WILLIAMSTON, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo County man who died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis was an artist and grandfather who was working alongside his brother less than a month before his sudden death.
“Late July, he was here at the farm helping me put docks in at the pond,” Mark McChesney said of his older brother.
Gregg McChesney, 64, died in August after a “nine-day illness,” his obituary says.
“He was perfectly healthy, happy human being and within a matter of nine days he went from perfectly healthy to brain dead,” Mark McChesney told News 8 Tuesday at his mid-Michigan home. “All of a sudden he had a seizure and next thing you know, he’s in the ER and he just never came out of it.”
It took several days after his passing for doctors to confirm Gregg McChesney was infected with EEE, a rare mosquito-borne illness that has killed a total of three people in southwest Michigan this year.
State health officials say there have been seven confirmed cases of EEE in humans — all in southwestern counties — this year. It’s worst outbreak since 2002.
“Right off the bat, we were like, ‘How could this happen? What did happen?'” Mark McChesney recallled. “We just didn’t know and the doctors were just doing everything they could to try to say it was this or that, and they just couldn’t figure it out.”
The brothers grew up in the Williamston farmhouse that Mark McChesney now shares with his wife Darlene. Their parents were artists who passed on their talent to their sons. Big, beautiful portraits are stored in a studio Mark McChesney uses for photography. His brother’s artwork is among the pieces hung on the walls inside their home.
“He was a great guy. He loved life,” Mark McChesney said. “I don’t think he would have any regrets. I don’t think so because he found himself.”
The two also enjoyed backpacking together. Mark McChesney laughed as he reminisced about one time they camped in the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula.
“We had an intrusion of bears come to our campground and his reaction, he was just as mean and nasty as the bears,” he chuckled. “So the bears went up the trees. They were like, ‘Who is this guy?'”
He remembered that Gregg wasn’t always a man of many words, yet spent 25 minutes giving a toast at his baby brother’s wedding.
A poem he wrote hangs in their kitchen.
“Have a happy life, you only get one,” the last line reads.