’t get around to it. But he loved flying.”

Charlie died on April 15 from COVID-19 at Holyoke Medical Center after living at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. He was 78.

He will be remembered as a “great man,” someone who “took care of everybody best he could,” Susan said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Carl Pitaro, 84: A true Brocktonian


Photograph of Carl Pitaro

Carl Pitaro, a former mayor of Brockton, was widely admired as a “true Brocktonian.”

Carl left his hometown for a short time to study psychology at Boston College and join the Marine Corps, but he soon returned. He worked as a teacher and guidance counselor at Brockton High School and was a mainstay in local politics.

In 1981, Carl joined the Brockton City Council and served as mayor from 1985 to 1991. He entered the political scene during a tough time for the city. Proposition 2 1/2, which limited the city’s ability to raise property taxes, went into effect while he was on the council.

After barely winning his mayoral campaign, Carl faced a budget deficit of about $14 million. Eventually the city laid off 25 percent of its workforce, Councilor Winthrop Farwell Jr. said.

Carl made the decision to obtain a loan from the state to address the crisis. The city council criticized him for accepting the loan, which came with the condition that the city hire a chief financial officer, but Farwell believed his decision saved the city from bankruptcy.

In the heat of these challenges, Carl “never failed to be a gentleman, regardless of circumstance or hardship,” said Brockton’s current mayor, Robert Sullivan.

Farwell, who served with Carl on the Brockton School Committee, described him as a “quintessential gentleman.”

“We attended scores of meetings together, and I was able to observe a very thoughtful, sincere person,” Farwell said. Referring to today’s politics as a “contact sport requiring a thick skin, dogged determination, and bold decisions,” Farwell said “Mayor Carl was the last of the gentle spirits.”

Councilor Dennis Eaniri knew Carl first as an educator and counselor at Brockton High School. Carl mentored Eaniri during his campaign for the school committee in 1977. Eaniri was unsuccessful his first time around but won the next time.

“Both times running, Carl Pitaro was very helpful to me,” Eaniri said. In return, Eaniri aided Carl in his campaigns.

Born in 1936, Carl was raised on Ford Street in the heart of Brockton. After his father, Dominic, died he took care of his mother, Elda, and his younger sister, Concetta. In high school, he ran track and sang in an a capella group.

He met his wife Patricia at Brockton High School, where she taught English. “She was very active in all the things that he did in our city,” Eaniri said,

After his time in politics, Carl did social work, serving adults and children with mental illnesses. When Patricia died in 2017 at the age of 81, he was left with no immediate family. Around that time, Carl was diagnosed with dementia.

He spent the past two years at All-American Assisted Living Facility in Hanson. On May 6, he died at Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital from complications of COVID-19.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

David Damon, 87: Gruff but caring


Photograph of David Damon

One of David Damon’s four children once heard his father say to his mother, “I told you I loved you once, and until I tell you something different, you can still assume that to be true.” That’s who David was — gruff but caring.

When Libby, his wife of 56 years, got Parkinson’s disease, he cared for her full time even after he too developed the disorder. Later, they both moved into a nursing home because Libby needed extra care.

“It sounds funny to say, but I never realized how much he loved her until I saw him start to take care of her,” said David’s youngest son, Bruce.

To his children, David was a role model, independent and strong-willed.

“For my Dad, right and wrong were absolute things,” Bruce said. “There was little gray area when it came to those types of questions for him. That clarity and certainty is still something I can draw on.”

David died on May 10 at Wingate Healthcare in Harwich of complications from COVID-19. He was 87.

Born in Northampton, he was raised in Amherst and graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. David served as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve in West Germany, eventually becoming a captain. He returned to UMass for his master’s degree, then earned a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study from Springfield College.

David spent most of his career teaching physical education at Mount Greylock Regional School and Longmeadow Public Schools. In 1991, David retired with Libby to Cape Cod but later became an educational assistant at Brewster Public Schools.

Libby and David loved American history. They took the children on two cross-country road trips, visiting battlefields, famous forts, and other historical sites.

During the country’s bicentennial in 1976, the family participated in reenactments and a parade. Libby made colonial costumes by hand for everyone, including tricorner hats and lace collars. Nancy, who was 5 at the time, loved dressing up; her brothers, who were 11, 14, and 15, found it humiliating.

David had been captain of his college golf team and was an outstanding player. While playing in Scotland, David took just one shot to emerge from the notorious Hell bunker sand pit at the famous St. Andrews’ Old Course. Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus once needed three shots to escape that bunker — David was especially proud of that.

David taught his sons to play well, but they never surpassed his skills. Golf was more than just competition, however. His son Stuart said his father’s integrity and resolve to play by the rules, including the rule to always walk, stuck with him. “I still do that. I’m 58, and I’ve had both my hips and one knee replaced,” Stuart said.

Toward the end of his life, David began to express more of his emotions. His son David said his father “became, through force of will, much more positive, even though his diseases were progressing.”

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, David’s children had to say their goodbyes over the phone.

“Dad, I want you to know what your life has meant,” Bruce told his father. “You worked hard, and the work that you did made the world a better place. You raised your children to do the same thing. When Mom was sick and needed help, you took good care of her.”

“On your round at the Old Course, you got out of the Hell bunker in one shot,” he said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Regina DiTullio, 91: Family came first


Photograph of Regina DiTullio

As a child, Giacomo DiTullio had to show his mother his homework before turning it in. His mother, Regina DiTullio, an Italian immigrant with a second grade education, would rip it up and make him redo it if his handwriting was too sloppy.

Giacomo’s siblings also experienced their mother’s exacting eye. But as the oldest, he felt the most pressure to meet her high standards. “She’s the one that really made me work and try to do my best in school,” he said.

Giacomo, an oceanography professor at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, said he wouldn’t be where he is without his mother.

Regina was as supportive as she was tough. Every Easter, she would buy her children new clothes, even if she couldn’t afford any for herself. “Her stockings would always have holes in them but she didn’t care as long as her kids had the best clothes,” Giacomo said.

“Her family always came first,” agreed Regina’s daughter, Donetta. “She was definitely selfless in that way.”

When Giacomo went to college in Canada and his brother, Francesco, needed expensive equipment to play hockey, Regina took a second job. She cleaned offices at night while working as a seamstress during the day. Francesco got to play hockey. Giacomo went to college and received $50 a week in spending money from his mother.

When Giacomo graduated, his proud mother ensured many relatives made the trip for the weekend celebration. “To her, graduating college was a tremendous achievement,” he said.

Delia Regina (Feccia) DiTullio, 91, died April 13 from complications of COVID-19 at the Armenian Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Jamaica Plain. She leaves behind three children and seven grandchildren.

Regina was born in the Abruzzo region of southern Italy. As a teenager during World War II, Regina and the other residents of her small mountainous village were forced to live underground, in hiding from the Germans. Money was scarce and they lived off potatoes for months. Regina’s older brother, Francesco, was killed fleeing the Germans.

In 1952, Regina married Angelino DiTullio and Giacomo was born two years later. The family immigrated to the United States in 1956, arriving at Ellis Island and continuing on to Boston, where they had relatives. The DiTullios lived in the North End for a few years before moving to Quincy. Their daughter Donetta was born in 1958 and another son, Francesco, was born in 1966.

The family also lived in New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Medford. When her husband died in 2003, Regina settled in Roslindale.

Speaking little English, DiTullio wasn’t close with many of her neighbors, but they knew her cooking and baking. She threw an annual Christmas party on Dec. 23. The smell of her frying Italian doughnuts and the sound of her singing Italian Christmas songs filled the house.

During the holidays, she sent her children to school with pastries for their teachers. Although her husband was a chef and restaurant owner, her children insist she was the best cook in the family. If Regina opened a bakery, they used to say, they would be millionaires.

Regina knew a thousand recipes by heart. Her children regret not learning them all.

“We miss her now in many ways,” Giacomo said. “We laugh about different recipes when we try to cook them, trying to remember how she did it, and of course we never get it just right. It’s never the same.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

John D. McDonald, 67: ‘A really great dad’


Photograph of John D. McDonald

“In his earlier age, music was the most important force in his life,” Peggy McDonald said of her husband, John.

When John D. McDonald was in his 20s and 30s, he was a guitarist, singer, and songwriter in the Boston area. About a decade ago, he released an album of original songs called “Angel Midnight.”

His career with the country-rock band John Lincoln Wright and the Sour Mash Boys lasted six years, a span that saw the band tour successfully through the Northeast, playing gigs from Canada to New York City. In Cambridge and Boston, they played with country music legends like Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Emmylou Harris.

“He probably would have been more successful in music if he made that decision to just go out to Los Angeles with his good friend Hutch Hutchins, who was in a band with him for years and who went out to Los Angeles and became quite successful.” Peggy said. “But he chose a different path.”

John died from COVID-19 in late April. He was 67

He and Peggy were high school sweethearts whose relationship spanned more than 50 years. They were married in 1974, when they were 22. After their children were born, John gave up the band for his family and worked in property management and maintenance in 1985.

“He still played around on the weekends, but he became more of a family guy.” Peggy said, devoted to Travis, their younger son, Ryan, and their daughter, Lindsay.

“He was very warm-hearted and patient. My kids always say they can’t remember him yelling at them,” said Peggy. “He got highly involved with Ryan’s middle school, high school, and college career in baseball. And he had the whole music thing with Travis, and Lindsey was just close to him.”

Travis said his father passed on his love of music to him.

“I played music for most of my life, too. And the first time I ever played in front of people was with my dad, on a parent talent show night at my elementary school,” Travis said. “He’s a really great dad.”

Travis said John took him fishing, played sports with him, and taught him to play guitar. “And [he was] always very hardworking, getting up early, always taking care of fixing the house, all that kind of stuff,” Travis added.

In 2006, John was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, a fatal genetic disorder. Peggy said it was frustrating and heartbreaking to watch her husband struggle.

“Playing his guitar and singing is still the thing that gave him the most pleasure,” Peggy said. But little by little, he couldn’t play the chords.

In 2014, he moved into a full-time care facility. Peggy visited John two or three times a week, dealing with his health issues until March, when hospitals closed to visitors.

“All of a sudden, I was totally separated from him,” Peggy said. “And it’s around April 16, I was informed he had contracted COVID at the hospital, and he died on April 28.”

As a tribute to their shared love of music, Travis is trying to finish writing a set of about six or seven unfinished songs John left behind.

“He would love to see Travis carry on, and Travis has already written music to one of his songs so I know John would be really happy with that,” Peggy said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Arthur Louis Thibault, 75: Devoted to faith, family, and the arts


Photograph of Arthur Louis Thibault

He lived alone and never married, but Arthur Thibault spent much of his time with family and friends. Before his mother died in 2013, he, his sisters, and their children and grandchildren would gather at her home a few blocks from his Lawrence condo for Sunday dinners.

“We’d all show up and she’d have a meal waiting for whoever came. We’d end up playing cards and Scrabble or just sitting around talking or watching a movie, and he always really enjoyed that,” said Arthur’s younger sister, Pauline Dubois.

After his retirement, Arthur would visit his mother frequently, sometimes twice or three times a day.

“He felt like he was her caretaker,” Pauline said. “He wanted to check in on her, make sure she was OK. But it also gave him something to do.”

Arthur loved going to restaurants and movies and seeing plays in Boston. When a new play came to town, it wasn’t uncommon for him to purchase tickets for the whole family, his sister. He was an active member of Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in Methuen. He would often treat fellow parishioners to breakfast or lunch after services, and perennially donated presents for the parish’s Christmas drives.

“Any time they were having fund-raisers, he would just ask what they needed and always made sure they got it,” his sister. “He was just a very good and kind and giving Christian. He was always willing to help, even when he got older and he really couldn’t help. If he knew that someone needed help, he’d always say ‘I’ll be there.’”

He was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 16, and was quiet and mild-mannered.

“Nowadays, it seems like every detective story where somebody is a murderer, they always refer to them as a schizophrenic,” Dubois said. “When I see that I think, boy, if they knew my brother, they would know that’s not always the case. He was just so kind and so gentle.”

Arthur died on April 29 after a brief battle with coronavirus. He was 75.

Arthur was in good health when he suffered a fall at the end of March and moved into a rehabilitation center in Andover. Days before he was scheduled to leave the facility, Arthur contracted the virus.

Arthur got his first job when he was 10, selling copies of the Boston Record American on the street. He retired in 2007 from Malden Mills, where he worked as a forklift operator.

He didn’t own a car and often relied on strangers and coworkers for rides. When he couldn’t find one, he would walk. But he never complained.

After retiring, Arthur looked for small jobs to keep busy, at one point considering working as a bagger at the Market Basket near his condo.

Although he didn’t enjoy school, Thibault developed a lifelong passion for reading and writing, authoring dozens of short stories and poems about everything from love to the weather.

“I am young and healthy and I am blessed with many gifts,” Thibault wrote in one poem, titled “I Am Rich Indeed.”

“The winds of time may come and go with great speed, but I am unruffled,” he wrote. “The seasons of fair and wintry winds may bring a change of heart, but I remain steadfast. With all that may come along, no matter what.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Albert Berard, 95: The heart of a sailor


Photograph of Albert Berard

Albert Berard was always on watch.

“His naval service was central to who he was,” said Wayne-Daniel Berard, who was adopted by Albert and his wife when he was six days old. “It was part of his identity.”

After leaving high school during his senior year to join the Navy, Albert served as signalman for a landing craft at Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of Normandy, where, after a mortar destroyed his craft, he stormed the beach with only a handgun. Years later, he pointed with amazement to the same landing craft when he watched the movie “Saving Private Ryan” with his family.

Albert died on April 27 of complications from COVID-19. He was 95.

Albert and his wife, Genevieve, married when he returned from the service. They had both grown up in Taunton and settled in the Weir Village neighborhood, where they raised two sons and a daughter.

They were married for more than 60 years, and loved to dance the polka at weddings.

“I can still visualize them whirling around the dance floor,” their son said.

Once they moved into a nursing home together, Albert slept with his head at the end of the bed so he could watch his wife in the bed next to him. When his wife died two years ago, Albert kept watch in her last moments.

Skilled with his hands, Albert worked in a factory and later as a manual arts therapist’s assistant at the Brockton VA Medical Center, where he taught men on piecework brought in by local factories. In his spare time, he made grandfather clocks from scratch.

Albert, who “had this really soft, very tender part of himself,” showed it is never too late to learn new things, his son said.

Unable to bring in a local priest safely, Albert received his last rites remotely, with the help of a priest in St. Louis and a Catholic eucharistic minister at the nursing home, They gave him the spiritual comfort he treasured and ensured his wife had received.

“He’s with Mom,” his son said. “And that’s what he wanted.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Joanne Atkinson, 73: ‘Taught me to stand on my own two feet’


Photograph of Joanne Atkinson

Joanne Atkinson was a resilient matriarch with a bright sense of humor. She married twice and lost both husbands to cancer, yet persevered and enjoyed life, bringing her family together for the holidays, summer cookouts, and seafood outings.

Known as Grammy or GramCracker, she was always there for her family.

“When she couldn’t find the words to give me advice, she would just talk,” said her granddaughter Nichole Parsons, 31, of Salem. “She’d sit there and talk to me for hours so that by the end of the conversation ... she would find a way to help me without even knowing how.”

Joanne, of Beverly, died on April 29 of complications from COVID-19 at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington. She was 73.

Born and raised in Newburyport, Joanne Danilecki attended Burdett College. She worked as a secretary at the former United Shoe Machinery Corp. and married her first husband, Richard Lee. A few years later, Richard died from leukemia at 27, when Joanne was 28 and their daughter, Suzanne, was 7.

About a year later, Joanne moved to Danvers and met her second husband, William “Bill” Atkinson, through mutual friends. Nearly every week, they would go out and dance to Elvis Presley songs and country music. They loved to travel; their kitchen wall was lined with souvenir plaques from Vermont, New Hampshire, Hawaii, and Bermuda.

Bill’s work was enough to support the family, so Joanne left her job to take care of Suzanne.

“She taught me to stand up on my own two feet and to be strong and to always be honest with people,” said Suzanne Dziadyk, 52, of Salem.

She was tone deaf, but Joanne would always sing to her daughter on her birthday. Even when Suzanne was grown, Joanne would sing to her over the phone.

When Suzanne and her husband were at work, Joanne and Bill helped take care of their children, Nichole and Brandon. The elder sibling by six years, Nichole spent most of her childhood at her grandparents’ house, playing dress-up and watching “Wheel of Fortune.”

“My grandmother was an amazing woman, and she was my best friend in the entire world,” Nichole said.

Joanne was a devout Catholic and fan of the Red Sox and country singer Blake Shelton. She ate the same breakfast nearly every day: a slice of toast with American cheese, a hard-boiled egg, and a cup of black coffee.

Joanne read and sang to her, Nichole recalled, and taught her how to cook. It was much like having a “stay-at-home grandma,” she said.

Bill died in 2002. At the time, Suzanne wasn’t sure her mother could recover.

“Her strength came out, and she found the will to push on without him,” Suzanne said.

In her 60s, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and early dementia. In 2017, she moved into a nursing home, where her family visited her weekly until March.

Her joy was enduring. Joanne would make silly faces and laugh with her family for hours. She and her great-granddaughter, Kaedynce, 13, were two peas in a pod, Nichole said.

With frequent health scares, Joanne knew the paramedics and firefighters by name. Ever the romantic, she would jokingly try to play matchmaker for Nichole while they were in the ambulance, her granddaughter said.

Even in the hospital, Joanne would try to console her family.

“She’d be like ‘Suzy, I’m fine. Don’t cry,’ ” said Suzanne. “And she would start singing and it would be OK.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Robert J. Scharn Jr., 54: ‘We were always together’


Photograph of Robert J. Scharn Jr.

It’s rare to find a photograph of Robert J. Scharn Jr. not smiling.

He carried a smile everywhere he went and was known as a “giant teddy bear.” Robert, who went by Bob, was a family man who reliably put others first.

“He didn’t want you to pat him on the back,” said his mother, Billie Scharn. “He would just do things because he wanted to, and because it was the right thing to do.”

Bob died July 26 at Lawrence General Hospital of complications from COVID-19. He was 54.

He was sent off with prayers and songs sung by his wife, Coleen, and their son, Matthew, 21. When Bob was taken off his ventilator, Matthew played Bob and his wife Coleen’s wedding song, “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes.

Before contracting the virus, Bob was generally healthy. For over 25 years, he was a frequent plasma and platelet donor, his family said.

Bob was the eldest child, with two younger sisters, and spent a lot of time with his mother. When he left home, Bob would call her every day, even after he married and started a family of his own.

“He was the kind of son that a lot of moms didn’t have,” Billie said. “He would be on vacation and the phone would ring. I’d say, ‘You’re on vacation, honey. You don’t have to call.’ And he would say, ‘Mom, it’s OK,’ and then proceed to ask me, ‘What’s new?’ ”

He did the same with Coleen, his wife of 32 years, when they were apart for work. Whenever he had a break, he would call.

“We did everything together,” she said.

Christmas was Bob’s favorite holiday, and the celebration would often start as early as July, when he’d start playing holiday music at work. He enjoyed family Disney trips and was an avid reader from a young age. He loved the written word so much that he wrote a children’s book, which has not yet been published.

Bob was a major presence in his son’s life. When Matthew’s scoutmaster stepped down, Bob stepped in to be closer to his son. He served as a scoutmaster for five years and helped six of eight boys in the chapter become Eagle Scouts.

He also joined the tech crews at Spotlight Playhouse and Acting Out!, theater companies his son had joined in Lawrence. When he was first taken to the hospital, Bob tried to rip off his ventilator mask because he wanted to get back home to take care of his loved ones. His wife and son had also contracted the virus but had less severe cases. Coleen convinced him to stay.

Members from the Acting Out! theatre company wanted to let him know that there was an entire community of support behind him , so they recorded a video to boost his spirits. Sadly, Bob died before he could see it.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Mary Adamson, 70: Outgoing and family-oriented


Photograph of Mary Adamson

Mary G. Adamson left a legacy of strength, compassion, and resilience to her family, who try each day to live up to her example.

Mary’s son, Travis Adamson, described his mother as a “very caring and loving woman who valued hard work. She would never give you something you didn’t deserve.”

Mary lived in a cozy home in Sutton where she would carry out a daily routine filled with hobbies, including sewing, knitting, and crocheting. Mary also loved spending time with her sister, Theresa Dunn, also of Sutton.

Mary’s family was the central joy in her life, her son said. She had seven children, 12 grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.

“When she bought a house with my dad, it was one of her biggest accomplishments,” Travis said. It allowed them to raise a large family and grow old together. Her husband, Fred Adamson, died in 2014.

A loving, purposeful individual, Mary made sure her children weren’t spoiled or self-centered. She taught them, above all else, to be self-reliant.

“She gave you everything … if it was something that you needed,” said Travis, who was adopted.

Looking back, it’s the “little things” that stand out, he said. He recalled his mother taking him out for pizza the day he got his braces off. It was one of the first times he spent a day alone with her, since she wasn’t usually able to take time off from her job as a medical assistant.

“My braces were off and I was sharing time with her,” he recalled. “She had been with me during the whole process.”

