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A Time for DC To Remember: Lives Lost During COVID-19

Among the most painful consequences associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has been the aloneness that it produces: victims are dying alone, they are being buried with truncated funeral rituals, and families are too often left to express their grief alone. On June 14th, the BCAC in partnership with WHUT television; radio stations WHUR 96.3 FM and WPFW 89.3 FM; and the Washington Informer Newspaper, hosted an event entitled “A Time For DC To Remember: Lives Lost During COVID-19”, as an opportunity for those who have lost someone to share cherished memories and photographs with the world. These are their stories:

Thomas S. Spann

Thomas Sylvester Spann II

From: Thomas Spann III

 

On April 12, 2020, Easter Sunday afternoon, after keeping the COVID19 virus at bay for over two weeks against all odds, God determined my father, Thomas Sylvester Spann II had fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith, and called Dad to his heavenly home. When Dad was diagnosed,the first thing he said to me was he didn’t want to be just another COVID19 statistic so in his honor I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to tell who my father was and what he meant to all who loved him.

My father was born December 12, 1942 to the late John Henry Spann, Sr. and Bessie Eldridge Spann in Washington D.C. Dad was a devoted husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather, cousin and friend. He was loving, patient and selfless. My father leaves a legacy of sacrificing and caring for others.

Dad spent his early years in Washington D.C. on 3rd St NW then later on Monroe St N.E. with his five brothers and sisters. He was a lifelong member of Turner Memorial AME Church and participated in the Allen Christian Endeavor League. As a twelve-year-old young man he established a paper route and demonstrated a strong work ethic as he built the route and won a trip to New York as a prize. His work ethic was learned from working with his father John learning roofing, carpentry, plumbing, and masonry. Dad attended McKinley Tech H.S. where he ran cross country track and showed an affinity to architecture. After graduating from McKinley Tech in 1960 he matriculated at Howard University where he majored in Architecture.

After two years at Howard Dad accepted a position at the U.S. Postal Service which was one of the most sought-after employers in Washington D.C. in the 1960’s. In April 1964, Dad married his high school sweetheart Judy Thomas resulting with me as their only child. Over time my father developed an in- depth knowledge of cars and at times he owned a 1965 Mustang, a 1968 GTO and a 1972 Chevelle. He eventually leveraged his knowledge of cars to a career with the DC Department of Motor Vehicles rising to the level of supervisor first working for the Inspections Division in Ivy City and later on Half St SW before moving to the Motor Vehicles Division on 501 C St N.W. After serving District residents with that strong work ethic he learned from his father, dad retired from DC DMV in 2006.

Growing up in D.C., which is a hotbed for basketball, my father was an avid fan and loved both playing and watching basketball. He had a deadly low arc jump shot that was particularly effective off the backboard. While at the Post Office his team finished runner-up in the 1965-66 Post Office Basketball League. My first memory of my father and basketball was me riding a bicycle with training wheels on the court while he played with friends. During breaks he would show me how to shoot. My last memory of him on the court was 19 years ago when I became a father, we went out to play celebrating a joint Father’s Day. We played as a two-on-two team against multiple comers and we gave them all“the business”.

My father married Viola Kelly August 31, 1980 and they resided in the Takoma Park area of N.W. D.C. until his untimely death. In retirement my father and Vi took on the role as loving grandparents and poured their love and attention into the lives of their grandchildren. I jokingly told Dad he and Vi had become experts on the Whole Foods grocer seemingly having visited every Whole Foods in the D.C. metropolitan area and beyond, knowing the offerings and layouts of each.

For the last two years of his life, I had the honor of being one of his primary caretakers after he lost some mobility because of diabetes. Every Saturday we would compete for answers on the

“Its Academic” show and every Sunday we would watch the Willie Geist Show on NBC. I will miss my father dearly, I will miss his counsel, his wit, his intellect and his friendship.

Dad leaves to cherish his memory, his wife, Viola Spann, one son, Thomas Spann, III (Sheron), one stepdaughter, Jacqueline Murphy, two sisters, Delores Carter (Benjamin Deceased) and Sharon Spann. He also leaves to cherish two granddaughters, Nya-Simone and Kendall Spann, two step grandchildren, Lakia Murphy and Brandon White, one nephew, John Spann, III, four nieces, Janice Colemore, Renee Nicholas, Nicole Spann (Amber), Denita Conway (John Middlebrooks), and a host of great-nieces and nephews, and other family and friends, including a cousin, Sears Merchant, with whom he shared a birthday and a lifelong friendship. He was preceded in death by two sisters, Barbara Stokes and Margaret Conway, and his only brother, John Henry Spann, Jr. (Sandra).

Dad will be missed but never forgotten and remembered as far more than a COVID19 statistic!

Sincerely,
Thomas S. Spann III

Keith Williams

Keith Williams

From: Keimaya Perry

On 6/4/2020 our family lost my dad to Covid 19. His name was Keith Williams.

I thought daddy would get better. He was supposed to get better. I thought the doctors could fix him. Now daddy has died, and I don’t have a daddy anymore.

