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

As the death toll from the pandemic nears 500,000 in the United States, we take a moment to remember and pay tribute to five remarkable people who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we do every Friday, we take a moment to remember and pay tribute to the lives of five extraordinary people who have died from COVID-19 in this country.

    Michael and Gwen Elbert were the type of people who appreciated a good Arizona sunset and a sky full of stars, their niece said. The couple eloped to Switzerland in 1967, while Michael was serving overseas in the Army. Gwen had grown up in Michigan, and returned there to raise her own family.

    She worked as a stay-at-home mom and a teacher before going back to school in her 50s to become a hospice nurse. Michael was a company man, working for Volkswagen for decades. His niece told us he had a zest for life, loved a good bargain, and was a consummate showman.

    Together, the Elberts shared a love of sing and family, and their niece said neither ever knew a stranger. Michael and Gwen died eight days apart. Gwen was 76, and Michael was 79.

    Alejandro Penaloza Vazquez had a gift for making people laugh, his family told us. He was born in Mexico City, and that's where he met his wife, Perla, and earned his Ph.D. in microbiology. He brought his passion for science to the U.S., working at Oklahoma State University for three decades.

    His son told us his father was proud to be an American, but was equally proud to pass on his Mexican culture to his children. Alejandro was 63.

    Eugene Marsh had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge that spanned his entire life, his family and friends told us. Eugene grew up in a foster home in South Carolina and was one of the first African Americans to integrate his all-white high school. He became a decorated Vietnam War veteran.

    Life eventually took him to New Jersey, where he met his wife, Elaine, and started a successful construction company that worked on renovating the Statue of Liberty. His brother said Eugene believed it wasn't enough to climb the ladder. You had to bring people up the ladder with you. Eugene was 71.

    The small town of Fayette, Missouri, was special to Martha Rogers Holman. She spent most of her life there, going to college at Central Methodist University, where she was an honor student, homecoming queen, and drum majorette.

    In later years, she became a fixture at university basketball games, where she handed out lollipops to the entire team. Until recently, she ran the family farm on the outskirts of town.

    Her family described her as a grand lady, warm, kind and fiercely independent, a quality that helped her earn a master's degree in mathematics later in life. Martha was 95.

    And thank you so much to the family members and friends who contributed these stories. Our hearts go out to you, as they do to everyone who's lost a loved one in this pandemic.

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