Mary died in Beaumont Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center in Northbridge on April 14 due to COVID-19. She was 70.

Mary was devoted and affectionate, her son said. But she was perhaps best known for her spicy and outgoing personality.

“The quick and witty remarks she would make to my dad are the ones I will most remember her by,” he said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Bill Phillips, 96: Devoted family man


Photograph of Bill Phillips

William “Bill” Edward Phillips worked hard to make the American middle-class dream come true for his wife, children, and grandchildren.

A devout Catholic and family man, Bill served in the Navy and supported his family by working multiple jobs. After he retired, he enjoyed being an integral part of his grandchildren’s lives.

“His family was the most important thing,” said his daughter, Linda Upton.

Bill died on May 1 at Salem Hospital after contracting the coronavirus. He was 96.

Born in Boston, Bill graduated from high school during World War II. He aspired to be a pilot, but after a bout of vertigo he enlisted in the Navy and served on a wooden minesweeper in the North Atlantic, assigned to the dangerous task of disabling enemy mines.

He didn’t often recount his time in the military to his family, but they remember that he was proud to have served.

After the Navy, he returned to Lynn and married Grace (Mathewson) Phillips. He had a passion for the big band music of the 1940s, and daughter Linda Upton believes they met dancing at the Wonderland Ballroom in Revere.

Through the GI Bill, he bought a plot of land on an old farm in Lynn, where he built his family homestead. The community would be called Veterans Village from the number of soldiers who settled there and drove the middle-class boom of the 1950s.

He got a job at General Electric, a major employer in the area, and worked his way up to become a drafting supervisor. To make ends meet for his family, which would eventually include six daughters, Bill worked part-time jobs tending bar and driving a taxi.

“He worked hard and had a great personality,” said Stephen Upton, Bill’s son-in-law, who worked with Bill as a bartender at the Towne Lyne House in Lynnfield. He was a true people person who got to know all the regulars and asked after their children, Stephen recalled.

Bill worried about staying busy after his retirement from GE, but his time was quickly filled with the duties of a devoted grandfather. He’d help with moving, painting, cleaning – “he was always busy” his daughter recalled.

He had a lifelong love for Boston sports, especially the Red Sox, but was rarely able to catch a game due to his work schedule. After his retirement, Bill preferred to cheer on his 23 grandchildren at their sporting events and theater productions.

As the family grew, Bill and Grace would host parties to celebrate family birthdays. Linda Upton remembers her mother at the center of those parties, sitting in front of a large cake with the names of the celebrated, surrounded by loved ones.

Bill cared for Grace during a lengthy illness before she died in 2011. He spent his last years in Bertram House of Swampscott, an assisted living community.

Through the kind assistance of his nurses at Salem Hospital, his family was able to call him by video in his last weeks.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Stella H. Sullivan, 96: A true matriarch


Photograph of Stella H. Sullivan

To Stella Sullivan, only one thing truly mattered in life: her family.

With eight devoted children, 15 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren, seven great-great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews, she left a vast legacy and an enduring memory of her compassion.

Born in Northampton, the youngest daughter of Polish immigrants Teofil and Valentina Hestowski, Stella had a profound appreciation for the meaning of family. She graduated with honors from Northampton High School before working for many years as a bookkeeper at the E & J Cigar Company and then as a secretary for the State Police.

Stella and her husband, Timothy M. Sullivan, enjoyed 55 years of devoted marriage before he died in 1997. She spent much of her life caring for her late son Edward John Sullivan, who had a brain disorder.

“My brother was born with hydrocephalus and he wasn’t expected to live long,” said her daughter, Kathleen Hupfer, of Westfield. “She cared for him for 68 years.” Beyond Sunday church services and occasional errands, she was never far from his side. Edward died last year.

“She was very caring and self-sacrificing,” her daughter said. “She did everything for everyone.”

Stella was known for her love, compassion, and gestures of hospitality.

“You could always stop in for a cup of tea and there would always be a cake, cookie, or pie ready in the kitchen,” her daughter said.

She was a talented homemaker with a knack for sewing and knitting.

“When the grandchildren were growing up, she knit their christening outfits,” she said.

Around the holidays or for any celebration, Stella brought the whole family together to share each other’s company.

“When I think about her, she was always a constant,” said Kristine Hupfer of Westfield, one of Stella’s 15 grandchildren. “You could always go see her or call her for anything.”

She was known as the “secret keeper” and “gatekeeper” of the family, and she was a dutiful confidant. A devout Catholic all her life, she often assured her loved ones that “this too shall pass” when they came to her with troubles.

“We had such a big family, but she had this ability to make everyone feel special,” Kristine said.

Stella died on May 11 due to complications from COVID-19, an illness she referred to as “that dirty bird virus.” She lived at Day Brook Village nursing home in Holyoke. She was 96.

She will be remembered for her strength, wisdom, her kindness, and gentle spirit, her family said.

“She was a matriarch. Everything revolved around Grandma,” Kristine said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Lieselotte Serven, 88: Beauty inside and out


Photograph of Lieselotte Serven

Lieselotte Serven was stunning, her daughter, Evelyn Rezendes, recalled. She was known for impeccable taste, with matching clothes and jewelry, painted nails, and a perfect hairdo.

“Anyone who knew my mother knew that she never had a hair out of place. She always looked beautiful,” Evelyn said. “As a child growing up, my mother went every week to get her hair done. Every single week.”

Her love of beauty and attention to detail drew her to interior design. An assortment of Hummel figurines and beer steins lined her shelves and a beautiful cuckoo clock graced the wall.

“She always kept an immaculate home,” Evelyn said. “She loved decorating. She loved all her plants and flowers and had them all on the windowsill.”

Lieselotte, known as Lotte, died on April 27 from COVID-19. She was 88. After a fall, she was admitted for a second time to the Brudnick Center for Living in Peabody, where she contracted the coronavirus.

Kindness was her greatest asset, Evelyn said, and she inspired others to be kind as well. In her retirement, Lotte cared for an elderly woman with dementia, taking her out for lunch and even line dancing.

“She always put others first,” said her son, George Serven. “She was very generous to the point where when you’d visit her, she’d offer you something to eat or drink, even if you didn’t want it.”

Lotte was born and raised in Augsburg, Germany. She and her family lived in poverty during World War II. Her younger brother, Fritz, died from pneumonia when he was 2.

“She would tell us about the times of never knowing where your next meal was coming from and having a safe place to stay,” Evelyn recalled. “You’re always on edge, living in a time … where you sometimes would have to say ‘Heil Hitler’ even though you didn’t mean that. It’s just what you would have to do.”

In 1953, Lotte married her late husband, Lawrence, who was a sergeant in the Army stationed in Augsburg. That August, they moved to the United States and settled in Lynn, where she spent the rest of her life.

“She had it hard, coming to this country, not knowing anybody and not knowing the language,” Evelyn said. “But she learned.”

The next year, Lotte had Evelyn. The year after that, she lost a newborn girl. While her death took a toll, Lotte was a strong woman who kept moving forward. In 1956, she had twin boys, George and Lawrence.

Throughout her working years, Lotte held a variety of jobs to make ends meet. She was a nursing assistant at a hospital in Lynn and worked at Old Neighborhood Foods meatpacking plant, formerly known as Holiday Brands. She worked for 17 years as an inspector at Analog Devices in Wilmington, retiring in 1994.

Above all, Lotte treasured her family.

“She always made sure we had everything,” George said. “She was very family-oriented.”

Lotte dealt with hardship and loss in her life, but always persevered.

“She worked hard, and somehow she managed,” Evelyn said. “God bless her.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Neil Krieger, 78: He sought out life’s mysteries


Photograph of Neil Krieger

Neil Krieger was fascinated by the way the world worked. His appreciation for life’s mysteries led him to a career teaching neuroscience at Harvard University and a second act helping secure grants for up-and-coming biotechnology startups.

Neil wrote his neuroscience doctoral dissertation at Harvard about protein structures and bioluminescence. He was fascinated by how bioluminescent creatures on the beach worked. He also worked to make the world a better place.

During his graduate studies, Neil joined the Boston chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE. He helped lead the chapter’s effort to integrate Boston banks. He and his colleagues had white and Black candidates apply for the same bank teller jobs and then confronted managers who nearly always rejected the Black candidate.

Eventually, through negotiations, Neil and others were able to convince multiple local banks to start hiring Black bank tellers.

A friend from CORE would introduce him to his future wife, Susan, who was working at a nearby clinic.

Neil was born in New York and grew up in Newark, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. By the age of 14, he lived alone in the Bossart Hotel in Brooklyn, where his parents ran a restaurant. The family wasn’t particularly close-knit, his daughter said.

“His friends thought it was the best thing ever,” said Hilary Krieger, who lives in New York. “I think part of why he was so interested in spending as much time with our family was that he didn’t necessarily enjoy [his own childhood] as much.”

Neil cherished his wife and children, spending as much time as he could with them in their Jamaica Pond home.

“Every Saturday morning, I’d come downstairs, and I’d rest on his lap, and he would tell me a story,” said his son, Jonathan Krieger, of Boston. “Some of the stories were stories that he made up, or some of them were books that he sort of remembered.”

He spent the 1970s and much of the 1980s teaching and researching at medical schools, first at the University of Pennsylvania and then at Harvard, making discoveries about anesthesia, antipsychotic drugs, and circadian rhythms.

He later used his years of experience securing support for academic research to found West Rock Associates, a consulting firm that helped startups and universities pursue government grants and help others make their own discoveries.

Outside of work, he was a supportive friend who “appreciated the value of just slowing down” and of “having a two-hour conversation instead of a 10-minute one, or taking time to enjoy a sunset.”

Neil died from complications from COVID-19 on April 29. He was 78. To honor his memory, his family asked people to “take a walk around Jamaica Pond” and “give a loved one your biggest hug.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Richard K. Kiddle Jr., 76: ‘Strong like a bull’ in body and soul'


Photograph of Richard K. Kiddle Jr.

Richard Kiddle Jr. spent much of his life on the move. He was seen bicycling and walking between Beverly and Salem hundreds of times over the years and became a familiar, friendly face to residents.

“He was always, always walking,” said his sister Ruth Patch of Tucker, Ga. “When he died lots of people wrote and said they knew him from the city. He was always out and about.”

For Richard, fitness was a lifestyle that he maintained throughout his life. He lifted weights, exercised, shadowboxed, and walked several miles every day. Later in life, he would ride his bicycle 25 to 30 miles at a time.

He was a “boxing aficionado,” those who knew him said. Going to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., with his friends Randy DeLorenzo, Dave Carter, Bryan Flynn, Tony Furnari, and Santa Kozlowski was one of his favorite things to do.

“He could tell you anything about boxers,” said Sandra LeClaire of Beverly, his partner whom he had known for 30 years.

A graduate of Beverly public schools and Beverly Trade School, Richard was an avid supporter of the local high school sports teams. He went to every Beverly-Salem Thanksgiving football game for more than 60 years.

In 1965, Richard served in the military in Germany and was proud to be stationed at the same base where Elvis Presley, one of his idols, had been.

“He called him ‘The King’,” said his sister Ruth. “He had all of his albums as a teenager.”

After the military, Richard had a long career at the Beverly public works department, where he served as union president for a term.

“He would always say ‘I’m loud because I work around hard equipment all day’,” his sister. “He had a very loud personality and seemed very gruff, but really he was very kind.”

When his niece and nephews were visiting he would sometimes bring out his big trucks from work, to their delight. He even brought them through the McDonald’s drive-thru on a street sweeper.

“He could do anything for you if there was anything that needed fixing,” his partner Sandra said.

Richard, 76, died on April 14 due to complications from COVID-19 at Beverly Hospital. His family said they were deeply grateful to the medical staff for delivering messages to him since they couldn’t visit.

A compassionate and caring person, Richard was delivering soup to his “surrogate mother” and longtime family friend, Vera Pisani Flint, whom he often cared for as she got older. It was one of his final acts. Vera, also of Beverly, died from COVID-19 just six days before Richard. She was 97.

Richard had Alzheimer’s later in life and relied on Sandra LeClaire to take care of him.

“He just kept saying ‘I don’t know your name, but I know you’re my best friend,’ ” she said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Theresa Vishaway, 93: ‘A beacon of light’


Photograph of Theresa Vishaway

Theresa Vishaway loved the classic 1990 holiday movie “Home Alone.” Every year after Thanksgiving her family would gather around the living room TV to watch Theresa laugh on and on as Kevin McCallister set up traps for his intruders.

Even as dementia set in, “Home Alone” never ceased to bring Theresa joy. Every year it was as if she were watching it for the first time.

Theresa’s spirit never aged. She was a social butterfly at her grandson Daniel’s wedding in Omaha, in 2013, showing up everyone else on the dance floor. She was always ready for a road trip, for softball tournaments, bingo sessions, and bowling excursions; and she was constantly looking to update her wardrobe with a new piece from the Alfred Dunner line.

“She was really a hot ticket,” said her daughter, Johanne Presser, 69, a retired high school softball coach in Suffield, Conn. “Everyone adored her.”

Theresa Vishaway, of Northampton, died April 23 due to COVID-19 complications. She was 93.

Theresa spent most of her working years at Bluebonnet Diner in Northampton, where she was a beloved waitress. Theresa enjoyed visiting the nail salon and hair salon every week if she could, but she never missed Friday night bingo, her most sacred tradition.

Yet Theresa’s true joy came on the weekend. On Saturdays, she went to Connecticut to spend the weekend with her daughter and grandchildren. She spent nearly every weekend with them for 39 years.

“She was so intricately entwined in our growing up and childhood,” said her granddaughter, Amanda Presser, 39, a freelance operations coordinator for televised sports in Suffield. Amanda, Daniel, and Deedee Presser would spend Saturday nights with their “Grams” while their parents went out for date night. These treasured times always included the “Golden Girls” and the phrase “Don’t tell your mother!”

“She was almost like a third parent to us,” Amanda said.

Theresa was an important member of every family vacation, from Disney World to skiing in Colorado. She knew all her grandchildren’s friends and could often be found cheering on the sidelines of their sporting events.

“She had a lot of hardship and heartache in her life, but she always managed to hold the family together,” said her daughter Johanne.

Theresa had two husbands who left her. She would often tell her daughters, “In the garden of love I found two lemons, but without them I wouldn’t have you.” She never failed to keep a positive outlook on life.

“She was a beacon of light,” Johanne said.

Theresa had a special connection with her daughters. When Theresa moved into a nursing home, Johanne visited every day to chat over a glass of chocolate milk, Theresa’s favorite.

“She never lost her sense of humor and remained a joyful person always,” her daughter said.

Theresa’s world revolved around her family, who will miss her dearly, especially during the holidays.

“It will be so hard not having her there,” Amanda, her granddaughter, said shortly before Thanksgiving. “But after dinner we will all sit around to watch ‘Home Alone’ and will remember her laughing there with us.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Robert Winsor, 78: A kind soul


Photograph of Robert Winsor

Robert Winsor was always helping others and loved spending time with his family. He made it a priority to be involved in his community, making friends wherever he went. During his final days, he stayed positive, smiling until the end.

A man who stood for kindness, loyalty, and friendship, Robert died of COVID-19 on April 27. He was 78.

Robert grew up in Everett, the son of James N. and Hettie M. (Hudson) Winsor. After graduating from Everett High School, he joined the Army Reserve and served as a military police officer until 1970.

Following his discharge, he began a career in the food industry. He was a produce manager at Stop & Shop for 30 years before transferring to Market Basket. He took pride in his work. Even after his retirement he regularly helped out at a food warehouse.

At home he put just as much effort into his family. He had two sons, whom he adored, and a wife whom he cherished.

“I loved him, and he took good care of me and his children,” said Carol Winsor, his wife of 54 years and a resident of Peabody.

He was close with his children. His eldest son, Robert, preceded him in death. His youngest, Stephen, could often be found alongside his father. Robert spent much of his time caring for his Stephen, who has a mild genetic disorder that can cause a range of developmental problems.

Robert always tried his best to put a smile on his wife’s face.

“He would always come up to me very quietly and try and get a rise out of me,” Carol said, laughing through tears.

He could often be found gardening or reading during his free time. He especially loved mysteries.

“He could sit out on a nice day and read half a book,” his wife said.

He was also great with tomatoes when it came to gardening. “I guess it was the produce manager in him.”

He was a NASCAR fan and loved motorcycles, swimming, and cooking. He used to be part of a motorcycle club and loved swimming in the in-ground pool in his yard. He loved going on vacation with his son Stephen and touring the NASCAR circuit.

Robert will be remembered as a kind soul who helped spread joy wherever he went. His wife loves to reminisce about memories over their lifetime together. But now that he’s gone, she said: “I wish it was longer.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Richard H. Dempsey Jr., 65: ‘A super fair cop’


Photograph of Richard H. Dempsey Jr.

Richard ”Ricky” Dempsey liked to spend mornings at the local Dunkin’ Donuts in Stoughton, chatting with friends and strangers alike while sipping coffee.

“When he got the job as a police officer I always told him it was the perfect job for him because he could do that and get paid for it,” said Cheryl Widdiss, Ricky’s former wife and mother to his two children, Amy Tarani and Kristen Dempsey.

Ricky grew up in Stoughton and went to Stoughton High School. After graduation, he began working for a trucking company in Framingham and picked up odd jobs to provide for his young family.

“Ricky was a hard worker. He always had at least two or three jobs and he always did something on the side,” Cheryl recalled.

In his late 20s, he graduated from the police academy and went on to work as a patrolman in Stoughton.

“He was known in town for being a super fair cop,” his daughter Kristen said. “I met people later through the years that would all tell me, ‘Your dad was the best cop in Stoughton.’ ”

In 2009, after suffering a series of seizures and then a car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury, he retired from the police force, having served about 13 years. He never fully recovered from the accident.

“We missed the Ricky before he had his accident, because that took away the spark,” his former wife said.

After his accident, he moved into a condo in Brockton next door to Joanne Czerwonka, his lifelong friend whom he spent most of his time with these past few years.

Ricky died at age 65 at Brockton Hospital on April 16 of complications from COVID-19. His family said their goodbyes over FaceTime.

Ricky was always there for his two daughters, four grandchildren, and for Cheryl’s children from her second marriage, who called him “Uncle Ricky.”

“He was the best father ever,” said his daughter Kristen. “Everything I learned about being an adult came from him. He had a way of teaching me and my sister, he would just be real with us.”

“I know he was proud as hell of his kids,” Cheryl said. “On Amy’s wedding day he was glowing. It was the best day of his life.”

Ricky spent Father’s Day last year with his daughters and grandkids at Faneuil Hall in Boston.

“We went to eat and spent the day there and we just had the best time. We went to Build-A-Bear and made these little dolls,” recalled Kristen. “It was like our last happy memory with him.”

Ricky loved to spend his days riding on his motorcycle, fishing with friends, and making people laugh.

“He was known for being a comedian,” Kristen said. “Everybody says, ‘He was a riot, he was so funny.’ He always had everyone laughing.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Michael Kertyzak Jr., 69: ‘Always the guy telling the story’

Cranston, R.I.

Photograph of Michael Kertyzak Jr.

Michael Kertyzak Jr. loved telling stories, he loved adventure, and he loved the ocean.

One evening when he was out on a boat with his brothers off Cape Cod, he saw a basking shark gliding through the water. He leaped in, swam alongside the shark, and grabbed onto its dorsal fin.

The shark coasted at the surface while he held on for a ride. His brothers pulled out their camcorder and filmed a video of him and the shark swimming into the sunset.

Michael died of complications from COVID-19 on May 5 at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was 69 and lived in Cranston. R.I.

“Whenever families got together, he was always the guy telling the story, captivating people’s attention. He was great at it,” said his son, Christopher Kertyzak.

Michael was born Dec. 29, 1950, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was one of eight children. He graduated from the New York Institute of Technology with a degree in physics.

He spent his early career working at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Falmouth, where he helped design the radar systems for Alvin, a research submersible vehicle used to document the wreck of the Titanic. He spent months on a research vessel studying magnetic field traces on the ocean floor.

An avid fisherman, Michael spent much of his free time on the ocean. He would recount tales of catching massive stingrays and 13-pound lobsters. He would also skin-dive — a form of underwater diving without a portable breathing device — for lobsters and could hold his breath for more than five minutes. In the summer after big lobstering trips, the pantry was stocked with his catch.

“I was still a kid and I remember sprawling [lobsters] out all over the driveway to play with them,” his son said. “My mom would say we ate lobster meat like everyone else ate hot dogs.”

In his mid-20s, Michael decided he wanted to be a high school teacher. He taught physics at Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River.

“He loved it,” said his son, now a high school physics teacher himself.

Despite his passion for the job, Michael left teaching to work on radar air defense projects at the MITRE Corp. in Bedford.

This new job only fueled his thirst for adventure. With job sites in places like Germany and Iceland, he traveled through most of Europe, often backpacking.

“They would pay for him staying in a hotel, [but] there were years where he wanted the experience of traveling as an explorer, backpack-style,” his son said.

These long trips meant time away from his family, but he made sure to pass on his love of the outdoors to his three children through many camping, hiking, fishing, and canoeing trips.

“He always made us recognize how beautiful nature was and take time to appreciate it,” his son said.

