Remembering some of the 1 million Americans lost to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

With the U.S. marking the tragic milestone of 1 million lives lost from COVID-19, we wanted to pause to acknowledge this immense, collective loss and remember just some of the Americans who have perished from the virus since the pandemic began.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With COVID-19 now claiming one million lives in the United States, we want to pause to acknowledge this moment and to remember some of the Americans who lost their lives to this virus since the pandemic began.

    Sixty-one-year-old Quinsey Simpson, a correctional officer at New York's Rikers Island, was known for his calm demeanor, great sense of humor, and hard work ethic. When he contracted COVID-19, Quinsey called in sick for only the second time in his 18 years on the job. He was a mentor to the basketball players he coached, neighborhood school kids, and his 6-year-old son, Ayden.

    Hatsy Yasukochi was the heart of her family-run bakery in San Francisco. She knew her customers by name and often their orders by heart. A proud mother and grandmother, Hatsy displayed family photos on the bakery walls and loved taking silly Snapchats with her five grandchildren.

    As a young girl, Hatsy's family was imprisoned in internment camps during the Second World War. Her daughters say that experience gave her the perseverance she would later rely on to battle cancer. She was 80 years old.

    Arlene Saunders was as captivating as her soprano opera voice. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Arlene spent most of her career in Germany, performing with the Hamburg State Opera on stage and on television. She would go on to sing at the biggest opera house in the world, The Met.

    Down-to-earth and elegant, Arlene moved to New York in 1986, where she married the man she loved to dance and sing with, Raymond Raskin. Arlene was 89 years old.

    Barry Webber was a renaissance man, a New York City surgeon who could build cars and computers, and also loved the ballet and classical music. His wife, Harriet, says he was quiet and mysterious, but confident in the emergency and operating rooms, and a great teacher.

    He shared his love for rock climbing with his two boys, Duncan and Michael. Barry was 67 years old.

    Margie Kidd was in her 40s when she went back to school to become a teacher. She had a gift for holding the attention of her kindergartners and first-graders in Ridgeland, South Carolina, and regularly said that learning should always be fun.

    She'd wake up early, by 6:00 a.m. each day, and send silly memes to her daughters and grandchildren, along with messages of love and advice.

  • Margie Kidd, Grandmother:

    Just remember what I taught you. To become a better woman, you must believe in yourself, you must do better, and you will — must help others.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Margie was 71 years old.

    Freddie Perez de Tagle loved to sing, whether it was in his church choir or just answering the phone, his son told us. He moved from the Philippines to Toledo, Ohio, in his 20s to be with his wife, Priscilla. A dedicated grandfather, Freddie loved the outdoors and camping.

    He also had a lifelong interest in fashion. His family said he took pride in choosing what to wear every day. Freddie was 67 years old.

    Melvin Greennagel lived a long, full life of music, service and family. Raised on a farm in Metamora, Illinois, he played tuba in the U.S. Army Band during World War II, and was the last living member of the band that marched under the Arc de Triomphe on Victory in Europe Day, 1945.

    After the war, Melvin married and settled in Arlington, Virginia, where he continued to play music for the U.S. Army and raise a family. His granddaughter told us he was a calming presence who embraced the quiet moments, and, in retirement, loved nurturing his grandchildren, basset hounds, and many plants. He died at age 103.

    Mary Beth Nolan's parenting and teaching philosophy was to let children learn by making their own choices and mistakes, her family said. She applied this when homeschooling her three children, then as an elementary school science teacher in Houston, Texas. Mary Beth was also a lifelong learner, her sister said.

    At 50, she gained a masters degree in educational technology. And she was instrumental in transitioning her school to virtual learning during the pandemic. She lived with chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis, but never complained, her daughter said. Mary Beth Died two weeks before her 60th birthday.

    Seventy-seven-year-old Roselyn Knox was the backbone of her family and trusted confidant for many others, her son said. Born in Ohio, Roselyn grew up in Colorado and played violin in the All State Orchestra. She moved with her husband, Sylvester, to military bases he was stationed on across the country and globe. Eventually, they settled in Tacoma, Washington with their two children.

    Faith was central to Roselyn's life. She volunteered at her church for decades and founded a Christian nonprofit focused on connecting women with the Gospel online.

    Yvonne Brown loved poetry and believed in the power of literature, friends and family told us. She shared these passions in her classroom as an English teacher at Parkland High School in Prince George's County, Maryland.

    Yvonne also volunteered for the Toni Morrison Society for 15 years and wrote a memoir about growing up in a fractious Iranian-American family. She lived life loud, a friend told us, and wanted her daughters, Samira and Layla, to be confident and comfortable in any setting. She was 44 years old.

    Salvador Ortiz, known as Cano, was warm, funny and selfless, his daughters told us. Cano grew up in a large family in Puerto Rico, then moved to Lorain, Ohio, with his wife, Julie. He worked at the Lorain City Water Department for three decades and also did odd jobs as a handyman to support his family, his daughters said.

    Cano loved the Cleveland Browns and bonding with his seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was 68 years old.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we want to thank all the families for sharing your stories with us.

    Our hearts go out to you, as they do to everyone who has lost a loved one in this pandemic.

    And online right now, we have more on the tragic COVID milestone, including why it's so hard for us to comprehend the true scale of the lives lost.

    You can find that at PBS.org/NewsHour.

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