The Journal Gazette
Sunday, January 24, 2021 1:00 am

COVID-19: Hoosiers we lost

'Heartbreak and loneliness' felt

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

The numbers are sobering, in Indiana alone: More than 605,000 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

In Allen County, the count reached 32,700 before the end of last week.

But nothing is more sobering than death, and it has come frequently and in some cases, suddenly.

Joyce Ann Jones, 71, died Nov. 7.

She spent 41 days in a hospital intensive care unit on a ventilator and was off the breathing machine for 10 days “only to go back on and never back off,” her daughter, Lori Anthony, said through email.

She was one of at least 9,265 Hoosiers have died from COVID-19, including more than 545 in Allen County.

Editors representing about 10 Indiana newspapers joined together to share obituary-style profiles to give readers statewide a closer look at some of those lost to the virus.

The project title is COVID-19: Hoosiers We've Lost.

Jones would have celebrated her 72nd birthday Nov. 18.

“The more awareness that this virus kills, the better,” her daughter said.

Jones, who was born in Decatur, was also survived by her husband, Paul Jones, and numerous relatives.

Other families left to mourn include Don Whan's. He died April 3 after weeks of battling cold-like symptoms that worsened.

Whan, 67, was in a hospital room that his wife of 42 years, Debra, could not get to in time - before he breathed his last breath.

Debra Whan said she hopes stories about those who have died will help others understand “how this terrible virus has impacted so many people.

“There are still many who are not taking it seriously enough,” Whan said through email this month. “If they only knew. But then again, I don't wish this type of heartache and loneliness on anyone.”

Some who contract the coronavirus are asymptomatic. Others have symptoms ranging from unrelenting fatigue to persistent cough that can signal COVID pneumonia. Some even report lingering, long-term side effects.

And then there are those who die. 

Diana Kay Wotnow, a 30-year City Utilities employee, was also one of the Fort Wayne losses. She battled the virus for more than six weeks and died June 14, at age 52, leaving behind 32-year husband Michael and other family.

Tom Casaburo Sr., who for years helped oversee The Casa Restaurant Group locally, became part of the nation's death toll, which rose to more than 423,000, based on Friday's update. A national COVID-19 memorial was held last Tuesday in Washington, D.C., on the eve of the presidential  inauguration.

While beginning to spend the winter months in Florida, both Casaburo and his wife contracted coronavirus. He died Nov. 23. He was 80.

And there are other deaths that COVID-19 had a hand in, like that of 20-year-old Bethany Nesbitt, who had asthma.

The youngest of nine children in her family, Nesbitt was majoring in psychology at Grace College in Winona Lake. 

Grace College offered Nesbitt her own dorm room so she would feel safe amid growing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Despite precautions, Nesbitt contracted the virus. She was found dead in her dorm room Oct. 30.

The Kosciusko County Coroner's office ruled the cause of death as natural, but due to a pulmonary embolus.

A statement from Nesbitt's family in Michigan said the embolism was the result of a blood clot – “widely recognized as being one of the most common causes of death among COVID-19 patients.”

Her next academic milestone was so close. 

Nesbitt would have graduated from Grace College this May.

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