Michael returned to Diman High School and taught for two more decades until he retired. He continued to enjoy learning about science and the outdoors.

“He was a lifelong explorer and learner,” his son said.

Michael had a strong faith throughout his life and his family organized a sermon by Zoom just before he died.

“He was the kind of guy that would quote scriptures at various times,” his son said. “I knew how important that was to him.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Elaine Barker, 87: Spread love through family cookouts


Photograph of Elaine Barker

Nobody wanted to miss one of Elaine Barker’s cookouts. Cars would park up and down the block, filled with family and close friends ready to enjoy food piled on two long tables pushed together. It was her love language to her family and a way to reunite them all.

“Every time I came back to visit from Ohio, she would automatically, without even thinking, have a cookout in her backyard and the whole family was there,” said her sister, Carol Hector Harris of Columbus, Ohio.

Whether gatherings occurred in the family home in Roxbury or while vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard or traveling to Jamaica, Elaine had a way of making everyone feel special in that moment.

Elaine died April 16, 2020, in Everett Hospital of COVID-19-related complications. She was 87.

Born in Boston in 1932, Elaine was the eldest of five children of Harold Raphael Hector Sr. and Matilda Rachel Robinson Hector. After graduating from high school, she dreamed of becoming a nurse and enrolled in Boston City Hospital Nursing School. She was a nurse’s aide at Massachusetts General Hospital before becoming a secretary at the Boston Fire Department in Roxbury and later for the Postal Service.

She married Lawrence “Larry” Barker in 1955 and moved to Stoughton. The pair were together for nearly 50 years before he died in 2003. They had two children, Gayle and Denise, as well as multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Elaine was an avid traveler, visiting four continents for pleasure or to see family who had moved away. One of her favorite trips was to Jamaica with her three sisters. Lounging on the beach and exploring the country, the four of them laughed while making new memories and friends.

“Someone once told my sister that they couldn’t believe the four of us went on vacation together and could get along, but in my mind I couldn’t imagine people in my family not getting along,” her sister Carol said. “We just had a wonderful time together. It was just like that.”

Elaine’s favorite family tradition was the weeks they would spend every summer in Oaks Bluff, on Martha’s Vineyard. For more than 20 years, four generations of the family would swim at Inkwell Beach, gather for clam bakes, and browse shops around the island.

Elaine loved cheering on the Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots. Her father, a local track-and-field coach, would take the family to all types of games. Elaine was an avid bowler.

She also loved to garden. Her fresh vegetables and herbs were used in meals she whipped up for loved ones. She was also a skilled ceramicist and enjoyed making flower pots and garden ornaments.

For all the memories she shared with her family, the image ingrained in her sister’s mind is the smile Elaine wore. “That smile was always there,” she said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Mary Colonna, 90: A pillar of light and love in her family’s lives


Photograph of Mary Colonna

Family was more than a descriptor to Mary Colonna. It was a commitment and a lifelong love.

She cared for four younger siblings, her “love-at-first-sight” husband, two children, three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. It was her greatest source of joy.

As she neared the end, her family made sure she felt that same love in return, forming heart shapes with their hands from outside the window of her hospital room. She was able to return the gesture.

Mary died on May 11 at Maples Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Wrentham of COVID-19. She was 90.

Mary was born in Framingham and she never left. She was the oldest of six children, including one who died as an infant. Her sister, Joan Dolan of Framingham and Lowell, also died from COVID-19, in April. She was 89.

When Mary was 18, her mother died, and she became the maternal figure, sacrificing her ambitions to ensure her siblings could achieve theirs.

“My grandma was always a very smart woman, but she didn’t necessarily have the resources to do anything with her intelligence,” said Kathryn “Katie” Mary Satko. “[When her mother died], she had to basically take on the motherly role and she didn’t have the opportunity to be a child as much or even a teenager.”

Mary’s selfless nature extended into her 61-year marriage to Albert Colonna, who died in 2011. When Albert struggled with kidney failure, she took care of him around the clock.

“I think it was maybe only a few months after he passed, that was when she started to lose her memory,” her granddaughter said. “Somehow, she held on long enough so that she could take care of him.”

Mary enjoyed simple pleasures. She was a morning person, cherishing the chance to watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee. She treasured her faith, attending 4 p.m. Mass every Saturday.

She loved Katharine Hepburn movies. She dressed up for any occasion, consistently donning her signature bright pink lipstick. Mary loved long drives with her husband. But none of that could compare to her biggest priority.

“Being with her family was her favorite thing to do,” said Mary Satko, Katie’s mother and Mary’s daughter. “Even when my mom and dad took rides, they always came home. Home was home. It was a blessing they really cherished. Having her family around, that was all she wanted.”

James Satko, Katie’s father, similarly spoke about Mary’s presence in the lives of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and about how family gatherings were always “special because of her.”

“She showed up to their recitals, tennis lessons, softball games,” James said.

Mary’s positive outlook inspired those around her.

“She was just a special person,” her son, James Colonna, said in an e-mail. “She only saw the good in people and was very considerate of others.”

Mary had a beautiful smile and loved to laugh. She was a pillar of light and love in her family’s lives.

“We miss her tremendously,” James said. “The holidays will be hard without her.”

But Mary’s loving presence is far from gone.

“Her love was, kind of, infinite,” her granddaughter said. “I feel like it still isn’t ending. … It’s just a different kind of love than we’re used to now.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Roland Morse III, 79: A lifetime love of horses


Photograph of Roland Morse III

He had a tough-sounding nickname, but Roland Victor Morse III was gentle and kind. Known as Spike, he was giving and always willing to help. He had a warm personality that charmed adults and children alike.

In his free time, Spike volunteered at the First Congregational Church of Revere with his wife, Kathy Morse. On Sundays, they helped run the nursery, where Spike loved playing with the children as much as they loved playing with him.

“I think that was his second love. Horses was the first, children were the second, and I was the third,” Kathy Morse quipped.

Spike died from COVID-19 complications on April 19 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was 79.

Spike was born and raised in Ayer, where he fell in love with horses. While visiting a farm, he realized that his size and weight made him an ideal jockey, which he became at 19 years old.

He took a break from jockeying in 1966 when he was drafted into the military but returned after a year and continued in the sport. During his career, he would usually spend his time at Suffolk Downs or Rockingham Park during the summer and travel to racing circuits in Florida during the winter. He also worked at Meadow Event Park in Virginia, formally Meadow Stable, where racing legend Secretariat was born.

Spike retired from the sport after suffering an ankle injury in a riding accident. But his love for the sport remained strong.

"It was his favorite thing in the whole wide world … plus, he could tell you anything about a horse. He used to watch all the horse races, and he could tell you just by watching them go to the starting gate which one was sore, which one was going to lose because he was lame,” Kathy Morse said. “I think in the back of his mind and in his heart, he was still on that racetrack.”

After his injury, Morse began to explore other interests. He became an auto mechanic and later worked as a quality control inspector at Fraen Corp. in Reading before retiring in 2008. Morse also developed an interest in computers and took courses.

Because of his varied expertise, he was always willing to help families fix their cars, computers, and printers.

“He would do anything for anybody, he was that kind of person,” said longtime friend Lisa Sturgis, who met Spike at the First Congregational Church of Revere. “If he thought you needed something, he’d say, ‘Is there anything I can do’ and if you said yes, [he would] help with this or that. He would not hesitate.”

Spike and Kathy Morse met in 1976 through mutual friends in Revere and were married soon after at the First Congregational Church there. They did not have children together but Spike continued to have a close relationship with his two children from his first marriage. After it ended, Spike left Boston but eventually moved back to Revere to be near his children.

Sturgis described Spike and Kathy Morse as best buddies. Younger people looked up to their marriage. After Spike’s retirement, they enjoyed spending time at home together.

“He was a good man and a reminder that there are good men in the world,” Sturgis said. “He leaves space but we have memories to fill that when we fill that emptiness.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Frank Archibald, 84: A master craftsman who built his own house


Photograph of Frank Archibald

Not many people can say they built their own house, and even fewer raised a family in such a house and lived most of their life there. But not many people were as skillful at construction as Frank Archibald, who built his family home in Weymouth for just over $10,000 in 1961.

Frank’s daughter Nancy said he lived his life with a do-it-yourself attitude, an approach that led him start his own construction company with his brother. Frank died April 16 from COVID-19. He was 84.

The ranch-style dwelling Frank built was home for him and his wife, Barbara, whom he met through a friend and married when he was 22. Together they raised six children.

The house was a bit crowded, with eight residents; it had three bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room. But the density made for fun holidays, particularly Christmas, his daughter said. Frank would exercise the cooking skills he learned in the National Guard by making the family breakfast every Sunday.

He was also a committed lottery player and in the 1970s won $50,000 on a season ticket. Most of the money went to a much-desired addition to the house, but each member of the family got a reward, including a dirt bike for one of his sons and a new car for Barbara.

His work ethic served as a model for his kids, particularly his son Frankie, who followed in his footsteps into construction and real estate.

Frank was a soft touch. His quiet and forgiving demeanor meant that if people owed him money, he would rely on mutual trust rather than haranguing them about it, his daughter said. He was a mentor to his son and many carpenters who worked for him through the years.

Frank remained in the family home after retiring in his 60s. True to form, he tinkered and created “nooks” around the house. He constantly worked on creative projects, building and fixing things at his kids’ homes.

One such project involved building a dollhouse for his granddaughter, with assistance from Barbara.

“You would have thought they still had six kids at home,” he was so busy, joked Nancy. He also enjoyed golfing with the Weymouth Elks. He kept up with golf even after having a leg amputated in his 60s.

Most of Frank’s direct family remained very close to their hometown of Weymouth, and they continued to spend time with him in his later years. Nancy would bring him doughnuts and The Boston Globe on Sunday mornings, while another daughter, Sandy, would routinely take him and his grandchildren to Castle Island in South Boston, always concluding the trip with a stop for ice cream.

Frank’s house is remaining in the family for the foreseeable future — his granddaughter purchased the house in the past year.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Nancy Reid, 97: The family fashionista


Photograph of Nancy Reid

Wherever Nancy Reid went, she went with style.

Known in her family as a fashionista, Nancy would never leave the house without matching outfits and accessories, usually involving the timeless colors of beige, pink, and white.

Kara Agoglia, Nancy’s 21-year-old granddaughter who is in her senior year at Virginia Tech University, said that her grandmother “always cared about her appearance, always dressed to the nines.”

A graduate of the High School of Fashion Industries in New York City, Nancy worked as a designer during World War II and was a talented singer and musician who sang in her church choir and played the piano.

Her love for music and singing ran through her life. Lisa Agoglia, Nancy’s 28-year-old granddaughter, remembered how they sang together everywhere, from church to the car.

“She was obsessed with a Linda Ronstadt album,” Lisa said. “And I knew the songs by heart because we played them to and from anywhere.”

Without a doubt, Nancy’s greatest pride and joy was her family. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to a family of four sisters, Nancy grew accustomed to life in a big family.

Later in life, as a mother of three, grandmother of seven, and great-grandmother of five, Nancy rejoiced in large family reunions.

When the whole family didn’t get together, there were still times when Nancy would get to see some of her loved ones. Her granddaughters reminisced about the times they spent at her house in Florida.

“We used to take turns sleeping at Grandma’s house,” Lisa Agoglia said. “We’d see her maybe one, two, three times a year.”

Trips to Nancy’s house were always memorable. The youngest grandchild, Kara Agoglia, said her visits always featured cinnamon rolls and “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” although Nancy would always get upset by clips where babies might have gotten hurt.

When her family wasn’t together, Nancy surrounded herself with pictures of her loved ones, and she always found little ways to show her love. She couldn’t end a phone call without saying “I love you,” or walk down the street without linking her arm to her companion’s.

“She just always wanted you to know that she loved whoever she was talking to,” Kara said.

For the last 10 years of her life, Nancy always said “I love you” because she didn’t know when she’d be able to say it again.

Nancy was predeceased by both of her husbands, Henry Agoglia and William Reid.

“You just really felt her love,” said Lisa Agoglia. “Every day could be the last day, and that’s how she lived her life.”

On April 30, Nancy died from COVID-19 at Masconomet Healthcare in Topsfield. She was 97.

She had a gentle way and warmth about her and spent her life spreading love, joy, and laughter, her family said.

“She just always tried to be happy,” Lisa said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Francis Hammerbacher, 86: A man who loved to be in the skies


Photograph of Francis Hammerbacher

Francis Hammerbacher loved flying more than anything. He dedicated his life to it.

“That was his passion,” said his daughter and only child, Leigh Lalime. “Every time we were outside and an airplane flew over, he would stop and put his hand up to his forehead so he could see the plane. … He was a good pilot.”

Francis became a certified pilot after serving in the Army in the 1950s and 1960s, stationed primarily in West Germany. He earned his training and certification through the GI bill.

He had purchased and owned a Piper J-3 Cub propeller plane, a model that was mass-produced in World War II, favored by politicians and military leaders alike and used as the primary training aircraft of the Civilian Pilot Training Program. He flew around the country in this plane, traveling to Arizona, California, Florida, and other places.

Decades of flying ignited a desire to see more of the world, both in the sky and on the ground.

He loved talking about traveling. He would tell Leigh about a trip he took to Africa, describing how much fun he had on a train ride there, and also talk about his frequent solo vacations to Florida.

“He went to Florida a lot,” Leigh said. “I guess he liked Florida because even once he went to the nursing home and he started getting confused, he kept thinking he was in Florida.”

Francis, 86, died on May 14 from complications of COVID-19 at the Blaire House of Milford Assisted Living Community.

Some of Leigh’s best memories with her father were when he would take her along on his travels. Leigh was 4 when her parents divorced, so she did not live with Francis but stayed at his house once a week.

“He took me on several trips, without that I wouldn’t have gone anywhere,” she said. “My mother is not a traveler.”

Francis took her to California to visit Disneyland, Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, Florida to go to Disney World, and to Martha’s Vineyard.

Francis could be impatient. When they went to Disney World, her father complained about the lines, and on one of their trips to Martha’s Vineyard, he told her to use the men’s restroom to avoid the line for the women’s.

“He was like ‘just use the men’s, there’s no line,’” Leigh said. “He didn’t like waiting.”

Francis, who was born in Baltimore, grew up an orphan. He lived on a Maryland farm with his foster parents, where “he was more like a farmhand than a son,” according to his daughter.

He graduated from Bel Air High School in Bel Air, Md., in 1953 and attended Hartford Junior College. After the Army, he entered the Army Reserve in Fort Dix, N..J., before being honorably discharged in 1962. Francis then spent 35 years as an office manager for Air Products & Chemicals Inc. in Marlborough.

“He was a good man,” his daughter said. “He did the best he could with me. … He did the best he could with what he knew.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism

George Gaudette, 84: A devoted teacher


Photograph of George Gaudette

George Gaudette of Holyoke loved to teach. In a photograph taken of his class, three words can be read on the blackboard behind him: Fairness. Understanding. Empathy.

“He was definitely somebody that was very empathetic, very understanding, very fair,” said his son, Michael. “Looking back on it now, I would say he definitely treated me in ways like that, which I didn’t understand at the time,”

George, who was born and raised in Southbridge, spent the last 30 years of his professional life teaching criminal justice at Holyoke Community College, a program he designed and created. He loved being a mentor and encouraged police officers to get a college education.

He was also a criminologist, military veteran, and worked in law enforcement.

“Criminology was his first passion, teaching and mentoring was his second,” Michael said.

George obtained two master’s degrees and a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“His entire life, except for some breaks here and there, was devoted to education, both for himself and for others,” Michael said. George always had a messy desk full of newspaper clippings and assorted pieces of information — a symbol for his thirst for knowledge.

George died April 16, at 84, of complications from COVID-19. The family was able to visit him at the hospital before he passed.

“He was the epitome of the American man from the 1950s,” said Michael who learned from his father’s old high school yearbooks how well-liked he was. George was voted class president twice and named “most popular.”

After graduating from Michigan State University, he served in the Army as a special agent to the assistant chief of staff for intelligence. He was stationed in West Germany during the Berlin crisis of 1961.

In the 1960s, George met his wife, Micheline, at the University of Connecticut and the two were inseparable. They had two children together, and the family often traveled to Belgium, where Micheline was from. She survives him.

George’s favorite vacation spot was Cape Cod, which he referred to as his “second home.” The family always went to the beach and drive by the Kennedy family’s Hyannis Port compound, a must-see for him. During his time as a military officer, George had the opportunity to drive the legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor from the compound to a small airport in Cape Cod, a memory he cherished.

In another remarkable situation, George met John E. Douglas, one of the first criminal profilers, at the FBI facility in Quantico, Va. George would later encourage his children to read Douglas’s book, “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit.”

Outside of his job, George had a deep love for horses and dogs. As a young boy, he rode in horseback competitions and had many dogs. His last companion, a German shepherd named Reba, meant the world to him.

He was a loving father and took great pride in his passions and job, Michael said. He was often heard to exclaim, while making a point, “I’m a criminologist!”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Leo Kricorian, 79: A passionate musician


Photograph of Leo Kricorian

Music meant everything to Leo Kricorian, who spent 37 years traveling across the country with the Andy Healy Band.

Standing atop a grand piano, Leo would hold his guitar up in the air and play his heart out on the band’s signature Irish tunes. He would slip off the piano moments later, only to climb back up and continue playing. Moments like these are the ones that make Andy Healy, Leo’s long-time friend and bandmate, laugh out loud.

“That was his whole life, music and playing in the band,” Andy said. “And when we were onstage, he was a character.”

Leo Kricorian, 79, died May 15 of COVID-19. A lifelong Watertown resident, he enjoyed spending time with both his own and Andy’s family.

“He lived a single life, and my family also was his family,” Andy said. “He was Armenian. We’re an Irish family, you know.”

Nancy Kricorian, one of Leo’s nieces, said that Leo preferred to keep his Armenian family and church life separate from his Irish band life. She wishes she’d had the chance to see him perform because he became a recognizable figure in the Irish-American community thanks to his musical talent.

“When I was a toddler he used to play ‘The Twist’ on his guitar, and he sang ‘Come on Nancy, do the twist,’ ” Nancy said via email. “I would dance.”

Her favorite memory about Leo, however, was his skill with a yo-yo. When he was a teenager, he was the junior yo-yo champion of New England, according to Nancy. He would show her how to “walk the dog” and go “around the planet” with his yo-yo.

It was Leo’s fun-loving spirit that made people around him smile. He could always take a joke and was not afraid to give one back.

Andy recalls a time when Leo got them lost while driving back from a gig in Chicago. Andy had fallen asleep in the back of the van, and, when he woke up, they were surrounded by mountains. They were supposed to be heading back to Boston, but they ended up in Pennsylvania. Leo was not great with directions, but he could laugh off moments like that with his friends.

Before joining the Andy Healy Band, Leo wrote and recorded several songs under the name Leo Scott. He was also the frontman for the bands Leo and the Thunderbirds and Leo and the Rhythm Rockers.

Leo documented every gig the Andy Healy Band played, where they traveled, and how many people attended. He had a few sales jobs here and there, but it was music that kept him going. He also taught guitar.

Dedication does not even begin to describe Leo. According to Andy, he never missed a single rehearsal or gig since he joined the band in the 1970s. He was always the first one there, ready to work. His love for his craft was evident.

“He always used to meet me here in my house. If I told Leo to be here at six minutes past the hour, Leo would arrive at six minutes past the hour,” Andy said. “He was never late and never missed a gig, and I will always remember him for that.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Lillian ‘Lita’ Siagel, 89: A creative mind with a wealth of knowledge


Photograph of Lillian ‘Lita’ Siagel

Lillian “Lita” Siagel’s career was focused on floral design, but she found beauty in everything she did.

“She painted her alpine boots pink 40 years ago,” said Errin Siagel, Lita’s youngest son. “She painted the toilet seat in our house when I was 5. She glued rhinestones on her sunglasses. She was just one of these crazy artistic people.”

Lita died on May 13, five days shy of her 90th birthday from complications of COVID-19. After taking a bad fall in March, she started a rehabilitation treatment at an assisted living facility in Cambridge’s Neville Center at Fresh Pond, where she contracted the coronavirus.

Lita had a sharp mind and was an avid reader, poring over works of fiction, nonfiction, and even Russian poetry. A well-read, knowledgeable woman, she was a passionate learner and discussed everything from history to politics to music. She had a love for meaningful conversations.

“My niece said to her once, ‘Grammy, silence is golden,’ ” Errin said. “And my mother said, ‘Yes, but conversation is platinum.’ ”

When inspiration struck, she wrote poems of her own, capturing memories in verse and giving them to her children. She had terrible handwriting, Errin said, but she couldn’t stop writing.

For many years, she owned a flower shop, called Tiger Lily, on Stuart Street near Copley Square, where she made arrangements for weddings, events, and even hotel lobbies.

“She was very concerned with style,” said her daughter, Stephanie Bernier. “Her eye for beautiful things and wanting things perfect made her an amazing arranger.”

Lita was born in Shanghai in 1930. By 1949, she fled with her first husband, Van Rogers, and eldest son, Dan, when the Communist government forced them out.

