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Honoring 5 phenomenal people who lost their lives to COVID-19

Correction: An earlier version of this story used audio of another elder in the Indian Peaks Band of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah speaking the traditional language while referencing Earnestine Jake Lehi. That audio has now been replaced with audio of Earnestine speaking. The NewsHour regrets the error.

As more than 550,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, we take a moment to remember five of the remarkable lives lost.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As now more than 550,000 Americans have died from COVID, we take this moment to remember five of the remarkable lives lost.

    Earnestine Jake Lehi was known as a Grandma Earnie to family and even friends, her daughter told us. Born in Cedar City, Utah, Earnestine was the last fluent speaker of the Paiute language for the Indian Peaks Band of Utah.

  • Earnestine Jake Lehi (in Paiute):

    My name is Earnestine Jake Lehi. My mom and dad's names are Carl and Minnie Jake. I have two daughters: Athonia and Jeanine.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lifelong member of her tribe, Earnestine devoted her career to teaching and writing about her native culture. Her family says she also loved dancing at powwows and was a natural storyteller who could make everyone laugh. Earnestine was 76.

    One-hundred-and-one-year-old Marianne Steiner was the epitome of elegance, her grandson told us. Born in Germany to a well-known Jewish family, she escaped Nazi rule and fled to New York City in 1938. She later fell in love and married another Jewish immigrant, book publisher Paul Steiner.

    The couple loved hosting parties, and Marianne was always the center of attention, her family said. She loved reading and traveling, and urged people to make time for fun. At her own 100th birthday party, she said just being alive was still so exciting.

    No matter what life threw at Marcela Noa Bailey, she always had a smile on her face, her friends and family said. Born in Mexico, Noa moved to Arizona in 2001. She worked mainly as a housing specialist in Phoenix, helping low-income residents find places to live.

    A single working mom, she also drove for Uber on nights and weekends. In her free time, she loved hiking and taking pictures of the sunrise. But more than anything, she cherished spending time with her two sons. Noa was 41.

    Seventy-seven-year-old Thomas Boykoff was a self-described nerd who was always up for a good laugh, his son told us. Born in New York, Thomas moved to Madison, Wisconsin, for college, and later worked as a lawyer for the Wisconsin state government.

    He loved reading the stories of Sherlock Holmes and biographies of presidents he felt history had forgotten, especially Millard Fillmore. He also frequently wrote to world leaders and collected responses from several, including the pope, the Dalai Lama, and the queen of England.

    Born in Natchez, Mississippi, Don Brooks grew up in a sharecropping family. He met his future wife, Gloria, as a teenager, and the pair became inseparable for more than six decades. "Don was a pretty cool dude," his wife told us, "and he always treated me right."

    He loved playing golf, and worked for 52 years at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., mainly as a building maintenance specialist. His family said he was excited about retiring this year. Don was 75.

    And we are so grateful to families for sharing these stories with us. Our hearts go out to you, as they do to all who have lost loved ones in this pandemic.

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