What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Remembering 5 extraordinary people who lost their lives to COVID-19

This week the nation reached a grim milestone as the pandemic death count surpassed 500,000 in the United States. We take a moment to remember five remarkable individuals who lost their lives to COVID-19.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This week the country hit a grim milestone, more than 500,000 deaths in the United States from COVID-19.

    We take a moment now to remember five remarkable individuals who lost their lives to this pandemic.

    A man of science and faith, the Reverend Dr. Ernest Spencer Ward was born in Liberia and came to the U.S. for college to study physics. For nearly 30 years he worked at IBM, while raising a family with his wife, Laura. At age 54, he felt the calling and returned to school for his doctorate in divinity, eventually opening his own church in Rhode Island.

    He loved a good debate, his children told us, and believed in living a purposeful life and in helping others find their purpose too. The Reverend Dr. Ernest Spencer Ward was 82 years old.

    Born in Syracuse, New York, Jyl Way loved to draw and paint, and wanted to be an art teacher. Her husband said she was a hard worker. She ran her own nail salon, and later became a librarian's aide. She loved being around children, whom she called her littles.

    Her husband told us she also loved being a wife and a mom, despite often reminding her husband and their own three children that that had not been part of her plan. Jyl Way was 49 years old.

    Friends and colleagues call Courtney Isaiah Smith a musical genius. The Salt Lake City native started playing piano at just age 3, and friends said he could play a song after hearing it only once. His girlfriend and musical partner said he radiated his faith, and that he also loved "Star Trek" and had a nerdy personality.

    The death of George Floyd hit him hard, and, during lockdown, he recorded a song called "I Can't Breathe." Salt Lake City musicians say his death leaves a huge hole in their community. Courtney Isaiah Smith 37 years old.

    Born in segregated South Carolina, Gracie Floyd, even as a young girl, fought for equality by helping to integrate a local park. An educator and an addiction counselor, after her husband died in 1999, she took over his seat on the Anderson County Council, the first African American woman elected to that position.

    For more than 20 years, she represented one of the area's poorest districts in that part of South Carolina. Her son told us, if she was on your team, it wasn't just the cavalry; it was the whole army. Gracie Floyd was 75 years old.

    William "Bill" Broadie was a cowboy, a proud veteran and a family man from Ashland, Kansas. His daughter told us he joined the Marine Corps at just 18. He was deployed to Vietnam, wounded twice, lost a leg and received two Purple Hearts. But his daughter said he never let his disability get in the way. He became a rancher, and later started All American Beef Battalion to provide free steak dinners to active-duty troops and their families.

    For him, she said, honor was the key. If he said something, he meant it, and he expected that of others. Today, February 26, would have been Bill Broadie'S 72nd birthday.

    And our thanks to the family members who shared these stories with us. Our hearts go out to you, as they do to everyone who's lost a loved one in this pandemic.

Listen to this Segment