COVID-19 deaths include retired teacher, longtime volunteer

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Thursday afternoon, the state of Michigan reported more than 7,000 new daily COVID-19 cases and confirmed 134 deaths linked to the virus.

As cases continue rising, West Michigan families say they want their loved ones to be remembered as more than a number.

“This happened so suddenly that she got the COVID and then 10 days later she was gone,” said Rachel Shangle, who lost her mother to COVID-19.

Shangle says her mother, Gail Brophy, was infected after COVID-19 made it into Meadowlark Retirement Village, where she was living. She says the village has been under strict lockdown since March. Brophy was 86 years old and diabetic.

“She cared for everybody. She was always kind of adopting people as a special friend. She always had a lot of pen pals and anybody who needed a friend, she would go above and beyond to make sure they were connected,” said Shangle.

  • Courtesy photo of Gail Brophy.
  • Courtesy photo of Gail Brophy.
  • Courtesy photo of Gail Brophy.
  • Courtesy photo of Gail Brophy.
  • Courtesy photo of Gail Brophy.
  • Courtesy photo of Gail Brophy.

Brophy spent several years teaching elementary students at Sparta Area Schools. After she retired, she and her husband spent time traveling.

This week, Brophy joined the more than 8,000 Michiganders who have died in relation to COVID-19.

“On one hand, there’s pain that comes along with grief but on the other hand, there is relief that we didn’t have to pull the plug,” said Sandra Jennings, who lost her 94-year-old mother on Nov. 11.

Sarah Brooks of Grand Rapids was best known for her volunteer work with area veterans. Her family says she spent several years volunteering at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

“Sarah always said that there were veterans out there that families never visited, and she didn’t want them to be alone. And that’s something we wanted to make sure of when Sarah was in the hospital, to know that she was not alone,” said Pamela McVeigh, who was a longtime friend of Brooks.

  • Courtesy photo of Sarah Brooks.
  • Courtesy photo of Sarah Brooks.
  • Courtesy photo of Sarah Brooks.
  • Courtesy photo of Sarah Brooks.
  • Courtesy photo of Sarah Brooks.
  • Courtesy photo of Sarah Brooks.
  • Courtesy photo of Sarah Brooks.

Brooks also helped found the cemetery for Unknown Black Soldiers in Battle Creek. Her family says she instilled her love and respect for veterans in all her family members.

“She was a beautiful friend to everyone that she met. She lit up a room. She’ll be remembered because she loved everyone,” said Betty Rhodes who was a friend of Brooks.

Both families say if Michiganders can buckle down, more deaths can be prevented.

“I know it’s very difficult, particularly for the small businesses to continue to live. I know that people’s livelihood is dependent on revenue. I know that but if there are no humans to buy a doughnut, you’re going to go down anyway,” said Jennings.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links