In traveling to various countries, Lita became a very “worldly type of person,” Stephanie said. She was multilingual, fluent in Russian, French, and Italian, among other languages, and she befriended people from all over the world.

She and her husband eventually settled in Brookline. They divorced a few years later, and in 1958 Lita married Harold Siagel. Together, they raised three children and spent most of their lives in Newton.

Lita was an accomplished cook, Errin said. Her culinary skills were limitless — she was famous among family and friends for making her own salad dressing. For Lita, food was an art and a way to show her compassion.

“Cooking was one of the ways she poured her love into family and friends,” and her creativity,” Stephanie said.

Every Christmas, Lita would host elaborate dinner parties where she would invite 50 people into her one-bedroom apartment, Errin said. She would serve trays of hors d’oeuvres on her bed to accommodate the guests.

“She would invite every single person who didn’t have a place to go. She would cook for three days. She would decorate the table,” Errin said. “It was about being together with people and friends. That was what she cared about, that was the most important thing — her family and her friends.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Lucy Louise Davis, 95: ‘Lived her life the way she wanted to live it’

Oak Bluffs

Photograph of Lucy Louise Davis

Family was the most important part of Lucy Louise Davis’s life. She was never happier than when she and her husband would gather everyone at their home on Martha’s Vineyard.

“We would all shove into that little TV room. It was like the size of the bathroom, but we would all be in there as a family, watching Red Sox games,” said Lucy’s granddaughter, Michelle Estime. “It was just like a warm, cozy place to be.”

Lucy and her husband, Jack, were married for 69 years before he died two years ago. Lucy’s daughter, Carolyn Del Guercio, said her parents’ marriage was “something for the rest of us to try and follow in terms of commitment.”

Lucy died on May 9 from complications with COVID-19 that she developed while at a nursing home. She was 95.

The daughter of Italian immigrants, Lucy attended Lowell Teachers College, where she graduated first in her class.

While she was in college, she met Jack Davis, and they fell in love. They stayed in touch while he was stationed overseas in the Navy during World War II, writing to each other for about three years. After she graduated and Jack returned home, they were married on June 26, 1948.

Lucy took pride in everything she did. She spent several years as an elementary school teacher — fifth grade was her favorite — before she went to work as the accountant at her husband’s floral shop in West Roxbury after the birth of their first daughter.

It was a job she loved just as much as teaching, and she and her husband worked at the shop until they reached their 70s and retired.

They sold their house in Jamaica Plain and moved to Martha’s Vineyard. Carolyn described the Vineyard as her mother’s special place, especially when the family came to stay.

“She loved having people come and visit,” said Carolyn.

Lucy saw her life as a blessing and enjoyed every aspect of it, her family said. She loved spending time with her newest great-grandchild, Theodore Estime. His visits always made her days better, her family said.

Throughout her life, Lucy had strong relationships. She had a small, tight-knit group of friends whom she remained close with through her 90s.

Lucy lived a long, happy life with her husband, just as she had wanted. “She had the opportunity to spread so much time with my dad and live her life the way she wanted to live it,” Carolyn said.

As much as she loved her grandchildren, her competitive spirit was always keen. She was a master of crosswords and Scrabble and passed that love down to her grandchildren.

“She would never, like, let us win,” Michelle said. “I always enjoyed playing with her, and now I’m really good at Scrabble as well.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Kenneth R. Dana, 79: Found joy in the world of locomotives


Photograph of Kenneth R. Dana

Although Kenneth R. Dana was a private man, there was one thing he shared with everyone in his life — his love of trains.

Ken found joy immersing himself in the world of locomotives. He attended train shows, traveled by passenger train and, most important, collected N Scale model trains. As a member of the National Model Railroad Association and former president of the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts, Ken was heavily involved in the train community.

“Kenny was my travel companion,” said his sister, Dr. Clare Dana, 77, of Jupiter, Fla. They would travel together yearly, with a train trip through Europe and into the mountains of Switzerland being one of the most memorable. Besides his sister, Ken also had a group of friends with whom he would frequently travel.

Ken died on April 19, at 79, at Mary Ann Morse Healthcare Center in Natick. He had Parkinson’s disease and had tested positive for COVID-19.

As a lifelong resident of Massachusetts, Ken grew up in Newton and graduated from Harvard College in 1962, where he was an announcer for WHRB Radio. After that, he took some graduate courses at Columbia University before moving back to Massachusetts.

Over the years he held several jobs, including working at his father’s accounting firm, as executive director at Temple Emanuel and as comptroller at Babson College. For about 10 years, he was a mentor with the Jewish Big Brother Association. He resided in Framingham for several years before moving into the Mary Ann Morse Healthcare Center.

“He had a lot of different talents for all the different jobs he had,” his sister said. “It’s a good thing to be multi-talented.”

Later in his life, Ken turned his hobby into a career, opening Ken’s Trains in Sudbury. Owning the train shop was more than just a job to Ken — it was his way of sharing his passion with his community.

“Ken’s big thing was customer service. It was always about the customer,” said Ken’s longtime friend Gregg Lentoni, 67, of Hopkinton. “He did whatever he could in the best way he could to make sure the customer was always satisfied.”

Over the course of life, he met every person with kindness, Lentoni said. Though he was often quite reserved as an individual, he was always supportive of his friends and family.

Ken cherished his golden retrievers just as much as trains, according to his sister.

“I miss him,” she said. “He was my only sibling, he was my older brother, and he was always there.”

Ken was thoughtful, honest, and had a dry, funny wit, according to his friend and sister.

“I remember he used to pick on me when we were younger,” said Dana with a laugh. “But he was always very helpful.”

Ken’s personality showed in every one of his interactions, from his close friendships to his relationships with his customers, said Lentoni. He always wanted to lend a helping hand by offering them advice.

“He would help people through suggestions. Ken might tap someone on the shoulder and say, ‘You might want to try it this way,’ ” he said. “That is the kind of guy he was.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Marie Clasby, 88: Red Sox fanatic who adored her grandchildren


Photograph of Marie Clasby

Marie Clasby never missed a party or a Red Sox game. So it was no surprise that when the proud matriarch’s grandsons Sean and Bryan planned a VIP Red Sox game experience for her last fall with her closest family members and a couple of family friends, “she had the best day of her life,” said her daughter, Ann Marrese.

After the game, when the limo bus had pulled back to Marie’s residence at the Village at Willow Crossings in Mansfield, “the boys all walked her in and she just thought she was the queen,” Ann said.

Marie was particularly proud of her seven grandchildren — Ann’s two sons, Sean and Bryan, plus her son Robert Jr.’s children, Ryan, Hailey, Christopher, Amelia, and Bella, whom she spent time with regularly each year, even though they were in upstate New York.

“Honest to God,” Ann recalled, “I’m telling you, five minutes before she died, she says to me: ‘Is Sean still going out with the new girl?’ ‘Yes, he is.’ ‘And do you like her?’ ‘I love her, she’s a great kid.’ ‘OK, OK — and she’s a nurse?’ ‘Yeah, she’s a nurse’ ‘I always wanted him to hook up with a nurse.’ ”

Marie died at age 88 at her residence in Mansfield on April 24 of complications from COVID-19. Ann was at her side.

At age 4, Marie, one of four children growing up in Dorchester, lost her mother, creating a special bond with her sister, Phyliss Connolly.

“They would be laughing on the phone,” said Phyliss’s daughter, Luanne Coutoumas, “and I’d always know that my mother was talking to her.”

When their children were young, Marie and her husband, Robert “Bob” Clasby, lived in Randolph, where Marie worked nights at Randy’s shoe factory. When they moved from Randolph to Whitman, Marie began working at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School at the snack bar.

“She always made the biggest ice creams,” said her son Bobby, one of the many in the family to attend Whitman-Hanson during Marie’s tenure. “She was a real people-pleaser.” In her later years, Marie went on to work at Chadwicks clothing store, from which she retired.

Marie’s family made great memories in New Hampshire at Newfound Lake and at Sunset Lake in Braintree. She also enjoyed visiting with her closest friend and Bobby’s godmother, Nancy Locke.

When Bob was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Marie assumed the role of caretaker. Shortly thereafter, her sister Phyliss was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“It must have been heartbreaking,” said Luanne, “because she was losing both of them at the same time.” Marie’s husband and sister died within six months of each other. “It was a double-whammy,” said Bobby. “It was pretty rough.”

“From where she came from and everything that she’s had to go through,” said Ann, “she really was an independent, strong woman.”


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Mary Casso, 96: Beloved cafeteria worker with a zest for life


Photograph of Mary Casso

Most days, Mary Casso could be found chatting away the afternoon at her local McDonald’s in Worcester, her home town.

“I’d drive by there to check on her, and she’d be at somebody else’s table talking to them,” said her son, Rob Lee. “They all knew her, and they all loved her.”

Strangers fell in love with her, and those who loved her never failed to be surprised by her exuberance and thoughtfulness.

Mary died April 19 in UMass Memorial Medical Center of COVID-19-related complications. She was 96.

A determined woman, Mary worked as a cafeteria worker at Worcester Technical High School until she was 90. She enjoyed her job and would often finish her tasks early so she could help younger co-workers.

“All the students loved her,” Rob said. “A few kids didn’t have money, and she would give them things. The other women would say, ‘You’re not supposed to do that,’ but she would say, ‘I’m gonna do that, and if you don’t like it, report me.’ They never did.”

She drove to work each day in a little gray Mitsubishi Eclipse sports car, a testament to the freedom and independence she strived for. She continued driving until she was 95.

When dementia began chipping away at her active lifestyle, Mary filled in the gaps by knitting pocketbooks and scarves for friends and family.

“If she got stopped by the police for speeding a little bit, she’d always talk her way out of it,” Rob said. “And then, she’d hand them a black or navy scarf.”

She had a special attachment to animals and cherished her two dogs, Max and Lily. Her son, Rob, and his husband, Thomas Genduso, now take care of the pair.

“She was so quick at everything, I swear she was hyper,” Rob said. “She could be tough, but only when she wanted to be.”

After the pandemic hit, it was difficult for him to cope with being apart for so long.

“I hadn’t seen her for 21 days, but I called every single day,” Rob said. “And every single day they told me she’s fine. Then one day I called and they said she had a fever.”

Their bond often resembled one of siblings rather than mother and son. She was someone he could laugh with, who taught him how to form true friendships and emphasized the importance of family, above all else.

She was married to the late Robert Lee. At the time of her death, Mary was the last one left of her siblings, whom she had cared for throughout her life. Her close-knit Italian family included her late brothers Joseph and Michael Casso, and late sisters Helen Casso, Carmella Mangiatordi, and Lucretia Wylie.

When her youngest sister and the last of her siblings passed away, she went to pick up the ashes.

“My mother took them to her home, put them on the mantle and said, ‘Bury me with her when I die,’ ” Rob said.

There’s a vacant booth at the McDonald’s now, and the conversation is quieter without Mary’s witty banter.

“My mother had quite a life,” her son said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Joseph Leo Bernard, 89: ‘I’ve got to pay it forward’


Photograph of Joseph Leo Bernard

Joseph Leo Bernard found a calling in giving back. to his community —He spent his last 30 years volunteering at food pantries and soup kitchens in Andover to feed the community that supported him when he was a child.

“I’ve got to pay it forward,” Bernard told his only child, Betty Desjardins.

Joseph, 89, died April 6 from COVID-19 at Mary Immaculate nursing home in Lawrence, where he spent the last year and a half of his life.

Growing up in the Great Depression with seven siblings, Joseph and his family received food baskets and an outpouring of assistance from both the town and family members that surrounded them, an experience he never forgot, his relatives said.

After graduating from high school, he served as an Army clerk in the Philippines for four years. Upon returning home, he pumped gas at the Gulf station in downtown Andover, where he met Marie, his wife of 61 years, who was waitressing at nearby Verrette’s Restaurant.

Joseph then worked at the Andover Internal Revenue Service office in Andover, where he was a supervisor, retiring at the age of 56. He then began his second career as a volunteer alongside Marie.

The two volunteered at Bread and Roses, a soup kitchen in Lawrence, preparing and serving meals with their church, St. Augustine’s, on the last Tuesday of each month. Joseph and Marie also served at the Neighbors in Need food pantry, driving cross-county to pick up and distribute donations.

In 1993, the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune recognized Joseph as a “Hometown Hero” for his volunteering efforts.

Feeding others was how Joseph found meaning in life, his daughter Betty said. His desire to serve circled back to his gratitude for those who impacted his life as a child.

Joseph’s selflessness also touched a second community — his own family. His genuine interest in the lives of others was what set her father apart, according to Betty.

“He always saw the best side of people,” she said, recalling only one time in her childhood her father got angry with her.

Betty recalled that when she was growing up, her father filled the house Sunday nights with extended family — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — and served dinner, always taking the time to check up on each person and ask how they were doing.

“That was when he was happiest,” Betty said.

This tradition of hosting family and friends lasted his entire life. At these gatherings, Joseph’s sense of infectious joy was evident. He was known for his remarkable ability to repeatedly do flips from the diving board into their backyard pool, a skill he proudly taught his only grandson, Christopher Dejardins.

Joseph also found fulfillment in helping raise his grandchildren, Christopher and Catherine, with Marie. Betty said while she and her husband, Roger, were busy working, Joseph and Marie always ensured their grandchildren’s needs were taken care of. “They were really another set of parents, more or less, for the kids,” she said.

Whether it was through directly giving back to those who had helped him or by spending time with those he loved most, Joseph touched the lives of all he met with his constant smile and self-giving spirit. “He just loved life,” Betty said.


This story was written in partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Hannah Rottenberg, 94: Joyful spirit overcame an early life marked by tragedy


Photograph of Hannah Rottenberg

More than 70 years ago at a displaced persons camp in Germany after World War II, Hannah Rottenberg started a library and began to send letters. She tirelessly tried to connect survivors with family members around the globe and responded to a flood of messages from people in desperate search for relatives.

It was a job meant for someone who put great care into everything she did, said her granddaughter, Tara Mathur. It didn’t hurt that Hannah spoke seven languages: Yiddish, Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, German, Hebrew, and in time, English.

“She was a woman of valor,” Mathur said. “Who she was throughout every phase of her life was so consistent. She sprinkled a dose of love into every interaction.”

Hannah died April 26 from complications of COVID-19, only two weeks after receiving an official diagnosis. She was 94.

Her memory loss issues did not allow her to fully grasp the severity of her illness. She spent her final days keeping her family company in video chats from the Kaplan Estates, an assisted living facility in Peabody.

Hannah’s childhood was marked by tragedy. Nazis swept through her home — the village of Tuczyn in current-day Ukraine — when she was out of town visiting an aunt. Her Jewish parents and three younger sisters were killed.

A short time later, when she was 16, she trekked through parts of Russia and Germany. When she finally reached the refugee camp, she met and married a young man named Ben, then headed to Boston. They traveled to the United States on a military ship while Hannah was pregnant with her eldest daughter, Estelle. Eventually, they made their way through Ellis Island to Dorchester.

“What’s remarkable about her is that she had this heroic journey, but she didn’t think of it like that. She just thought of it as survival,” Mathur said. “And if you met her when she was alive, you would just meet this very careful, happy person who had a gift for connecting with other people. You wouldn’t think of her as somebody who’s been burdened or who was bitter in any way.”

Her life in America was filled with joy, Mathur said.

She and her husband later ran a rooming house in Brookline, and she was a consummate housewife with a taste for fantastic food. For Shabbat dinners, Hannah would pull out all the stops, featuring traditional Jewish recipes from stuffed cabbage and chopped liver, to brisket, tzimmes, noodle kugel, and mandelbrot.

“If anyone didn’t have somewhere to go for Shabbat dinner, she would invite them to her house,” Mathur said.

The family found community in New England, particularly with a woman from Hannah’s village whom she happened to reconnect with at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The women became inseparable, almost “like sisters after that one unlikely meeting,” Mathur said.

In the 1970s, the couple retired and moved to Florida. Her husband died in 1994, when Hannah was 69.

The Rottenbergs were known for their generosity. They once saved money for months to send a distant family member in Argentina a working refrigerator. It was a “big expense since they weren’t particularly well-to-do,” Mathur said.

Hannah had five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, with another on the way. Mathur fondly remembers her playing with her daughters, winning at cards and Rummikub, and dancing away at her Indian wedding.

“Imagine a woman, born in Poland in the 1920s, having all the experiences she did, coming to the US, and everything — and then ending up dancing to bhangra at her granddaughter’s wedding,” said Mathur. “That was the spirit she embodied.”


Orlando Duarte Filho, 66: A father showed his love through food


Photograph of Orlando Duarte Filho

For Orlando Duarte Filho, cooking wasn’t just a hobby. It was a way to show his love.

Orlando wasn’t a big hugger or someone who wore his heart on his sleeve. But if you mentioned you were craving fish stew, he would make it the next day. He knew how everybody liked their steak cooked and would feed them samples with his fingers. And he never sat down to eat until everybody’s plate was full.

“My dad was a man of few words,” said Layza Gonzaga, 29, the youngest of his four daughters. “That’s where I saw and where I felt all his love, was always in the kitchen.”

Orlando and his wife of 40 years, Neide, and their daughters and grandchildren got together almost every Sunday afternoon at Layza’s house in Clinton — Orlando and Neide lived in the basement apartment — and it was usually Orlando doing the cooking. He liked making dishes from his native Brazil: grilled chicken hearts and pork chops; feijoada, a black bean and pork stew; or chicken made with pequi, a citrus- and cheese-flavored fruit.

Sometimes, Orlando would pull out a piece of paper and ask each person to write down their name and rate the food, from 1 to 10. "We would always put a higher number," Layza said, "because it was way, way better than just a number 10."

Orlando also loved to garden. He grew tomatoes and cucumbers and watermelon and squash and jilo, a Brazilian eggplant.

“We didn’t used to buy vegetables in the summer because he had it all,” said Leticia Duarte, Orlando’s second-youngest daughter, who lives in West Boylston.

Orlando, who for many years did maintenance work at the Longfellow Tennis & Health Club in Wayland, and Neide, a house cleaner, hadn’t returned to Brazil since they arrived in the United States 20 years ago.

They had originally planned to stay for just a few years until they had paid off their debts. But this was finally going to be the year they moved back. Orlando had bought some land; Neide had already purchased furniture.

"He loved the idea of having a farm," Leticia said.

But he never got to see it.

In late April, one of Orlando's older daughters started feeling sick with what she thought was allergies. Then other family members started falling ill. In all, 14 of them tested positive for COVID-19.

But it was Orlando, 66, who had been taking immunosuppressant drugs following a kidney transplant a decade ago, who was hit the hardest.

He was put on a ventilator at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and on May 17, the hospital called to say nothing more could be done. It was Sunday, and the family gathered to watch an online Christian Congregation service in Brazil — a tradition they had started earlier in the pandemic, watching separately.

The message was all about eternal life, Leticia said: “It was like it was God’s will that it was time for him to go.”


Richard (67) and Cecilia Kenneally (66): Inseparable through the decades


Photograph of Richard (67) and Cecilia Kenneally (66)

He first spotted her one night nearly 50 years ago at the Braintree 5 Corners Chinese Restaurant, now long gone, where his band was playing for diners and drinkers. The next thing he saw was another guy next to her, trying to chat her up — and she looked completely uninterested.

Leaving his saxophone on stage, he swooped into action, relatives said. He might have asked her to dance, or he might have simply cut in on the conversation. Some of the details have faded over the years.

However it went, they got to talking. He told her his name: Rich Kenneally. Hers, he learned, was CeCe Ford. Hearing that, he cracked a joke — was her dad Henry Ford? Could she get him a car?

“She was like, ‘Yeah. Sure.’ And then that was it. They were together every day for the rest of their lives,” said their daughter Jen Kenneally.

So inconceivable was it that the two could be separated, that when both were hospitalized with the novel coronavirus this spring, Jen asked a nurse if the two could share a room — “which they normally don’t do, but they did for them,” Jen said.

Cecilia died on May 27 due to complications from COVID-19. Her husband and best friend, Richard, died of the virus not long afterward, on July 2.

In the years since their meeting in the mid-70s, Rich and CeCe did nearly everything together. They raised two daughters (Jen and Jess), walked together on their beloved Wollaston Beach, went to school concerts, plays, and Rich’s rock band gigs. They pitched in for the all-out Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day parties that would gather the entire Kenneally clan around the piano at his sister Ann Kenneally-Ryan’s house, singing and playing anything and everything late into the night.

“That’s the way it was. It was Rich and CeCe,” said Ann. “It’s almost like it was one name.”

Just about the only thing they wouldn’t do together was root for the same team on Thanksgiving, when their rival alma maters (Quincy High for her, North Quincy for him) faced off in their annual crosstown football showdown.

On any other day of the year, Rich was all in for both Quincy public high schools, where he oversaw the band program. “Mr. K” was a beloved teacher and mentor who made his band rooms a haven for students, and often stayed in touch with them even after they graduated. Jess and Jen grew up with Friday night band council meetings taking place over pizza in their living room.

“That band room...everybody felt safe there, and everybody felt comfortable,” said student turned family friend Andrew Mauriello. “Everybody was able to be themselves and let down the guards that you grow in high school.”

