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Stories of 5 Americans killed by the coronavirus

As the United States approaches another coronavirus milestone, with nearly 125,000 deaths from the disease, we look back at the lives of a few of those lost. Judy Woodruff shares their stories.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As the U.S. approaches another coronavirus milestone, we look back at the lives of a few of the almost 125,000 Americans who have died because of the pandemic.

    Ninety-two-year-old Theodore Gaffney was a researcher and documentarian who brought great curiosity to his work. After serving in the U.S. Army following World War II, Theodore studied photography under the G.I. Bill. The Washington, D.C., native was one of the first African-Americans to photograph inside of the White House.

    In 1961, he documented the Freedom Riders as they traveled through the South to fight segregation. Theodore later moved to Brazil to study the African diaspora. It was there that he met his wife, Maria.

    Jess Begay Sr. of the Navajo Nation was a long-haul trucker who transported everything from explosives to milk. He taught others how to drive commercially, including his own daughter, Leslyn. She said her dad was humble and always open to learning more. He still referred to himself as a rookie, even as a 25-year veteran in the trucking industry.

    His family described Jess as dedicated, prayerful, and loving. He was 73 years old.

    Mary Wilson had a way with animals. She was 23 when she started working at the Maryland Zoo, and went on to become the first black woman to be promoted to senior zookeeper. Mary was a mother figure to many, including an orphan gorilla named Sylvia. Mary continued to visit Sylvia even after she left the Maryland Zoo. Sylvia always remembered her.

    Mary's dedication to her work inspired her daughter Sharron to become a zookeeper too. Mary was 83.

    Dr. Thomas Nyambane was a lifelong educator and student. Passionate about learning, Thomas earned advanced degrees in education well into his fifties. He taught English classes in Kenya, where he was born. After immigrating to the U.S. in 1985, he taught at a Minnesota technical college. Thomas was a generous and devoted father and grandfather.

    At his church, he was known as a leader within the congregation. Thomas was 69 years old.

    Maurice Dotson's family said he always put others first. When Maurice was 17, he would often accompany his mom to her job at a nursing home, and it was there that Maurice discovered that he, too, loved helping others. Maurice went on to work as a nursing assistant for the elderly in Austin, Texas, for 25 years. His younger sisters said he was a father figure to them; protective and giving. Maurice was 51.

    And, as always, our hearts go out to all those who've lost loved ones in this pandemic.

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