I really can’t stomach the fact that you’re really gone. You will never ever be able to see my kids grow up or take them to hoop and coach them. You won’t be here to visit us and play with Keion anymore. You won’t be here to visit us and play the Keion anymore. You won’t be here for Keimaya anymore, you will never be able to walk us down the aisle if we get married, you won’t ever pop up at my house anymore just to see us, you’re not here to tell us happy birthday, celebrate holidays, and special occasions with us. You’re not here to FaceTime us every day or check on us, these last couple of months have been the hardest. I prayed nonstop that you would recover, that you would be coming home but I know

You’re in a better place. You fought so hard. I just wish Keimaya and I would have seen you one last time, got one last hug, one last kiss, one last call, you will forever be loved and missed. You broke my heart so bad, but I love you so much. Forever my #1 Dad. You’re at peace now.

Dr. Alyce Gullatee
Castina A. Watson

Castina Arndrell Watson

Epitaph of a Lady (From: Castina Jewel Watson)

“I can tell this isn’t going to be a good day,” my mother said as she struggled to rouse herself from her seated position in the bathroom we shared. Neither of us could have known how right she was. It was the early morning hours of April 4, 2020. A date that is now etched in my memory as the day the world might as well have stopped spinning. By 11:00 PM, Mom would be gone. In precisely the fashion she’d always told me she didn’t want to go: In the emergency room of a hospital. On a gurney. A consortium of young doctors manipulating the large, loud contraptions intended to restart her silenced heart.

After surviving a “mild” heart attack in 2011, Mom had always surmised that she would ultimately succumb to heart disease. She was only half right about that. It was crushing pain in her chest and suspected massive cardiac arrest that frightened me into calling 911 that nippy April evening (in spite of her fatigued protests). Ultimately though, it was a “bug,” a “pathogen,” an “invisible enemy” – “The Rona” that separated me from the woman I called Mom and best friend for 35 years.

Single, never married, no children; I’ve devoted my adult life to two things: working and my mother. Now, for however many years I remain on this Earth until God sees fit to place me under Mom’s wing again, I must live with the fact that my devotion to one of those things has very likely cost me the other. Yeah, I’m one of those “essential workers” everyone’s always talking about. But not the kind that you clap for at 7:00 PM. I’m no first responder, or hospital housekeeper or WMATA train operator. I work in the Legal Collections Department of a commercial finance company.

The corporate heads of a multi-million dollar company (one with its own Super Bowl commercial, no less) decided that it was “essential” that I come into the office to help them sue small business owners who had fallen behind on their merchant cash advances (a product so usurious it is on the verge of being banned in the state of Maryland.) Could I have said, “No! I’m not coming in there”? Perhaps. Of course, when I called out of work a week earlier due to a scratchy throat, my e-mail notification to the Deputy General Counsel received no response and my return to the office the following Monday was met with a chilly reception.

I harkened back to being 15-years-old. Mom was unemployed and we were living in the basement of family members....We’d long since overstayed our welcome. I vowed then that I would never place myself or my mother in a situation in which we were unable to fend for ourselves. I suspect that’s why I feared losing my job. I feared being unable to continue taking care of myself and my mom.

And for my fear, I no longer have a mom.

There wasn’t a real funeral. I mean, how could there be? There was a gathering of family members. Almost everyone heavily masked. I was the only one who kissed Mom’s chilled forehead as she lay lifeless in a casket of stainless steel. “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me, Mom!” That’s all I wanted to say to her. I’ll never know how my mother contracted the coronavirus. I have a few ideas though. And they all center around the theme of, “If only I would have stayed home from work...”

Mom didn’t get a formal obituary. The thought of writing one in some way really solidified the fact that she had, as she would say, “gone on to glory.” When speaking with the pastor who ended up delivering a rousingly uplifting sermon at the small memorial, I was asked to jot down a brief bio. Just something to introduce him to the woman he would be eulogizing.

When I opened my laptop, these are the words that flowed out....

Castina Arndrell Watson was born on October 8, 1950 in Washington, DC. God chose the
perfect time of year for the arrival of this Autumn Baby. For all of her life, Castina would adore the chill in

the air that Fall brings. A native of the Petworth neighborhood, Castina was the daughter of the late Apostle William Manning and late Sarah Manning. She spent her formative years under the watchful eyes of both her loving mother Sarah and grandparents, Malachi and Corinne Barber.

Outspoken, outgoing and sharply funny, Castina always spoke fondly of the things she loved about her early life. They included Sunday afternoons roller skating on Kalorama Road; her first job as a waitress at the No. 1 Hot Shoppe in Petworth; and creating memories with her large group of siblings:

Raymond, Ronald, Ricardo, Trawanna, Robert and Kim

Always enamored with travel, in the mid-1970s, Castina hopped on the back of a motorcycle and crisscrossed the country. She eventually ended up in California, but not before making stops in countless states, including the dusty deserts of Nevada. (She never forgot the sunburn that left on her nose.) The first thing she uttered to her brother, Raymond, upon her arrival in Southern California was, “Do youknow there was bugs flying in my mouth?” To which he replied, “Well, you rode across the country on amotorcycle. What did you expect?”