When Rich’s saxophone was stolen out of his car during Andrew’s high school years, Andrew gathered some classmates to go door to door in downtown Quincy and sell ad space in a school concert program to raise funds to buy Rich a new instrument.

Two decades later, after Rich was diagnosed with cancer, that same crew put on a benefit show at Great Scott in Allston to help the family with the medical bills.

But having the most popular teacher in town for a father wasn’t without its drawbacks — like the time Jen asked out a boy who was in band. “He said he was really flattered, but he didn’t want to date me, because he was worried that it might affect his relationship with my dad!” she said with a laugh.

CeCe was the kind of person who “shops for Christmas all year long,” according to her niece Julie Connolly. The family home was her domain, and the door was nearly always open and ready to welcome company. If she made her meatloaf, a full table of cousins was almost guaranteed.

“She was just the definition of mom. She took care of you, and whoever needed it,” Jess said.

CeCe adored Boston sports; the Red Sox, the Celtics in the ’80s, the Patriots — until Drew Bledsoe was traded.

She later took a job at Quincy Mutual Fire Insurance Agency, and she recently had developed an interest in photography. “If she loved something, she loved it 110 percent, and if she didn’t love something, she let you know,” Julie said.

Both Kenneallys had retired not long ago. Rich closed out his formal teaching career at the end of the 2018-19 school year to great fanfare, when the City of Quincy declared June 14th “Rich Kenneally Day”and his students threw him a surprise party. Then, CeCe took her last day at work in December. The two were looking forward to an active retirement full of day trips, jam sessions, and time with their families.

“It’s really heartbreaking,” Ann said. “They didn’t get a chance to even enjoy that time.”

But then, after Rich died, Jess started to hear the same thing from a lot of people. In a way, it makes sense that it happened like this, they told her. They’re together again.

“And it’s true,” Jess said. “It’s still very hard for us to process, but it’s true.”


Bay Thi Huynh (82) , Joseph Vo Van Ngo (85), and Kim Chi Ngo Nguyen (50): A daughter’s loving care


Photograph of Bay Thi Huynh (82) , Joseph Vo Van Ngo (85), and Kim Chi Ngo Nguyen (50)

Kim Chi Ngo Nguyen was a constant presence in her parents’ lives.

As the oldest daughter, Kim Chi took on the traditional Vietnamese role of family caretaker, moving home to Worcester when her mother started exhibiting signs of dementia. Kim Chi cooked and cleaned for her mother and father and accompanied them everywhere, even to Vietnam, where they gave rice to poor families around the country, including in the village they fled 40 years ago.

Kim Chi loved to take pictures — and to jump into the frame of any photo being taken — and nearly every recent photo in her phone was of the three of them.

On May 8, her mother, Bay Thi Huynh, 82, developed a fever and went to the hospital in an ambulance. Her father, Joseph Vo Van Ngo, 85, had a cough and went with her.

Less than a week later, after experiencing difficulty breathing, Kim Chi checked herself into the same hospital, and was able to briefly see her parents through a glass door.

Her mother and father died from COVID-19 complications later that day, less than two hours apart. Five days later, their eldest daughter died of COVID, too.

“I need to go with Grandma and Grandpa so I can be with them and take care of them,” Kim Chi, 50, told her son before she passed away, according to her sister Anna Huynh.

Joseph and Bay grew up in a fishing village on the southeast coast of Vietnam and were arranged to be married in April 1960. They were desperately poor, and when Bay was pregnant with their 11th child, they decided to escape the oppressive Communist regime.

In May 1980, Joseph, Bay, and 40 family members crowded onto a handmade wooden boat — the women and children hidden in the bottom — and glided into the Gulf of Thailand. They were robbed by pirates, then rescued by a Dutch drilling boat that took them to a refugee camp in Thailand. They were soon sent to a camp in the Philippines, and in February 1981, with the help of Catholic Charities USA, they arrived in Worcester.

The couple scrimped and saved and eventually opened a grocery store, the Ha-Tien Marketcq on Main Street, the first of several such Asian stores they operated in the area. The entire family lived together — six sisters sharing a bedroom — and gathered every night to pray and eat dinner. Everyone helped with the stores, and the parents, in turn, helped their grown children with their businesses.

“Whatever it is that all my brothers and sisters chose to do my, parents were there to support,” said Kelly Lam, the youngest sibling. “If it’s can redemption, they would go out there and help you count the cans. If it’s the grocery store, they would drive all the way to Boston to pick up inventory for you. If it’s a video shop where you needed to fix video machines, they would be there to fix the video machines with you.”

Bay and Joseph were devout Catholics and attended church at least twice a day. Even though they didn’t have much money, they dedicated their lives to helping the less fortunate. Kelly remembers asking for donations in lieu of gifts for her son’s first birthday, and her father quickly calculated that the $400 she received would buy enough rice to feed 100 families for a month.

“They wouldn’t even spend a penny on themselves,” Anna said. “Every time we give them money to buy something for themselves, they would just save it and go back and give it away.”

Dominic Ngo, the couple’s youngest son, who runs the family’s Binh An Market cq on Green Street, said: “Their life that they lived, they’re like saints to me.”

The children started a charitable foundation in their name to continue their legacy.

Like her parents, Kim Chi, who had three children, ages 33, 30, and 26, was selfless, her siblings said. When the family went on vacations, she would walk straight into the kitchen and start cooking before she unpacked or even looked at the view. Kim Chi was also a caretaker for her siblings. Both times Kelly gave birth, Kim Chi came to her home in Raleigh, N.C., to take care of her for three months. Kim Chi did the same for another sister, and had been planning to do so again in August.

In Vietnamese culture, when a person passes away, the family prays together for seven days. For three people, it would be 21 days. The Ngo-Huynh family and their friends couldn’t gather because of the pandemic, so they started holding prayer sessions over Zoom every day at 5:15 p.m., followed by a Mass said by Father Peter Tam Bui, a Vietnamese priest in Worcester who was like part of the family. And though the 21 days have long since passed, the daily prayer sessions continue.

Joseph and Bay were inseparable their whole lives — always hugging, kissing, holding hands. They shared everything: a cup of coffee, a doughnut. They even liked to wear matching clothes. So it’s comforting that they died together, their children said, and that Kim Chi is still with them.

“They wanted to take her with them because they go everywhere together," Kelly said, "and they would want her to be taken care of as well.”

The family has set up a GoFundMe charity page.



Robert Regan, 72: Made ‘Jeopardy’ look easy


Photograph of Robert Regan

Robert Regan diligently watched “Jeopardy.” Nestled at home, he would easily answer its questions about literature, football, and politics — his three strengths.

He even first bonded with his future wife over the show, which they watched together at Johnny D’s Uptown Music Club in Somerville in the early 1990s.

Robert’s trivia prowess was elevated by his love for reading books and completing The New York Times crossword puzzles (always in pen). Yet he never acted on the suggestions of friends and family, who urged him to audition for “Jeopardy,” said Gianna, his wife of 20 years.

“He was a really good, humble guy and never went on,” she said. “He knew most of the answers. I haven’t been able to watch ‘Jeopardy’ since he passed.”

Robert died April 24, at 72, of complications from COVID-19. The illness ended his 10-month battle with a rare bile duct cancer.

In his final days, Gianna, who then shared his COVID-19 diagnosis, was able to visit her husband at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The nurses there went “above and beyond,” said Gianna, tending to his every need and relaying messages from extended family.

Robert was a Somerville man through and through. Born and raised in the city, he attended Matignon High School in Cambridge, where he was a star basketball and football player.

“People wrote to me and told me ‘he had it all’ in high school,” his wife said. “And that’s a lot of pressure for most people to handle at the age of 18. But he never let it get to him. He never had any attitude.”

He moved only once — to attend Columbia University on a football scholarship. But he quickly found New York City wasn’t for him. Robert enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam war and later graduated from UMass Amherst, with a political science degree. Once in the ’80s, he even took a swing at running for state representative.

Day to day, he worked as the manager at a Verizon store until retirement.

Gianna said her husband’s generous heart and attentive spirit broke through each Christmas. At the annual family gift grabs, all 11 of Robert’s nieces and nephews hoped he would pull their name.

“He loved Christmas,” she said. “He was so invested in getting the perfect present.”

Robert enjoyed life’s simple pleasures. He introduced his wife to the world of opera, which she soon grew to love. He loved eating Bolognese from his favorite spot: Posto in Somerville. And he liked a good cigar.

As his health waned, he stayed away from smoking. But in one final night this spring, Robert puffed away in the company of his wife and son, Matthew.

“We talked for over an hour that night,” Gianna said. “That’s how I want to remember him — doing alright, listening, laughing with us.”


Kimarlee Nguyen, 33: Visceral writer, go-to teacher


Photograph of Kimarlee Nguyen

With friends, family, colleagues, and students, Kimarlee Nguyen was a relentless agent of joy. In her writing, published in The Adroit Journal, Hyphen Magazine, and Drunken Boat, she poured out visceral, complex stories of poverty, discrimination, and deep generational wounds, often drawing on her parents and grandparents’ experiences as refugees fleeing Cambodia’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime.

“She once told me that she grew up really angry ... carrying a lot of trauma from that particular legacy,” said her friend Charmaine Chua. “Then, she one day looked at her grandma, who had lived through the Khmer Rouge and was still happy and cheerful. And she said, ‘If my grandma can live through that and be happy, I can too.’ ”

Kimarlee, often called Kim, died on April 5 in Everett from the novel coronavirus. She was 33 years old.

Raised in Revere, she grew up in a close-knit multigenerational family. Even after moving out of state, she often returned home for holidays and long weekends, when the entire clan would gather. Her cousin Tina Yeng, who described her as “the sister I never had,” described Kim’s love for late-night adventures — roaming the beach, getting drinks at Sonic, driving around listening to music with no destination in mind.

She attended Vassar College, where she studied English and played rugby. Later, she moved to New York City, earning a master of fine arts in creative writing at Long Island University Brooklyn while teaching full-time at Brooklyn Latin School, a top public high school.

On the GoFundMe page set up to help Kim’s family cover funeral costs and related expenses, her students — many of them also Asian or Asian-American — described her as “someone I could talk to during my darkest times,” “always full of life,” “more of a friend than a teacher.” She decorated her classroom with twinkling lights, made herself available for students who needed a listening ear, and centered writers of color in her curriculum.

“I think she was the kind of teacher who everyone craves – the person who sees you at one of the most pivotal times of your life,” her friend Charmaine said.

When she wasn’t teaching, she was writing. She primarily wrote short stories, but she had been at work on a novel about a Cambodian-American family in Massachusetts when she died. She sent chapters of the work in progress to friends, including writer Cherry Lou Sy. “The way how she just carves words on the page is really something,” Cherry Lou said.

Cherry Lou, who was Kim’s classmate for a time in the MFA program, described how their peers and even a mentor had tried to pit the two against each other. “[They] would say things to her like ‘aren’t you jealous that there’s another Asian girl in the program?’ ”

Cherry Lou left the program in frustration; undaunted, Kim pursued her friendship, she said. The two eventually became close, and Kim encouraged Cherry (who had shifted her focus to play writing) not to give up on prose fiction.

“As a writer, as a thinker, as a classmate, as a friend, she was never jealous,” Charmaine Chua said. “She would come into a room and be like ‘Aahhh! I love you!’” She would say ‘I love you’ to everyone around the room, and she meant it.”


Jacqueline Drayton (76) and David Drayton (45): ‘They were always tied to the hip’


Photograph of Jacqueline Drayton (76) and David Drayton (45)

Mother and son, a teen victim of gun violence that left him paralyzed, shared an apartment in a Roxbury neighborhood where everyone knew and loved David Drayton, fondly known as Squeaky, and Jacqueline made gumbo so delicious that her family insisted she should charge for it.

Jacqueline Drayton, 76, and David, 45, died of COVID-19 one day apart; Jacqueline on April 14 and David on the 15th.

“They were always tied to the hip,” said Drayton’s youngest son, Michael Soares, 40. “Anytime one goes to the hospital, the other one goes. It’s always been like that.”

As the pandemic took hold, Soares and his brother had a heart-to-heart talk.

“He said, ‘I ain’t never leaving my mother,’ ” Soares said. “He told a couple people that when she was in the hospital. And my mom said the same thing, ‘I’m not leaving my baby; nobody can take care of my baby like I can.’ ”

For 30 years, Jacqueline and David lived in an apartment at the corner of Centre and Gardner streets.

In recent times, Jacqueline had a host of health problems, from diabetes to kidney and heart issues. She mostly stayed home, cooking and taking care of David, Soares said.

David, on the other hand, would be up and dressed, donning a pair of sneakers from his vast collection, and heading out in an electric wheelchair he controlled with his mouth.

“He moved faster than a lot of people who can walk," Soares said.

Because he had such an optimistic spirit, David used to give motivational talks regularly to newly paralyzed patients at Boston Medical Center, his brother said.

David was about 15 when he was shot. Soares was about 11. His memory of the violence remains fuzzy; he knows David was unconscious for two months afterward.

Most vividly, he recalls a fleeting sight of his wounded brother.

“All I know is I ran around the corner, and I can’t even describe seeing your brother on the ground with sirens all around," he said.

After the shooting, David’s energy and resilience never faltered.

He was the type to say: “If I could be in a wheelchair and move like I move, you got two feet, you should be moving faster," Soares said.

He couldn’t be stopped — ”everyone know that about Squeaky,” Soares said.

Squeaky is a nickname David had since he was a newborn.

“He was a preemie, my grandpa called him that," Soares said. “And it just stuck with him, little pipsqueak.”

Their Sunday routine, while mom prepared Sunday dinner, was for David and Soares to play Madden NFL 20 on PlayStation.

“His hands couldn’t move, but he could play a PlayStation with his mouth," Soares said.

And he was remarkably good at it. So good, that Soares wanted to record him on video. But David was adamant, he would not have it; there would be no recordings.

Jacqueline was born in Franklin, La., the oldest of five siblings. She was a teen when she and her family relocated to Boston with her grandparents.

Jacqueline’s daughter died as an adolescent in the ’70s after she was hit by a car. She leaves two children: Soares and his older brother, Anthony Drayton.

For many years, Jacqueline worked as a housekeeper at a Boston hotel, Soares said.

She used to truly enjoy a day of fishing and loved “her gospel music,” Soares said. She also had a decent CD collection featuring Marvin Gaye, Barry White, and “all the old school talking about love [stuff]” he teased.

But cooking was Jacqueline’s mainstay.

“She loved to cook for everybody,” her son said. Okra with crab was a specialty, and she always made red rice for cookouts. But her gumbo, filled with crab, shrimp, and lobster, was best of all.

It was so delicious, (and expensive), Soares said, that “I used to tell her to charge for it."

Jacqueline began feeling poorly around April 1 and went Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She tested negative for COVID-19, but remained there a little over a week.

The day before she returned home, David went to Boston Medical Center with respiratory issues. He tested positive for COVID-19.

“Mom comes home, she finds out David has COVID and she’s worried,” Soares recalled.

Two days later, Soares made his daily morning call to his mother and he instantly knew something was not right.

“She thought I was somebody else," he said.

At the same time, David’s health was faltering, and his loved ones couldn’t visit.

“He was stuck in the hospital passing alone, by himself and it was so scary,” Soares said.

David had been intubated three times before and didn’t want to go through it again, Soares said. He was on the phone trying to talk David into it, begging him, “please just do it for me, please, do it for me.”

“Michael, I’m going to beat this out. You know me; I beat everything," David told him.

“I don’t know about this one," Soares said.

When David signed off, he said: “Tell everybody I love them."

That was on April 12 or 13. Around this same time, Jacqueline returned to the hospital. On the 14th, Soares got a call from his mother’s nurse telling him it’s time to come say “goodbye.”

At the hospital, Soares performed the heartbreaking duty of helping relatives say their farewells via FaceTime. Soares and a niece put on protective suits and spent their final moments with her.

He was on the highway, driving when the hospital called to tell him his mother had died.

About two hours later, David’s doctor called.

“They wanted to let him go right then and there,” Soares said. “I said ‘no, I just had to let go of my mother. Please, do anything you can to save my brother.‘ ”

When he arrived at the hospital, a few of David’s close friends had already gathered. They took turns suiting up to say their farewells at David’s bedside.

Soares knew his brother was dying, all of his organs were failing, but he resisted pulling the plug, until the next day. After he gave his permission, David died within an hour.

“I was trying to prolong it,” Soares said. “To see if he had a fighting chance.”


Carolina Gonçalves Lopes, 78: ‘Angel of Bowdoin Street’


Photograph of Carolina Gonçalves Lopes

Daniel Kemp, 83: Renaissance man


Photograph of Daniel Kemp

Daniel Kemp was a Renaissance man in every sense of the term. An award-winning scientist and organic chemistry professor at MIT, Dan collected and cut semiprecious stones, sang chamber music and performed scenes from plays with a Back Bay performing arts club, and once held a dinner party where he cooked a meal start to finish from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking," by Julia Child, whom he knew.

He had a cockatoo named Octavian, Tavvy for short, who was his companion for more than three decades and was bereft when Dan’s late-in-life battle with dementia disrupted their close bond.

Dan, 83, who lived in the Back Bay for five decades, died of COVID-19 on May 2.

A lifelong bachelor, Dan was born in Portland, Ore., and grew up in Missoula, Mont. He got his undergraduate degree at Reed College and came east to attend Harvard University, where he earned a PhD in 1964 and went on to become a faculty member at MIT for 45 years.

He made a number of significant scientific contributions, including developing the eponymous Kemp’s triacid, a chemical compound, and a reaction known as the Kemp elimination. He was also the lead author on a successful organic chemistry textbook.

But it was Dan himself, not his work, that people were drawn to. Christian Schubert was his final graduate student, earning his PhD in 2009, and the two of them could spend hours talking about science, music, theater, and politics, Christian said.

Dan’s interest in acting led him to craft a kind of stage persona, Christian said, that he employed during lectures and in his personal relationships.

“He was intellectually brilliant, yes,” said Christian, who lives in Concord and works in biotech. “He was a world-renowned scientist and he had phenomenal success as a teacher at MIT and he had a great reputation. But there was just something about him as a physical presence that instantly drew you to him.”

“It was the person that I was fascinated by, and the mentorship,” he continued, “and his ability to really show the human side of science, which as you know sometimes in these world-renowned academic institutions isn’t always the case.”

Dan became like a second father to Christian, who, like Dan, was an only child. Dan even helped Christian cut the stone for his wife-to-be’s engagement ring, spending more than 40 hours teaching him the craft.

Dan was also active in the fight to abolish capital punishment in Massachusetts and, after surviving prostate cancer, he started a fund at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center that allowed the oncologist who treated him to start his own lab.

“He was intellectually brilliant in so many things,” Christian said. “But in the end, I think what stuck with him was really his deep empathy for the human condition, our cultures, and making the world a better place."


Victoria Sorkin, 85: Found her artistic talent late in life


Photograph of Victoria Sorkin

Victoria Ann Wagger came to Philadelphia in the 1950s to attend Temple University. But she found something more, falling for Bernard “Bernie” Sorkin, who was attending dental school.

They met at a dance — Vici, as she was known, intentionally dropped her handkerchief and he picked it up, declaring “chivalry is not dead.”

In 50 years together, they lived on two continents and raised two children. And when Bernie was gone, Vici discovered her hidden talent as a painter.

Vici Sorkin, 85, died of COVID-19 on April 8 while a resident of the NewBridge on the Charles nursing home in Dedham.

At Temple, Vici received a bachelor’s degree in education and dental hygiene, and Bernie got his dental degree. The couple married in 1956 and after a few years as a practicing dentist, he enlisted in the Army and the couple cruised across the Atlantic to Germany, where he worked as an Army dentist.

They left the United States as a twosome and returned with a baby boy, Paul, now a patent lawyer in Boston. Their daughter, Sara, was born two years later.

The family settled in New Jersey where Bernie had successful dental practices. Vici cared for the children, but returned to work as a dental hygienist when they left for college.

“She always wanted to be a mother,” said her daughter, Sara Kofman, a telecommunications engineer. “She told us she was so thrilled to have a boy and then a girl.”

She was a voracious reader — especially of historical novels — and a prolific letter writer, insisting that if she took the time to write someone, they would write back. And she was usually right. She wrote to Gerald Ford during the bicentennial celebration in 1976 and received a signed response, with copies of his speeches.

After Bernie died in 2006, Vici moved into an assisted living facility — first in New Jersey and then in Massachusetts, where she could be close to her children.

While at Traditions of Dedham, where she lived for 10 years, she discovered her talent in painting and drawing; she also wrote a column each month for the Traditions bulletin.

When she eventually needed more care, she moved to NewBridge on the Charles, where she remained active, visiting with her family and attending group outings. She also enjoyed Bingo, exercise class, and Friday night sabbath services.

She adored her three grandchildren, and had photos of them placed around her room so she could see them when she fell asleep and when she woke up.

She continued painting and drawing and writing letters when the spirit moved her.

She was a such a huge fan of Skinny Pop popcorn, she wrote the company a thank you letter.

When she received a huge box of Skinny Pop bags in return, she gave them all away to the nursing home staff and residents.

