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In memory of 5 wonderful people lost to COVID-19 in the US

Each week, PBS NewsHour pauses to remember five Americans lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, and shares memories and highlights from their lives.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, even as the pandemic shows some signs of easing in the United States, the number of deaths does continue to climb, even if slower than before.

    Each Friday, we have been honoring some of the incredible lives lost during this pandemic.

    Here tonight are five more.

    Bob Costello served as fire chief for the fast-growing city of Buckeye, Arizona, for more than a dozen years. As the city expanded, the department, with Bob at the helm, expanded with it. Even then, a co-worker said, the 62-year-old was always keen to connect with colleagues and residents in person, whether it was to field their questions or just say hello.

    Bob was also a car buff, a passion that began early in life. And he was quick to reach out to friends when they were going through struggles, his wife told us. He'd always take the time to make sure they were OK.

    There were three things that defined the life of 64-year-old Bernita Elaine Rayford-Kershaw, family, church and the New York Police Department, said her daughter. A lifelong New Yorker, Bernita dedicated 30 years to the NYPD, first as a police administrative aide, and then an investigator.

    She took great pride in her job and enjoyed helping friends, relatives and even strangers find careers within the department. Described by her loved ones as silly, vivacious, and resilient, Bernita was a loving partner to her soul mate, Edwin, and a devoted mother and grandmother.

    Serving and celebrating the Native American community in Chicago gave Angel Salas sense of pride and purpose, said his son. The 70-year-old elder was a healer and a recognized chief of the Lakota Tribe. A Vietnam Army veteran, Angel cared deeply about honoring other Native veterans for their service. He helped organize annual gatherings of vets from various tribes across the country, finding solace and friendship through their shared experiences.

    His loved ones said Angel was a giving man who would be the first in line to help anyone in need. Angel shared his love of Native traditions with his nine children.

    Throughout her life, 89-year-old Jane Speir Brook relished seeking out new challenges. Around the time the first of her children left for college, she returned to school as well, earning both her bachelor's and master's degrees while in her 40s. Jane also took up skiing at 57.

    And over the years, the active church and hospital volunteer from Georgia proved to be a prolific gardener. She passed on her love of plants and flowers to her five children and her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    Above all, retired Lieutenant Colonel John Sloan (ph) aspired to a career in service, his brother said. It was why the former munitions officer and Vietnam veteran joined the U.S. Air Force, and stayed for more than two decades.

    It was also why John, when he retired from the Force, made a second career as a university development officer. The 76-year-old especially enjoyed catching up with his brothers at family functions. One brother described John as fun-loving, optimistic, and — quote — "always looking on the bright side."

    As always, we want to say thank you to all of the families who share these stories with us.

    And we want to note that John Sloan, who you just heard about, was a brother of one of our board members here at WETA, where the show is produced.

    It's another reminder again that this pandemic has touched so many of us in some way over this last year.

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