Castina’s greatest joy was in being a mother. Although a staunch proponent of tough love, there was nothing she would not have done for her beloved son and daughter. She so loved her son, the lateLeroy Edwin Watson, Jr., that she looked at him at birth and said, “I’m so in love with him. Well, I guess that’s your name.” And for the next 26 years, everyone would refer to the young man as his mother did -“Love.”

When Love went on to his glory in 1996, Castina credited her namesake daughter, Castina Jewel Watson, with giving her the purpose to keep working hard in life. Even 40 years after hitting the open road on a motorcycle, Castina never lost her zest for travel. In August 2019, she and Jewel enjoyed a Mother-Daughter vacation to Bermuda. A first cruise for both. They’d hoped it would be the first ofmany. She’d always liked boats, but Castina immediately fell in love with cruises.

No one will deny that Castina spoke her mind. Even when others might have stayed quiet. Evenwhen being quiet might have made her life easier. But it wasn’t in her nature to sit idly and just allow things to happen. She spoke up. No matter the cost. If she hadn’t been feisty, she wouldn’t have beenher.

She was a nuanced woman and not always easily understood. She should be remembered, however, as someone who always wanted to do what was right and always sought to help people. Shetaught her children that it didn’t have to cost anything to help someone. You could share what you had. Her daughter, Jewel, can recall countless occasions over the course of the last 30 years in which her mother assisted unsheltered and disenfranchised people in the community; providing these individual with small monetary donations, food and clothing.

Castina was always driven by a desire to be of assistance. It was that desire that prompted her to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, earning her license as a Geriatric Aide for the State of Maryland in 1987.

Castina joins in eternal rest her beloved son, “Love,” parents, William and Sarah; grandparents, Malachi and Corinne; and siblings, Ronald and Trawanna. Castina is survived by her daughter, Castina Jewel Watson; granddaughters, Jalisa Pinnix and London Watson; great-grandson, Jabre Young; siblings Raymond, Ricardo, Robert and Kim; and a host of nieces and nephews.

Ray Bown

Ray Brown

From: Roach Brown

Hello, This is Roach Brown, I hope this message find you and yours safe during this coronavirus outbreak. Man, this ain’t no Joke 0ver 100,000 people have died and the majority of those who died are US. I lost my oldest brother to this virus,,he was known as Ray, he drove a cab in DC,and was always well dressed, I called him the Gentleman Cab Diver and he really enjoyed driving his cab and I asked him why do he like driving a cab. Because everyday I meet some good and interes*ng people, and to get paid for it, “Man that’s chea*ng”,Ray and one of his friend close friends SKEETS, were members of the fellowship of NA and together they touched a lot of lives posi*vely drug free. Losing someone hurts, virus or not, Folk stay safe, and look out for each other.

I’m Roach Brown Merry Xmas

Edward D. Merriweather

Edward D. Merriweather

From: Birdie Mayweather-Tynes

My name is Birdie Merriweather-Tynes and today I honor my father Edward D. Merriweather who departed this life on April 22, 2020 related to COVID-19.
My father was born on February 5, 1935 in Canton, Mississippi to Walter and Mary Merriweather and was the oldest of 2 sons. He loved science and exploration and was educated in the Madison County Public Schools. He graduated from Rodgers HS as the Valedictorian and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Tennessee State University in 1957 and he also pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity while in college.
He entered the Air Force in August of 1957 and served until 1963 when he was relieved from duty and honorably discharged.
He relocated to Washington, DC in 1963 and was hired by NIH to start his career only to find that he met all the qualifications except his race. However, he was not deterred and was hired by Washington Hospital Center where he worked in the pathology lab until 1973. He went on to receive his Master's Degree in education from Federal City College and taught biology, chemistry, and physics, at Stuart Jr. High School, Roper Jr. High School, and Spingarn High School.My father has received many awards, certificates, citations, and recognitions. One that stands out is the Semi Finalist for the Teacher in Space Program in 1986 he was chosen because of his astronaut training in the Air Force.
My Dad also married my mother Clematean Merriweather in 1967 and had myself and my brother Charles. They were married for 50 years until her death December 17, 2017. They were a loving couple and were often seen together working as Sunday school teachers at the First Baptist Church (Randolph Street) where Daddy was also a member of the Male chorus, and he also was a trustee for a while and then he became a deacon where he served until he was called home by The Father.
Helen G. Reid

Helen G. Reid

From: Felisa D. Jones

Helen G. Reid better known as Sista Bae to the family. Helen was a loving, kind, gentle and caring person. Helens smile, hugs and kind words was always something to look forward to. Her handmade baskets were a hit for every occasion.

Helen joined the retain industry with Hecht’s Company now known as Macy’s, where was a jewelry expert and a fragrance expert. She was employed for 35 years there and she retired in 2011. She was also a licensed barber.

Helen leaves behind 1 daughter, 1 granddaughter, 3 sisters, 4 brothers, 2 brother in-laws, 2 sister in-laws, 2 God daughters, 1 God son and a host of nieces, nephews, family and friends.

Helen was definitely a true jewel and will be sorely missed