The coronavirus hit the nursing home hard and fast. Within just a few days of learning one resident had tested positive, Vici came down with symptoms. A few days later, she died.

On the day before she got sick, Vici’s children were able to visit her on FaceTime.

“I will miss sharing my life with her,'" said her son. “I’ll miss visiting with her and telling her what’s going on. But her sense of what is right and what is wrong will remain as a guide."


Ruth Hanson (80) and Robert Hanson (75): United until the end


Photograph of Ruth Hanson (80) and Robert Hanson (75)

Ruth and Robert Hanson were church- and family-oriented homebodies, happiest when bringing relatives together for holiday meals and backyard cookouts.

They were together for more than three decades — a closeness that endured right to the end. The couple died April 19 within hours of each other, both from COVID-19.

Robert, 75, died in a Boston hospital at 4 a.m.; Ruth, 80, just before noon about 15 miles away at a medical center in Brockton.

“That was the saddest thing I ever had to deal with in my life,” said Ruth’s daughter, Louise Broadus. "A friend, she said to me, ‘I’m so sad for your loss; but the most beautiful thing about it is that they died together.’

“And I guess that kind of gave me some peace,” Broadus said. “But the fact that they died, I’m still devastated. It’s so sudden, from out of nowhere.”

For most of their 30 years together, Ruth and Robert made their home in Brockton in a four-bedroom ranch house with a fenced-in yard. They bought it in 1993.

In February 2019 they sold the house and moved to the newly built Bell Stoughton development in Stoughton, a gated complex billed as “Apartment Living at its Best.”

Ruth and Robert had barely been there a year when they died.

“My mother was a church person, so she stayed in church a lot,” her daughter said.

Robert, not so much, she said. “He wouldn’t go every Sunday like she would, but he would go on occasion,” she said.

When the two met in the late ’80s, they would upend their lives for each other.

They were in their 40s and married to other people. Robert had three nearly grown sons. Ruth had a 2-year-old; her three other children were in their late teens or young adults.

They divorced their spouses, and as Robert’s obituary said, they united “until the final days."

“Sweet Hanson” is what they called Robert back in the day.

He grew up with three brothers in Virginia Beach, Va., and excelled in athletics at Union Kempsville High School. After graduation, relatives said, he played semiprofessional baseball for the Virginia Beach Clowns in largely segregated leagues in Virginia.

Robert eventually tried out for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles, family said.

Over the years Robert worked at Morris Shoes, the US Postal Service, and Monsanto. He retired in 2001 from Northeastern Scaffolding, and as his obituary said, he was “a true friend to the end” who “touched the lives of so many."

Ruth, the family matriarch, went by “Carol” with friends. But with family, and at Messiah Baptist Church in Brockton, she was always “Ruth,” her daughter said.

Shes was born and raised in Far Rockaway, N.Y., and graduated from Queens Girls High School.

She moved to Boston as a single mother with four young children. She got a job as a machine operator at Gillette and stayed for 20 years until she retired in 1993, her children said.

Ruth played baseball, too; second base was her position. In the ’70s, she won league championships with her Gillette women’s work team, family said.

“Carol was the epitome of what a friend should be,” Sarah A. Stevenson, of Allenhurst, Ga., wrote in an online tribute. “She was loving, caring, and definitely a person I could confide in.”

The Hansons used to enjoy frequent car trips to visit family in Virginia and New York, Broadus said.

“Once they started getting older, they liked to stay at home,” she said.

Back in March, the couple had been recovering from surgeries, but feeling good.

After knee surgery, Ruth spent less than a week in rehab and was seeing a physical therapist, said her son, Traecee King. Robert was home too, up and about with a good appetite, after open-heart surgery.

“They were back to doing what they always did,” King said.

Then they came down with the virus.

Ruth was hospitalized at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton since April 6. An ambulance took Robert to Carney Hospital in Dorchester on Easter Sunday, April 12.

They hadn’t seen each other in nearly a week when they died — just eight hours apart.


Kenneth Shapleigh, 95: Entrepreneur, Lego master


Photograph of Kenneth Shapleigh

He was an adventurer at an early age, signing up for the Merchant Marines after graduating from Malden High in 1942. Kenneth Shapleigh became a ship’s chief radio operator, traveling the world to deliver supplies to the troops in World War II.

When he returned, he worked on a classified project at MIT before starting a long career purchasing electronic parts for General Radio in Concord, which manufactured testing equipment.

At age 50, Kenneth followed his entrepreneurial instincts and started the first in a series of small businesses, teaching himself computer programming and other key skills, like how to scrub databases.

The first business was called “Instant Office,” which rented out desks and phones — much like co-working spaces that are popular now.

After that, he ran an answering service, before starting a company called “Keeper of the List" that helped small businesses develop sales leads by targeting specific audiences.

“He loved software and taught himself,” said his daughter, Marilyn, of Reading. “He’d buy books and read online with the patience of a saint. The stuff was foreign, but he’d keep at it."

Kenneth, who lived in Woburn, kept the business going until age 83, when he became too ill to continue. He moved into Wingate at Reading (now called Bear Mountain).

But his curiosity didn’t wane at the nursing home.

When he arrived, his life seemed without purpose. But then his daughter remembered that when he was younger, he had enjoyed building model ships and airplanes. She bought him a Lego kit.

Kenneth quickly became a Lego master, creating complex pieces — like a Volkswagen bus, London Bridge, a ship called the Flying Cow, among others. The nursing home staff and other residents became so amazed by his talent that he was given a special table in the lobby to display his work.

“He did it every day,” said his daughter. “He did his first one then I bought him another. He did hundreds of them, including a huge one with 4,000 pieces. They were extremely complicated, but he loved it."

He was also famous for his kind nature, greeting everyone with a “ho ho.”

“He was one of the most positive people I know,” said his son, Neal, of North Andover. “I can’t ever recall him saying anything bad about anyone. It would rankle him if someone yelled at a nurse. He knew she was doing the best she could. You’d never hear that from him. He never did anything to anger anybody.”

Even in his later years, he was always on the lookout for new adventures. He had wanted to attend this year’s re-enactment of the battle at Concord’s Old North Bridge on Patriots Day as well as his high school reunion over the summer.

He also urged the nursing home to invest in a bus that could accommodate every resident on day trips to places like the North Shore Music Theatre or the George’s Island ferry in Boston.

But Kenneth became too ill to fulfill those dreams and died of COVID-19 at age 95 on April 27. Before he died, he was taken to Winchester Hospital, where the staff made an exception and allowed his son and daughter to visit him for a few hours.


Nancy Lawton, 85: "She was enormously welcoming"


Photograph of Nancy Lawton

Nancy Lawton was a student at Emmanuel College in the 1950s when she attended a speech by Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy. As she stood outside in the rain after the event, waiting for her brother to pick her up, the senator pulled up in a limo and offered her a ride.

“No, thank you senator, I’m all set," said Nancy, then 20. The story of her brush with fame has been handed down to her children and grandchildren and never failed to bring good-natured ribbing.

“Everyone would say, ’Why didn’t you get in the car? You could have been one of the Kennedys,' ” said her son, Jamie.

The retired receptionist, known for her warmth and quick wit, had an enthusiasm for life that never waned. She was a voracious reader and engaging conversationalist who loved talking about politics and culture and took an avid interest in the lives of others. She felt just as at ease working alongside “brainy people" at Harvard Law School as she did hanging out with her nine grandchildren and their friends, said her daughter, Ellen.

“She was enormously welcoming to so many people in her life,” her daughter said. “If you were 7 or 70, she was right there with you, eager to have a conversation."

Nancy died from the coronavirus May 1 at Maristhill Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Waltham following a long decline due to Alzheimer’s. She was 85.

Nancy Breen Lawton was raised in a big house on Carruth Street in Dorchester. She was one of six children of Eleanor and John Anthony Breen. Her father was chairman of the Boston Housing Authority and briefly served as deputy to Mayor John B. Hynes.

Nancy attended Notre Dame Academy and graduated from Emmanuel College, where she was president of the Dramatic Society and “was known for being able to nap in class sitting upright,” according to an obituary written by her daughter Ellen.

In 1960, Nancy married Tom Lawton, a mathematician who worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The couple raised their family in Belmont and spent summers at a ramshackle cottage in Manomet, a seaside village in Plymouth.

She began working as a receptionist in the early 1970s, starting as an iconic “Kelly Girl” for the temporary employment agency. Later, she spent 10 years as a receptionist at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation.

“She just loved being in the middle of this academic setting where there were lots of smart people,” her daughter said.

She reveled in the Harvard Square atmosphere, the quirky characters and the book stores, restaurants, and shops.

After her husband’s death in 1987, Nancy found joy in the next chapter of her life. She loved connecting with family and friends and going to the movies and the theater. She was an unabashed critic who took pride in walking out if a show was awful. She loved traveling with her sister and friends.

While crossing the Canadian Rockies by train in the early 1990s, Nancy spent days hanging over the rail of the observation car, sneaking cigarettes with "some old hippie,” her daughter said.

She tried to strike up a conversation, but the man was “taciturn,” she later recounted. It wasn’t until after he disembarked that she learned from the conductor that he was music legend Neil Young, according to her daughter.

During a 2012 Globe interview, she described her realization that it was time to stop driving after she “started side-swiping cars." She issued a blanket apology to the the town of Arlington, the scene of the crime.


Hannah Laughlin, 94: A welcoming heart and home

Jamaica Plain

Photograph of Hannah Laughlin

Everyone was welcome at Hannah Laughlin’s rambling Victorian home in Jamaica Plain. When her daughter’s friends needed a place to stay, she gave them a room. One stayed for several years.

In the 1980s, she took in Boston Language Institute students from around the world. She relished her role as surrogate parent and tour guide, driving them around the city to point out the best spots.

“Her whole being was about giving and receiving love," said her daughter, Susan Farmer. “She would have been happy if that’s all she did in life.”

Hannah (O’Shea) Laughlin died April 16, at 94, of respiratory failure, believed to have been caused by COVID-19. She was living at Briarwood Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Needham, where her sister-in-law died of the virus five days earlier.

Hannah had remained “unscathed by life,” calm and kind even in the face of hardship, her daughter said. “She saw the beauty in everyone and everything.”

Born in Boston, Hannah was the oldest of four daughters of Daniel and Hedwig “Helen” O’Shea. She was 12 when her father died at age 36. She worked as a restaurant hostess while helping care for her sisters, often using her earnings to splurge on treats for the family, like pastries.

After graduating from Most Precious Blood School in Hyde Park, she worked as a secretary at Coca-Cola, where she occasionally modeled at corporate events. Beautiful and extremely shy, she later told her daughter she felt self-conscious when she emerged from behind a curtain dressed in a skit outfit and fur boots, sipping a Coke.

Hannah was much more at ease working with sandpaper, a hammer, or a sewing machine. She was nicknamed “Handy Hannah” for her ability to master home improvement projects, from shingling a roof and restoring furniture to building a staircase.

In 1950, she married Walter F. Laughlin Sr., a World War II veteran she met at Coca-Cola. The couple had a son and three daughters. She worked full-time as a secretary and statistical typist while nursing her husband through a long illness. She still found time to sew her children’s clothes, their dolls’ clothes, and Halloween costumes.

Hannah could type more than 100 words per minute and made extra money by typing thesis papers for MIT and Harvard students, Her daughter, Meg Buckley, recalled sitting in the car while her mother drove from college to college, leaving business cards advertising her services.

Walter Laughlin Sr. died in 1976, leaving Hannah a widow at 50. She continued to work until she was 70 and was devoted to her six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She loved to babysit and take the children mini-golfing and on trips to the library and toy stores.

When her granddaughter, Lisa, turned 12, Hannah wanted to give her a memorable gift. She arranged for the two of them to ride on a small airplane, even though Hannah was afraid of flying.

“She’d take her shirt off her back to do anything for you,” said her daughter Meg. “She just had a big heart.”


Diane Marie Huggins, 66: A life altered by mental illness


Photograph of Diane Marie Huggins

Diane Marie Huggins’s life was filled with upheaval. The good stretches could last for years. But a bad stretch could veer into the unthinkable.

Huggins, a grandmother of six, died from COVID-19 on April 11 at MetroWest Medical Center after living for the past few years at Waterview Lodge in Ashland. She was 66.

Raised largely in Roxbury, she spent her childhood bouncing from foster home to foster home. By the time Huggins was a mother of three young children, she was dueling with unrelenting, violent voices in her head. She would later be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Three separate times, Huggins attacked strangers with a knife she carried in her purse. Her victims were a 4-year-old boy and mothers with young children. They survived, although one woman lost sight in one eye.

Each time, Huggins was acquitted of her violent acts by reason of insanity, followed by a court-ordered stay at a state mental hospital.

Huggins’s course through the state’s splintered mental health care system was prominently featured in a 2016 article by the Globe’s Spotlight Team. It documented how no one spoke up or stepped in when Huggins stopped visiting Boston Medical Center for the outpatient psychiatric care she had come to rely on.

“It was hard for her, but we never turned our backs on her,” said Huggins’ daughter, Arianne Neves, of Waltham. “I think she just spent a lot of her life trying to be a normal person.”

Neves said her mother was reserved but social, and with her children she was quick to joke, laugh, and get silly.

“You could always get a smile out of her,” Neves said.

She enjoyed crossword puzzles and Stephen King novels. But most of all, she was a sports fan with a passion for football and basketball. The New England Patriots and the Boston Celtics were her teams.

Upon learning Tom Brady was leaving the Patriots, Huggins claimed the world was ending, Neves said.

When Huggins’ life was on the upswing, she stuck to her antipsychotic medications, held a job in human services, and rented an apartment in Boston’s West End. In 2008, she earned a GED and then a college degree at Bunker Hill Community College. She was 51.

But her mental illness would prompt three psychotic episodes that resulted in the violence and sent Huggins to psychiatric institutions for long stretches.

For periods afterward, her family said, Huggins thrived. She relished her grandchildren and would regularly babysit Neves’s three children.

“My kids didn’t know the mother I knew,” Neves said. They knew a grandmother who showed up at events and took them out on weekends, she said.

On April 8, Huggins was taken to the hospital with a 103-degree fever. She tested positive for the virus and died April 11.

When it was clear that Huggins would not survive, a nurse arranged a FaceTime farewell. Huggins had little energy and her oxygen mask couldn’t come off for long, but she recognized Neves and her brother, Shaun.

“She said our names,” Neves said.

A few hours later she was gone.

Lois Caporal, 89: “She was grateful for every day”


Photograph of Lois Caporal

Lois Kendrew Caporal loved reminiscing about her childhood in the South, spending summers at Lake Winnipesaukee, and tending to her garden. But being a mother was what mattered most.

In the 1970s, there were more than 50 children living on the street in Brookline’s Washington Square where Lois and her husband, Larry, raised their four children. And everyone knew that their house, the big Victorian at 5 Bartlett Crescent, was the place to go for homemade Popsicles and popcorn.

“A lot of my friends called Mom, ‘Mom,’ ” said Lois’s daughter Cindy Tamkin. “She became Mom to everyone.”

She could walk into a room filled with strangers, find something to talk about with everyone, and quickly make friends, her daughter said.

“She always had a smile on her face,” she said. “She was grateful for every day.”

Lois died April 10, at age 89, of complications related to the coronavirus. She was living at Briarwood Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Needham.

Born in Williamsburg, Va., Lois was one of two children of A.E. Kendrew and Melinda Ide Kendrew. Her parents had been living in Boston when her father, an architect, moved the family to Virginia as he worked on the Colonial Williamsburg restoration project.

Lois graduated from the College of William and Mary, where she earned a liberal arts degree and joined Pi Beta Phi, one of the nation’s first sororities. After college, she moved to Boston, where she worked as a secretary at Liberty Mutual. She rented a studio apartment on Beacon Hill with three of her sorority sisters.

In 1957, she married Larry Caporal, an artist and a commissioned officer in the US Navy and the merchant marine. The couple lived in Brookline for more than 35 years. She was active in All Saints Parish, where she co-founded the Corner Co-op Nursery school. Parents would donate their time to care for each other’s children.

Lois had a son with special needs and became a strong advocate for him, according to her daughter, Laura Geilen. She lobbied for Chapter 766, the 1972 law that established the right of special-needs children to an education.

“She was lobbying; she was organizing meetings and making a lot of calls,” Geilen said. The law, which mainstreamed many special-needs students, allowed her brother to attend the same public school that she did.

Lois was also an avid gardener and a member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

She spent summers on Lake Winnipesaukee at a camp in Tuftonboro, N.H. Her family had owned it since the late 1800s and it remained a beloved spot where generations gathered to swim, fish, and boat. Lois had four children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. She and Larry retired to Wolfeboro, N.H., in 1995. He died in 2010.

Lois remained eternally cheerful, her daughters said. It became a bit of a family joke that whenever they all gathered for a meal, she’d say the same thing: “Isn’t it nice we are all together.”


Joann Yee, 76: “Incredibly generous”


Photograph of Joann Yee

Joann Yee treated guests at her Brighton home to feasts of Hong Kong-style lobster, tofu with black mushrooms, and sauteed bitter melon with cured pork — followed by games of mahjong.

The bounty was Joann’s making alone, the payoff from years working in restaurants, a flower shop, Filene’s Basement, and a downtown Boston courthouse.

“She was incredibly generous,” said her daughter, Laura.

Joann, 76, died April 28 at Carney Hospital in Dorchester after coming down with COVID-19. For the past eight years, she had been a patient at Quincy Health & Rehabilitation Center, where she was treated for dementia and lingering effects of a car crash, her daughter said.

She was born in 1943in a farming village in China and given the name Fei Yin. By the time she was 2, her mother had abandoned the family. Her father later remarried and had four more children.

The stepmother treated Joann like a nuisance, “a pebble stuck in the woman’s shoe,” according to her daughter, who described the fraught relationship in a May 1995 column she wrote for the Plain Dealer of Cleveland. “My mother: A jewel who shines on all,” read the headline.

When Joann was still a teenager, her father arranged a marriage for her in the United States and the union paved the way for her entire family to move to Boston.

The marriage was unhappy, but it gave Joann three children, Laura and her brothers, Calvin and Timothy. With money she secretly saved, Yee got a divorce and bought a two-family home in Brighton.

To pay the bills, Yee worked two jobs, seating patrons as a hostess at Tahiti Restaurant in Dedham during the day, stopping at home to eat dinner prepared by her daughter, and then driving to Boston’s Theatre District where she served cocktails at the former 57 Restaurant on Stuart Street.

In her newspaper column, Joann’s daughter recalled some of the indignities her mother encountered as a waitress, and singled out a bad tipper: The late Frank Perdue, the poultry magnate, left a 10-cent tip on a $100 tab.

But wages and tips paid college tuition bills and allowed Joann to open a flower shop in Wellesley called Floral Designs by Joann. It was mostly a one-woman operation, Laura said. Her mother selected flowers from the former Boston Flower Market in the South End, assembled the arrangements, and delivered orders herself.

Joann loved dahlias, peonies, stargazer and calla lilies, but roses, and the painstaking work she devoted to removing the thorns, were a signature.

“If you had roses from Joann, they didn’t have thorns on them," Laura Yee said.

An economic downturn cost her the shop, but she continued to sell flowers from home.

In later years, she held jobs at Filene’s in Downtown Crossing and on the custodial staff Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, where her son, Timothy, is a court officer.

Her daughter’s 1995 column about her ends: “She is truly the reward, a gem scratched by privation that continues to shine and inspire me and so many others.”


Cynthia Lee Segal, 72: Art was her life


Photograph of Cynthia Lee Segal

After a devastating car crash in 1968, Cynthia Lee Segal found herself in a rehabilitation facility in New York City, notebook handy and surrounded by potential subjects to sketch.

The wreck on the Massachusetts Turnpike outside Worcester had put her in a coma for eight weeks and left her unable to walk, but her love of art and painting endured.

“It was her life,” said her sister, Linda Fritz, whose Newton home is a showcase for Segal’s decades of oil and still life paintings.

Cynthia, 72, died of COVID-19 on April 9 at Belmont Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where she had lived since last summer.

She was a college student when she nearly died in the car crash, but she continued to pursue her education. She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in art from Boston University, Fritz said, and later worked in Boston-area nursing homes, specializing in recreation and activities.

She lived for many years in Brighton. In 2017, her partner Michael Lillian died. The same year, Cynthia moved to Evans Park at Newton Center, an assisted living facility.

One advantage of living at Evans Park was a new neighbor, Arthur Polonsky, the renowned expressionist painter. Cynthia had studied under Polonsky at BU, Fritz said, and now was sharing meals with him at the facility’s dining hall.

“She felt she was eating with the gods,” Fritz said. Polonsky died last year of advanced dementia at 93.

Cynthia enjoyed taking art classes for the camaraderie; she deeply enjoyed painting with others, Fritz said.

She had escaped dying in the car crash, her sister said, and in some ways the 52 years that followed felt like a bonus.


Thomas Tarbell Russell, 83: Marine memories


Photograph of Thomas Tarbell Russell

Even after Alzheimer’s began to steal Thomas Tarbell Russell’s memories, he held onto the lyrics he learned as a high-school graduate newly enlisted in the Marine Corps.

“From the Halls of Montezuma/ To the shores of Tripoli/ We fight our country’s battles / In the air, on land, and sea.”

The lyrics were printed in a pamphlet about Camp Lejeune in North Carolina that Thomas saved from his military service. When he moved in January to JGS Lifecare in Longmeadow the pamphlet came with him in a memory book, said Ellen Russell of Wilbraham, one of his three daughters.

“He could still sing it,” she said. “It was a way to engage with him.”

The elder Russell, 83, died at the facility on April 7 after developing COVID-19.

Raised on a dairy farm in Westmoreland, N.H., Thomas enlisted in the Marines after high school and served during peacetime.

His daughter said she doesn’t know whether the Marines gave her father his happiest days or maybe his most memorable ones. But he recalled the experiences throughout the five years he lived with Alzheimer’s, she said.

“That was kind of the memory that stuck with him the longest,” she said.

After the military, Thomas pursued a career as a computer programmer and was mentored at his first job by Grace Hopper, the pioneering computer scientist and US Navy rear admiral who worked on the UNIVAC I, or Universal Automatic Computer. Her subordinates nicknamed her “Amazing Grace.”

Ellen Russell said her father also remembered Hopper as he coped with Alzheimer’s and expressed pride at having worked alongside her. “He was just very impressed with her intellect, her organization, her ability to get things done,” Ellen said.

Thomas completed a 29-year career at IBM in 1993 and then moved from Hyde Park, N.Y., to Plymouth with his wife, Thayer “Patty” Neal Russell. They were married for 45 years. She died in 2004.

Near the ocean in Plymouth, Thomas found an outlet in sailing, a hobby he taught himself by reading books.

“He didn’t have any teachers,” his daughter said. “He kind of just experimented on his own.”

He sailed the Hudson River and Cape Cod Bay. His first mate was always the same, his wife, Patty.


Kay Gallagher, 98: Clearinghouse for family news


Photograph of Kay Gallagher

She was a beloved figure in the town of Westwood, where Joseph, her husband of more than 50 years, served as town manager.

But Kay Gallagher had her own claims to fame. She raised five children, Mark, Mary, Katie, Rob and Joe Jr., while heading the women’s group at the St. Margaret Mary Church, helping collect and count the weekly donations.

Gallagher, 98, died at the Charlwell House Health & Rehabilitation Center in Norwood on April 1 after developing COVID-19.

"She was definitely NOT a helicopter mom," said the youngest child, Joe, senior vice president of Boston Sand & Gravel. “We had a very structured home life — breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the family. You got home when the street lights came on.”

Neither Kay nor her husband graduated from college, but they instilled the value of education in their children, all of whom have college degrees.

Kay worked as a customer service representative for the New England Telephone company between 1942 and 1952 in various offices, including one on Boylston Street in downtown Boston.

“God forbid if you called her an operator,” said her cousin, Bette Cronin. “There was a big difference. Customer services reps sat at a desk and people came in with questions. You had to be intelligent, dress well, and be attractive. You had to be at a certain level.”

Brian Kelly, a longtime Westwood resident and former member of the town’s school committee, called Kay "a great neighbor who made the world a better place with her kindness and welcoming nature.”

As her children got older and married, she became the matriarch of the huge family — with 13 grandchildren who called her Nana.

“She just thrived on people and relationships,” Joe said. “She got so much joy being around others.”

She was often the bearer of candy — particularly M&M’s, which she would dole out to the kids during family visits.

Kay Murphy and Joseph Gallagher met in Scituate in 1946, where her family owned a summer home. Her father, John Murphy, was president of the Scituate Beach Association, a social club that hosted an annual July Fourth bash. They married four years later.

Well into her 90s, Gallagher still served as the clearinghouse for all family communications. “Everyone would check in with her," Joe said. “She knew what was going on with everybody.”

She lived on her own until she was 92. She had just moved into Charlwell House seven months ago.

Her son believes she lived so long because she did everything in moderation.

“She’d eat one slice of pizza. She’d have one drink. She would go for a walk, but wouldn’t be a marathon runner," he said. “She had a wonderful life — until the last 30 days.”


Cornelius Murphy, 91: A late-in-life nurturer

West Roxbury

Photograph of Cornelius Murphy

For most of his life, Cornelius Murphy was not a diaper-changing kind of guy.

He was a hard worker, following his father and older brother to serve in the Boston Police Department, where he spent 43 years. He was a great listener and a devoted father, attending all his son’s hockey and baseball games.

Nurturing, however, was not what Cornelius, who went by Connie, was known for.

But after Connie’s wife died of a brain tumor in 2004, shortly after the birth of their first grandson, he underwent a transformation, said his son, Michael.

He changed diapers and picked up his grandsons from school, sometimes taking them to IHOP for dinner when their parents, both doctors, were at work. Well into his 80s, he took them sledding and laced up their skates at hockey practice.

“That was really a time of rebirth,” Michael said. After losing his wife, Janet, whom he had met as a teenager roller skating in Brighton, Connie devoted his life to his grandsons, Michael Jr., now 17, and Matthew, 14.

"It was like a new light," his son Michael said.

Connie, 91, of West Roxbury, died April 5 of complications from COVID-19. His family — his son, an only child, who is an emergency medicine physician at Tufts Medical Center, his daughter-in-law, Lori Farnan, a primary care physician, and their two sons — was escorted to the cemetery by two police officers on motorcycles.

He served in World War II and the Korean War and was a dedicated handball player, another family tradition, his son said.

He was also a phenomenal storyteller, especially about his days on the force. Wherever they were, his father seemed to have a story about a car chase or an arrest that took place there. “Oh, I chased a guy down this alley,” Michael recalled him saying. “He was going up the fire escape and he tried to throw a TV set at us.”

His police career ran the gamut, from working as a detective on the Boston Strangler case to arresting a man who stabbed someone with a samurai sword at a party in the Back Bay.

Michael, the first in his family to go to college, used to call his father on his way to work and talk to him about his hospital job. His father’s emotional support was invaluable, he said: “He was a phenomenal listener.”

Connie was also an eternal optimist, especially when it came to the Red Sox. “It’d be 7 to 1, they’d be losing,” his son said, "and I’d call him and he’d be like, ‘Don’t worry, they’ll come back. ... They always do.’ "


Peter W. Coogan, 76: Handled challenges with great equanimity


Photograph of Peter W. Coogan

Peter W. Coogan was not a complainer. Calm and even-keeled, he managed his law practice and vision loss, donning baseball caps to shield his eyes and relying on large fonts and color contrast to read documents.

“He was really quite amazing," said Debbie Coogan, his wife of 45 years.

His pragmatism and equanimity served him well in the last 14 months of his life, spent at Briarwood Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Needham, where he was treated for esophageal dysmotility and, later, muscular dystrophy. He died there of COVID-19 on April 9, but not before learning he had become a grandfather again; his daughter had just adopted a second son and given him her father’s middle name, Weston.

Peter, 76, had graduated from Roxbury Latin School, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School. An early legal job with a Senate subcommittee put him to work on both the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18, and the Equal Rights Amendment, which passed Congress in 1972 but failed to win ratification by the states.

He returned to Boston in 1973 and joined the law firm Foley Hoag, where he would become a partner in less than two years. Debbie, hired the year before, was the firm’s second female lawyer. She was smitten.

“I just fell madly in love with him,” said Debbie. “He was so interesting and fun and expanded me in so many ways.”

Both were political junkies, whose early dates featured reruns of the Watergate hearings. He introduced her to classical music and the bucolic life in Vermont, where his extended family owned a 200-acre farm.

After they married in 1975, they raised their two children in the Newton home where Peter had grown up. But they spent virtually every weekend and holiday at the farm, their two children climbing trees, building forts, and sledding with their cousins. Peter would ride down the hill in his snowmobile and pick them up for the next run, recalled his son, Christopher Coogan, 37, of Charlestown.

Tractors were Peter’s passion. He had at least 10 of them and woke early to mow the fields at the farm. He taught his daughter, Tracy Coogan Plants, of Brookline, to drive a tractor before she could drive a car.

He taught her other skills by pretending he needed her help. “I didn’t realize he was tricking me for maybe 20 years,” said Tracy. "He could have done it in two minutes, but he was able to encourage me and give me confidence to find the answer on my own.”

After retirement, Peter and Debbie bought a house in Tucson, where they enjoyed classical music concerts.

“They were inseparable,” Tracy said. “They had this calm togetherness that was just peaceful.”


Margaret Laughlin, 91: A poetic life devoted to healing


Photograph of Margaret Laughlin

Margaret “Peg” Laughlin had just graduated college in 1949 and was looking for her first job as a physical therapist during a polio epidemic that was sweeping across the country, affecting children especially hard.

There was no cure for the virus, no vaccine; people were quarantined in their homes in a desperate effort to protect their families. But Peg, the daughter of a prominent Boston doctor, didn’t hesitate when she heard Oklahoma was in dire need of health care workers.

Traveling by herself, she boarded a train in Boston for Tulsa. She spent about four months working at a field hospital, treating children who struggled to breathe and couldn’t move their limbs.

It was a transformative experience, by her own account.

“I cannot imagine my life without doing Physical Therapy!” Peg wrote in a journal decades later as she reflected on her life. “It was through that work I truly found myself by helping others. My patients always gave me more than I could ever give to them. Every morning starting out I would thank God for my good health and ask His help to get me through these difficult cases. And He would come through every time!”

Margaret (Heffernan) Laughlin died April 11, at age 91, of complications from the novel coronavirus. She had been living at a Needham rehabilitation center for about a month while recuperating after a brief hospitalization.

The beloved matriarch of a large Irish clan, Peg was a mother, grandmother, poet, breast cancer survivor, and nature lover.

“She lived life with such gratitude and open arms it was infectious,” said her son, Jim Laughlin. “She just had this vigorous love for life, and that carried through her whole life.”

Born and raised in Jamaica Plain, Peg was one of nine children of Dr. Roy and Kathleen Heffernan. Her father was the Kennedy family doctor in Boston and influenced her academic pursuits. She graduated from Bouvé-Boston School of Physical Education with a bachelor’s degree in science in 1949.

She worked for the Visiting Nurse Association of Boston after returning from Oklahoma and was featured on a poster advertising the agency’s services in the 1950s. She traveled from home to home in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods to treat patients.

She left that job after she married Robert Laughlin, a World War II veteran, in 1956 and began raising a family. The couple had five children and lived in Medfield for many years before moving to Topsfield.

Peg returned to work as a physical therapist in 1969 after surviving breast cancer. She began writing poetry to cope with the loss of patients she had treated. She found solace by writing about them and sharing her words with their grieving families.

She retired as a physical therapist in 1986, and her husband died two years later. She remained deeply spiritual and saw the beauty in every day, her sons said. She traveled with friends, organized college reunions, went bird-watching in the woods, took creative writing classes, and gave poetry readings.

“She loved socializing and was always full of smiles, energy and love for people,” said her son,Tom Laughlin.

He recalled how proud he was when some of his mother’s poems were published in a local newspaper. Her example inspired some of her children and 10 grandchildren to write poetry, he said.

On April 19, Peg’s four sons and daughter gathered at one of her favorite spots, Hood Pond in Topsfield. They stood more than six feet apart, connected as they held a rope fashioned from their mother’s scarves. As birds sang and the sun sparkled on the water, they took turns reading her poems.

— Shelley Murphy

Berton Sumner Fliegel, 90: Fought poverty, injustice


Photograph of Berton Sumner Fliegel

Sometimes people who are helping others can be made to feel invisible, Berton Sumner Fliegel once told his daughter Lisa. “And they’re not,” he said.

Berton was not one to overlook others. As a resident of Belmont Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, he was intent on serving the people who served him — playing them music, reading them poems, and above all, expressing his gratitude.

Berton, 90, died on April 16 from complications related to the coronavirus.

He grew up in Beverly, where he and his brother frequently spent time helping the fishermen in the family haul in their catch from the pier. From there, Berton embarked on a life devoted to service — first as a soldier during the Korean War and later as a social worker, professor, counselor, and community activist.

“When people say someone loved everyone, it seems like hyperbole,” his daughter said. “But my dad really loved everyone. And everyone he encountered knew it.”

Love was not all that drove Berton. He also had a fiery passion for stamping out injustice.

“He was unconditionally loving — but he was also filled with rage,” his daughter said. A rage she believes was born on that fishing pier in Beverly, where her father was often bullied for being Jewish. As he grew older, Berton channeled that anger into decisive and loving action.

He spent his career fighting against poverty and injustice on a number of fronts. In roles with Boston’s Model Cities Program and Columbia Point Community Health Center, he helped expand affordable housing and establish community clinics. He attended the 1963 March on Washington.

Berton later taught at Tufts School of Medicine and the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he advocated on behalf of low-income students. He spent the rest of his career working in clinical practice and never gave up fighting for a kinder, more just world.

His family will remember Berton by two of his favorite verses of poetry, which he recited often: “My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky,” and “My love is like a red, red rose.”


Scott Jennings, 67: He made people open up


Photograph of Scott Jennings

Joseph Romano Jr. was the first person in Massachusetts to be convicted of murder without a body.

He had Scott Jennings to thank. Sergeant Jennings, a State Police detective, helped persuade a jury to convict Romano of killing and dismembering his wife even though police never found Katherine Romano. The Quincy couple, it turned out, were about to split up.

The case was but one headline-making crime that Scott solved over his long career, including the attempted murder of Marianne Lewis in a Boston garage in 1989, the murder of Irene Kennedy in a Walpole park in 1998, and the 1992 corruption case against former state Representative John McNeil of Malden.

Friends described Scott, who died April 8 of COVID-19, as a brilliant investigator whose easy way with people made them open up. But they said, above all else, he was a big-hearted friend who drew people to him.

“First and foremost, he was my friend,” said John Kelly, a retired State Police lieutenant colonel who is now head of security at Emmanuel College, where Scott worked after retiring from the State Police in 2009.

“Give me a minute here,” Kelly said, choking back tears. “I never heard so many tough grown men and women cry. That’s the extent of feeling everyone has for Scott."

Scott’s wife, Maryellen, and the couple’s three daughters, Danielle, Erin and Kristen, recounted the family’s great adventures — the annual Memorial Day trip to Martha’s Vineyard; summers spent at the family cottage in Chatham; ski vacations and visits to Jack’s Abby Brewery in Framingham. On many outings, their golden retriever, Lexi, was by Scott’s side. His daughters called their father “our hero.”

It was fate that brought Maryellen and Scott together in 1974. She grew up in Milford; he was from Needham and their paths probably would not have crossed. But her mother, who had a job handing out samples of Tony’s Frozen Pizza at supermarkets, asked her reluctant daughter to take her place one Saturday.

There, at the Stop & Shop in Natick, she met Scott, who was working the deli counter while going to school and studying for the police civil service exam. He asked her to lunch at the Woolworth’s next door. “We had a hot dog and talked and talked and talked,” she said.

The couple was together ever since.

One day, a letter arrived from the State Police, Maryellen said. His 30th birthday was coming up, and at the time the force accepted only recruits younger than 30.

“I called him — you gotta get home!” she recalled. The letter said he was to report to the Academy on December 6, just weeks before his 30th birthday.

“We were elated. That was his lifelong dream," she said.

The drill instructor at the academy, John DiFava, saw that Jenning Scott looked older than the other recruits and gave him a nickname that stuck: “Gramps.”

“Gramps was a very tall guy," said State Police Captain Mary Sennott. "John DiFava looked up at him and said, ‘You’re too old to be here. Your nickname is going to be Gramps.’

"We still called him Gramps for 37 years,” she said.


David Coveney, 78: He made the music play


Photograph of David Coveney

David Coveney worked the controls at Boston’s WRKO-AM in the 1970s, making sure the Top 40 songs at the city’s top AM music station hit the airwaves without a hitch.

David, 78, who died April 4 from complications of the coronavirus, was a radio engineer at WRKO for years, until FM radio became more popular and he moved into television.

He did double duty as an engineer and cameraman at WSBK Channel 38 and WGBH Channel 2, where he worked on the 10 O’Clock News.

J.J. Jordan, a former WRKO disk jockey, befriended David in 1970, when they sat on the opposite sides of the glass.

“I told him what to play and he played it — a record or a commercial on tape,” said Jordan, who a few years later became the station’s program director. “He was a great technician.”

He was also hilarious.

David would try to break Jordan’s concentration while Jordan was working the overnight shift playing music and reading live commercials.

“He would take a wastebasket and light it on fire and hold it up,” Jordan said. “Many times I’d laugh and stumble over words. People had no idea what was wrong with me. I never explained to anybody, especially my boss.”

David was multi-talented — he could repair cars, was an expert skier, and wrote a book “Cypress Court,” that a WGBH colleague Steven Douglass wants to make into a movie. The story follows the plight of a family crippled by booze and poverty during the Vietnam War era, according to a snippet on Amazon.

In the early ’80s, David saved two young men from drowning in Breakheart Reservation in Saugus. “I’m not a hero,” he told WGBH’s paper, the Nooz. “Something had to be done and I did it.”

David’s son Jeff, a marketing executive and baseball aficionado who heads an adult baseball league in Boston, said his father was a constant presence in his life and the lives of Jeff’s wife, Rachel, and their three children, Maxwell, Megan, and Katelyn.

“My dad was an amazing father,” Jeff said. “I could never do any wrong in his eyes. He always supported me 100 percent. From the time I was a kid to now, he was there for every important moment in my life.”

David’s grandson Maxwell, 16, said his grandfather took an enormous interest in his life, too, always asking the teen to play the guitar for him and offering encouragement about life.

“A few years ago, I was going through a little depressed state,” Maxwell recalled. "He said it’ll pass. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. And he made me feel a lot better.”

And that’s exactly what David tried to do as he lay dying in his bed at Newton Wellesley Hospital — make his family feel better. The hospital staff gave David an iPad so he could speak to his family.

“We talked for about a half hour about how much we loved him,” his son said. “He said, ‘Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.’ “

David’s wife of more than 50 years, Helene, also tested positive for the coronavirus, but is improving, Jeff said.


Hope Dauwalter, 85: “She made things happen”


Photograph of Hope Dauwalter

Hope Dauwalter was always the first one to hit the dance floor. As a parent, she was the enthusiastic mom who traveled along on school ski trips and led the PTA.

“Hopey” to her friends, she lived 81 of her 85½ years in Newton. She died of complications of COVID-19 on April 1 at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

Hope’s crowning achievement was The Preschool Experience in Newton Centre. She co-founded the school when she was 46 and directed it for 16 years until her 1996 retirement.

She never forgot a student’s name and maintained Facebook friendships with many of them.

The preschool was such a hit that parents would register their newborns to reserve a spot for three and four years down the road.

Every step of the way, Hope was the magnet who drew everyone together for shared meals and outings — friends from kindergarten, a large band of first cousins, her independent-living neighbors.

“You never knew anyone more social than our mom,” said her son, Eric, 55. “She was always getting groups together.”

“Relaxing is not really something she did,” said her daughter, Robin Harmon. “She was always on the go.”

At 4-feet 11-inches, she was quite the dynamo. She liked to lead. She was competitive and driven but playful, too.

“She was a sweeter, softer version of aggressive or pushy,” her son said. "She made things happen.”

When the children were young, their home was headquarters for all. It was the place to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa after an afternoon of sledding.

Every year, Hope and her daughter planted a flower garden of gerbera daisies, poppies, and phlox. Instead of store-bought bread, they baked homemade bread every week.

She was 19 and working a summer job as a waitress on Cape Cod when she met MIT undergraduate Charles Robert Dauwalter, better known as Bob, or Dewey to close friends and family.

As the story goes, “she was at the beach hanging upside down from a tree and that’s how my dad met her,” her son said. They would wed four years later. They were married for nearly 62 years.

Bob Dauwalter, 86, fell ill with COVID-19 three days after his wife’s death. He pulled through after nine-plus days in the hospital, their son said.

In 2016, Hope and Bob Dauwalter moved to One Wingate Way, an independent living center in Needham. It wasn’t long until her son was calling his mother “the Mayor of Wingate.”

“She knew everyone and everyone knew her,” he said.

Even into her 80s, Hope remained a doer. She and Bob volunteered to make deliveries and drive the elderly to and from appointments.

“I’ve always remembered when she told me that her middle initial was 'I' and her maiden name was Duguid,” pronounced ‘do-good,’ a childhood friend of her children wrote in a tribute to their mother.

“Hope I do-good," Mary Moore Hurley wrote. “Well she certainly always lived up to that name. What a life well lived!”


James Power, 68: “Consummate family man”


Photograph of James Power

James Power believed in Sunday dinner. In the winters, he made his mother’s meat sauce. In the summers, he hauled out the grill.

The Arlington house he shared with his wife and three children filled up fast, with uncles, aunts, cousins, babies, and friends. And there was James, the calm at the center of the chaos in a waft of garlic or smoke. He wasn’t a talker, but he was always watching, and when a little one would zip past, he’d make a silly face or pluck a treasure from his pocket — candy, a ball, a brightly colored egg on Easter.

He knew just how to make them all smile. Even as he slipped into the haze of Alzheimer’s, he kept his gentle sense of humor and his quiet determination to take care of the people he loved.

“It was always about all of us, and never about him,” said his wife, Maura Power.

James Power died March 29, at age 68, of complications from the coronavirus. He had just recently moved out of his home to a memory care facility, where every single day, members of his sprawling family spilled inside to visit — the party following James, as usual.

“He was a consummate family man,” said his daughter, Michaela Power.

When his kids were little, James worked days managing sports facilities and nights cleaning and stripping grocery store floors. He could get by on four or five hours of sleep, and he always had time to help with the laundry, to have long conversations with Maura, to coach his kids in hockey and little league, or play pickup basketball in the driveway.

He had a way of teaching lessons without saying much. His kids could always hear him on the sidelines of their games — not yelling like other parents, just whistling loud and fast when he saw a stick too high, a slowing jog, a fantastic play. If they came off the field or the ice downcast, he never told them what to do next time. He just asked questions — what do you think happened? What went wrong? And if they didn’t want to talk, well that we fine, too — there was always Dunkin’ Donuts.

When his memory started to falter about eight years go, they all grieved the loss. But James could still garden, so he offered up a riot of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, snapdragons, and bright bulbs that Maura couldn’t even name. He kept the yard immaculate, not a blade of grass askew.

In the fall, he would collect the leaves that fell in the yard, and arrange them carefully on the counter for her to find. She thinks he mistook them for flowers. He was thinking of her even then.


Daniel Dewey, 76: A Marine through and through


Photograph of Daniel Dewey

Daniel Dewey and Michael Bellotti were on opposite sides of the political divide — a Republican and a Democrat — but that didn’t stop them from having a beer together in their hometown, Quincy.

Along with Daniel’s many other friends.

“I’d meet him for a beer at the Irish Pub maybe once a week,” said Bellotti, the former Norfolk County sheriff. “He loves politics, and we had the best eclectic group around the table — the butcher, the retired teacher, the city councilor, the Teamster, and me and him. We’d talk politics. You never knew who would be there.”

Daniel, 76, was a disabled Marine veteran who had survived cancer that he believed stemmed from his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. He spoke about his military service matter-of-factly and without self-pity, according to friends, but it shaped his whole life.

He was a longtime probation officer in the Quincy District Court and a member of the state Parole Board during the 1990s. He was also active in veteran’s affairs in Quincy and served as commandant of the William R. Caddy Marine Corps post.

“He took his Marine pedigree in helping veterans to another level,” said Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey, who lived down the street from Daniel in Quincy’s Squantum neighborhood. “He was always concerned about his fellow veterans, particularly disabled veterans.”

The staunch Democrat called Daniel “my favorite Republican.”

“He was a very practical person and knew how to compromise,” Morrissey said. “When he was on the parole board … he would be reasonable and take chances on people. I remember telling him to be careful — one mistake and they’ll hang you out to dry. But he said, 'I have a job to do and I’m going to do it. ' "

Perhaps it’s not surprising that one of Daniel’s Democratic friends — Bellotti — organized an outpouring of support for the ex-Marine after he succumbed to COVID-19 on April 3. Two nights later, friends and neighbors lined the streets to honor a man who knew nearly everyone in the tiny community on the Quincy shore.

They clutched American flags as Boston Police Officer Ed Boylan played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Daniel’s photo was placed on a stool in front of his house as his wife, recovering from her own COVID-19 infection, watched the tribute from inside.

Both Daniel and Kathleen became ill the week of March 15. Daniel was admitted to Mass. General on the 20th; his wife followed on the 21st.

Neither his wife nor his children were able to see him before he died. But their daughter, Aileen Quilty, said the outpouring from his friends “provided sort of closure." When she saw dozens of people outside her house, her mother was "shocked and then she cried.”

For all of Daniel’s work in the community, his daughter remembered him for his devotion to his wife, his children, and his five grandchildren.

“He’s been through a lot," she said. "But despite everything he went through, he wanted to make sure we were OK. He would hide a lot of information from me. He didn’t want me to worry.”


Julio Quintanilla, 60: From refugee to radio host


Photograph of Julio Quintanilla

He escaped civil war in El Salvador, fleeing to the United States with his partner, Ana Guzman, in 1988, finally settling in Somerville where they had family. He worked hard — in a curtain factory and as a part-time janitor — before attending broadcasting school in the 1990s, hoping to land a job in radio.

Julio Quintanilla eventually realized his dream, becoming both a DJ and a popular radio personality whose Spanish-language show, “Impacto Centroamericano,” aired daily on WUNR, 1600 AM, for more than 20 years. The show featured news, weather, and music, including a five-minute segment from a reporter in El Salvador.

His final show, which was pre recorded, aired about 20 minutes after his death on March 31, said his son, Xavier, one of his five children. Julio was 60.

“He was a voice for everybody who needed a voice,” said his son. “Organizations that need fund-raising — he did everything for them, everything for El Salvador and never charged anyone. He always did it for free.”

“My dad was an amazing human being,” he said. “He is somebody I always looked up to and wanted to be just like."

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, a family friend, called Julio’s death “gut-wrenching and heart-breaking." Xavier, a 2010 Somerville High graduate, coached one of the mayor’s sons in soccer.

“He was a hard-working guy, a great person with a great family. He was in good health and he isolated himself as it ravaged him. He was more worried about his family,” the mayor said.

The day he died at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, his family was able to spend an hour with him. They left the hospital at 2 p.m.

At 4:15, the hospital called to say he had died. Julio’s final broadcast aired at 4:30 p.m.

Xavier said his dad would have wanted the show to go on: "He was devoted to his audience. It’s something he never considered a job. He had a passion for what he did.”

A GoFundMe page called “The Life of My Father” has been created to help the family with funeral expenses.


Richard Napoleon Ottaway, 88


Photograph of Richard Napoleon Ottaway

Here is another way to measure the effects of a plague, not in numbers, but by the life of one man.

Even at 88 years old, Richard Napoleon Ottaway would begin his days with a stack of important things to be read: Fresh copies of The New York Times, his local Cape Cod Times, and maybe some four-year-old edition of The New Yorker he might have lying around. The Bible was never far from his reach.

He was a man of God, a retired Episcopal priest, with a striking shock of white hair. He was a lover of oysters and wine, and a collector of bow ties, who treated the cultivation of friendships like a lifelong vocation. He watched and eagerly fed the wild birds that came to his property in Brewster, and, for him, a perfect day would end in an Adirondack chair, in quiet admiration of another Cape Cod sunset.

He died just after midnight on Monday in Cape Cod Hospital, unable to have any visitors, with a Bible in his hands. Test results that came back after his death were positive for COVID-19, according to his stepdaughter Rebecca Ashley and her husband, J.T. Rogers.

Dick’s wife, Elaine, who is 76, is also ill with COVID-19, and quarantined at home.

It is a hard thing for his family that they could not be with him in the hospital due to illness and the risk of infection. And they are keenly aware of the ironic tragedy that someone who had ministered to so many people near death died without family around him.

They prefer to look, however, at the elements of beauty at the end of his life, such as the nurse who offered her own family Bible so that Dick Ottaway could die with the Good Book in his hands, his family said.

Read more about Richard Napoleon Ottaway here.

Ted Monette, 74


Photograph of Ted Monette

All his life, Ted Monette walked willingly into danger.

As a colonel in the Army, he served in both Vietnam and the Gulf War. As an officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he oversaw operations at Ground Zero following 9/11 and later aided in the grisly aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

It was a coronavirus infection at a nursing home for veterans, however, that eventually took his life.

Monette is one of at least six residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home to die from complications of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, in recent weeks. In all, 13 residents of the home died in March, and results of COVID-19 tests on several of the other victims are pending.

News of the facility’s outbreak rattled state and local officials this week, casting a shadow over the facility and its now-suspended superintendent, Bennett Walsh. It has raised questions among families who have recently lost relatives at the home about which deaths can be traced back to the virus, while adding a layer of grief for those whose loved ones are known to have succumbed to the virus.

“He is one of those people who shouldn’t be forgotten,” said Monette’s son, Greg. “He’s one of thousands of unsung or quiet heroes who have been the fabric of this country for a long time, and they’re the ones who have made the most and sacrificed the most for all of us, and it’s important for people to know.”

Read more about Ted Monette here.

Larry Rasky, 69


Photograph of Larry Rasky

Larry Rasky helped guide the campaigns of several top Democratic candidates, and was close to Joe Biden, the former vice president and current front-runner for his party’s Democratic presidential nomination. Last fall Rasky had helped launch Unite the Country, a super PAC to support Biden’s White House bid.

“He was a real friend,” Biden told the Globe. "He was also generous and sharp and he just had a spirit about him. His passion for politics was amazing.”

Read more about Larry Rasky here.

Fred Harris, 70: “He loved March Madness”


Photograph of Fred Harris

An all-star athlete, Fred Harris grew up in Amherst competing in whichever sport was in season — football, basketball, and his favorite, baseball.

In high school, he played shortstop with such skill that he attracted the notice of Red Sox scouts, relatives said.

But Fred’s big-league dreams crumbled when he was drafted into the Army to serve in Vietnam. He proudly served two years, said his widow, Judy.

Fred, 70, of Northampton, died March 25 at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

In ordinary years, “March was his time,” Judy said. “He loved March Madness."

Fred was a friendly man, the type to wave at strangers. He was warm and lively with an exuberant laugh. He nursed a daily lottery-ticket habit and waddled a bit when he walked, the result of two hip replacements.

“He was just a friendly sort of person,” Judy said.

Judy was 17 and Fred was 22 when they met at Tower Pizza in Amherst. For their first date, they played tennis at Smith College, even though neither one of them really knew how to play, she said.

The couple were married 49 years and had two children, a daughter, Nicole, and a son, Eric.

The University of Massachusetts was Fred Harris’ longtime employer — since two years before he was drafted and up until he retired in 2003. He was part of the grounds crew for a time. Then he worked in central receiving, delivering mail and packages across campus, where everyone knew him, his wife said.

He was very attached to Snickers, the couple’s terrier mix. They’d take walks or sit on the porch while Fred waved at passersby. They were a pair of social butterflies, Judy said.

Snickers died in September. Fred still was grieving when he passed away last month.

“When we lost her, we lost a part of us,” Judy Harris said. “Fred took it real hard."


Michael McKinnell, 84

Photograph of Michael McKinnell

When Michael McKinnell and his partner, Gerhard Kallmann, won a competition in the early 1960s to design Boston’s City Hall, they predicted it might stand for a century, or maybe five. The source of such longevity can be found in the building’s defining material.

“The characteristic of concrete that we enjoyed most was that one material could do so much, and could be seen to do so much,” Mr. McKinnell said in an interview for the book “Heroic,” in 2009. “It could be the structure. It could be the cladding. It could be the floors, it could be the walls. There’s a kind of all-through-ness about it.”

He added: “I think if we could have done it, we would have used concrete to make the light switches.”

Mr. McKinnell, whose first building as an architect was City Hall, and whose designs with Kallmann helped redefine Boston’s look as the city reinvigorated itself in the 1960s and ’70s, died of pneumonia Friday. He was 84 and had tested positive for COVID-19. Mr. McKinnell had moved full time to his Rockport vacation home a few years ago, after having lived in the Back Bay.

Honored and maligned, praised mightily and insulted dismissively, City Hall has withstood it all, celebrating its 50th anniversary last year.

Read more about Michael McKinnell here.

Frederick Schwab, 87: “He was my hero”


Photograph of Frederick Schwab

Frederick Schwab came home from basic training in 1950 and took his younger sister to see a movie at a RKO theater near their family’s home in the Bronx.

So dapper was Fred, then 17, in his Army uniform that other cinema patrons refused to let him pay, said his sister, Francine Fitzgerald.

“He was my hero,” she said.

Fred, a decorated Korean War veteran for whom an American flag once flew over the US Capitol, died April 5 at Norwood Hospital. Before the hospitalization, Fred, 87, spent a few weeks at Charlwell House Health & Rehabilitation Center in Norwood, which experienced a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.

He was 10 years older than his sister, but the age difference had no bearing on their bond. About 11 years ago, he moved into Francine’s home in Norwood after becoming a widower for the second time.

Living with her brother again, Francine said she realized he was easy-going almost to a fault. It was sometimes hard to tell whether he needed help.

“He never complains,” she said. “If he cut his finger off, he wouldn’t tell you.”

While he was deployed during the Korean War, she said, Fred asked her to keep him informed of the top songs featured on a radio show sponsored by Lucky Strike cigarettes. Each week, she listened, pad and paper handy, then mailed the list to him.

In recent years, he spent hours watching black-and-white movies and westerns starring John Wayne. He loved the television drama “NCIS” and proudly wore a black baseball hat featuring the show’s logo that he bought from a sidewalk vendor during a trip to the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

About 25 years ago, Fred began collecting an unusual item: rubber ducks. It all started as a joke with his niece, Peggy Schmidt, an Air National Guard veteran.

The first rubber duck in his collection sat atop a computer, and a flock soon followed. One was dressed as a Pilgrim. Another had a unicorn horn and a pink bill. Rubber ducks wearing costumes for Santa Claus, a jack-o’- lantern, and a bee made it into the collection.

His sister said she has thought about what to do with the colorful toys.

Each fall, veterans gather for a picnic in Dewey-Humboldt, Ariz., where his niece lives. There’s a creek near the picnic site, and Francine has a vision: a flotilla of rubber ducks racing through the water in Fred’s honor.


Barbara Levine, 77: “Just keep going”


Photograph of Barbara Levine

Cancer was no match for Barbara Levine. Beginning at age 39, she was diagnosed multiple times with the disease, each time the illness invading her body in a different form.

But at the end of every bout, Barbara emerged with her health and future, amazing her family and providers at Massachusetts General Hospital by beating the odds.Her daughter, Risa Tracey, said Barbara endured by following her father’s advice.

“In difficult times, if you keep going, you’ll be OK,” Barbara used to say. “Don’t lie down. Just keep going.”

But her decades-long battle against cancer came with a cost, including the loss of a lung about two decades ago. It put her on fragile footing in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, said her son, Jon.

Barbara died at MGH on March 31. She was 77 and had spent the last decade of her life as a resident of the Jack Satter House in Revere, where eight residents have died from the coronavirus.Her apartment offered views of Revere Beach and the Boston skyline.

“She lived knowing that she was given a new lease on life after she came back from something, one of her medical setbacks,” her son said. “She was less and less concerned about the future and just thankful that she had more time that she could be around.”

In her work life, she flourished during her time as a travel agent, helping families plan vacations and traveling herself.

Barbara’s taste buds must have been programmed with memory chips because she could recall details about long-ago lunches and dinners savored in the North End, Chinatown, and elsewhere, relatives said.

In February, Barbara had received a clean bill of health from her doctor, a milestone after she was treated for colon cancer last year, her son said. As she’d done after previous illnesses, she celebrated by planning a trip to France with her eldest granddaughters, who are in college.

The itinerary started in Paris and would take the women south to Monaco and Cannes. From there, they would cross the Mediterranean Sea for another adventure and take in sights in Italy.


Lois Brettschneider, 82: A voice for children


Photograph of Lois Brettschneider

Retirement didn’t suit Lois Brettschneider. Bored as soon as she stepped away from her longtime job in November 2016 as an ophthalmic technician in Fitchburg, she found a new direction as a court-appointed special advocate.

The work brought her into the lives of children from homes scarred by abuse or neglect. Lois traveled for miles in a blue Subaru sedan to meet with children in person, and then prepare reports used by the courts to make custody decisions.

“They were all meaningful to her. She really took each one seriously,” said her daughter, Pam Cook, a surgical nurse from Westminster.

Lois, 82, a grandmother and great grandmother, died March 30 at UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital in Leominster.

She grew up in Reading with her parents and brother, Robert Doiron. During childhood, their summers included trips to North Salem, N.H., and a cottage owned by an aunt and uncle in nearby Derry, Doiron said. Back in Reading, they walked to school and passed the time by playing Scrabble and cribbage.

“When we were little, there were no televisions,” Doiron said.

Lois attended a 4-H camp in Ashby, and that’s where she and Priscilla Carter, her friend since kindergarten, met their future husbands.

Lois married Thomas Walker and they settled in Ashby, where the couple’s three children grew up amid “hundreds of acres that were our domain,” said her son Scott, who lives in Winthrop, Maine.

Thomas Walker died in 1984, and Lois later married Alfred Brettschneider, her traveling companion for destinations in Europe and beyond. He died in 2006.

Another love in her life was her dog Katie, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, who died last year.

Before the pandemic, Lois’s children said they planned to travel soon to Paris and then tour other parts of Europe. They scheduled the now-cancelled trip to conclude in time for a family celebration on May 5. It would have been her 83rd birthday.


Sergio Aguilar, 61: Big in heart and body


Photograph of Sergio Aguilar

In the photograph his family loves the most, Sergio Aguilar is beaming, his strong arms spread wide to hold as many of his daughters and granddaughters as he can reach. His wife and mother smile in the foreground. He’s in back, but he’s the center they’ve all gathered around.

That was Sergio: ebullient and beloved, big in heart and body, a warm embrace to come home to. Every time one of his three granddaughters walked into his house, he would call out: “Come here my pretty girl, give me a hug! You know I love you so much.”

He collected umbrellas so that none of his three daughters would ever get caught in the rain. He was always searching for the “perfect” wheelchair to send to his mother back in his home country of El Salvador. He never forgot Valentine’s Day.

Sergio Aguilar, of Waltham, died March 28 at age 61. His family can’t imagine a world without him in it, taking care of them in ways large and small, reminding them: “Anything you need, just call me.”

He was born in San Salvador, said his daughter, Jessica Aguilar. Around 1980, when civil war made life too dangerous, he and his future wife fled to America. Sergio and Yolanda Aguilar got married in 1986.

Sergio worked hard to buy a home for his family in Waltham, holding a collection of jobs at places like Dunkin’ Donuts or Polaroid before landing a custodial position at Brandeis University in 1995. He worked overtime and picked up side jobs, but he never complained.

He raised his three girls with warmth and discipline, insistent that they work hard, study hard, support themselves, save their money, pay bills on time. He taught them to defend themselves, to use tools and work a snowblower. His love was tough, but it was wide and deep and gentle, too.

When Jessica got pregnant at 20, she was terrified to tell him, because she thought he’d be furious. Instead, he laughed and said, “Now it’s your turn to be a parent!” Then he called everyone he knew, brimming with joy.

He was crazy for his granddaughters; he always had at least one little girl hanging off him. He would take them for slushies and ice cream and watch movies with them curled up on the couch. When any of his girls asked for pupusas, handmade stuffed-and-griddled tortillas, he would drive straight to East Boston, insisting that not all pupusas were the same.

Sergio never lost his love for his home country. When he visited, he’d bring clothes and phones and electronics — once, even a microwave — to give to people in need. He dreamed of paying off the Waltham home, giving it to his daughters, and retiring to San Salvador in a cottage on the beach. Of course, he would return to help with his granddaughters.

Whenever his family called him, he answered. “I’m coming.”


Betty Demastrie, 81: “Always kind”


Photograph of Betty Demastrie

John Demastrie remembers the girl and the car and the kiss with the same jolt he felt more than 60 years ago.

Betty Demastrie: beautiful and funny and smart and classy, a farmer’s daughter with strong arms and red lipstick. All the boys loved her, but she had agreed to go for a ride with him, in his junker with its broken radiator. And he thought he was doing a pretty good job impressing her, until he pulled up to her house in Cheshire, Mass., and saw the 1957 black and white Chevy with the red interior.

“Whose car is that?” he asked. She said it was hers, and he burned with embarrassment.

But then she kissed him, and that was it. She scared the hell out of him, and he was smitten. They got married 10 years later.

Elizabeth “Betty” Demastrie — who had two children and four grandchildren, who wrote “roasts” for her three cherished sisters on their birthdays, and who loved to dance the polka because it always made her smile — died March 30 at the age of 81.

“We all thought she was invincible,” said her daughter, Tina Lippman. Just nine years ago, Demastrie had survived a double aneurysm, shocking her doctors by walking herself into the emergency room to report a headache.

Betty was strong and practical, quick-witted and loving.

As a teenager, she spooked her father’s cows while practicing her cheerleading moves and Russian jumps as she waited for the milk pails to fill. She pitched bales of hay faster than any of the local boys. As a young woman, she always set aside some of her paycheck from her secretarial job at General Electric for clothes for her sisters.

And as a mother and grandmother, she was there to meet every need, with generosity and without question. She sewed costumes for school plays late at night, converting curtains and doilies into George Washington’s pants and ruffled collar. She saved buttons and trinkets to whip out when her grandkids had to make poster boards.

She tucked two generations of children into bed with the same Polish lullaby. When Betty’s adult son struggled, she and her husband took in his three children and built an addition onto their home.

“She just did what she had to do,” Tina said. “She was a good person. Unassuming. Always kind.”

And always surprising. On her daughter’s wedding day, Betty wrote her a song. In the days since her mother’s death, Tina has read and reread the lyrics, feeling her mother’s specialness, her heart and her wit, and how much she would want her family to know she loved them.

“I laughed with you. I cried with you. I walked with you. I dreamed with you," Betty wrote. "And if my dreams. Should all come true. The best still lies. Ahead for you.”