More than 170 people have died in Maryland of the coronavirus since the pandemic began.
One of them was David Michael Dudley Sr., a 61-year-old Windsor Mill resident who died March 31. His son said he was previously healthy aside from needing medication for high blood pressure.
Mr. Dudley loved few things more than driving, preaching and singing — particularly gospel music and songs by the Jackson 5. For years, his nickname was “Dudley Do Right."
A longtime bus driver, he most recently worked for Coach USA.. The company has begun suspending or reducing services in parts of the United States, though no schedule changes for Maryland were listed on its website.
His sudden death has hit his family hard. Unable to give him a kiss and a hug in person, they said their final goodbyes through video conference.
Born Feb. 7, 1959, to Lawrence David and Margaret Lassiter Dudley, Mr. Dudley was the oldest of four in a close-knit family that lived in Edmondson Village.
As a teen, he became a wrestling star at Edmondson High School, holding a record of 40-2 throughout his high school career. In addition to wrestling, Mr. Dudley loved music — the Temptations and the Jackson 5 — and sang with various gospel choirs through his 20s.
His favorite hymn: “I Won’t Complain.”
“My father could really sing,” said his eldest son, David Michael “Mike” Dudley Jr. “I guess when he was younger he used to visit his grandmother in North Carolina. He would imitate the Jacksons. He did it so well they thought he was a member of the Jackson 5.”
Music brought him to his future wife, Vernessia Wilson, whose brother sang in a gospel group with him. In addition to his singing voice, “he had a beautiful personality,” she said. He had a reputation for being a straight arrow, generous and willing to help others.
They married on June 27, 1981, and had two sons, Mike and Marcus.
After graduating from Edmondson High School in 1978, Mr. Dudley worked toward a certificate from Christian Radio Broadcasting and spent several years working for area gospel radio stations.
He later became a milkman for the Cloverland Milk Co. and then a bus driver, eventually working for Coach USA.
He loved to drive, his son said. “Other than preaching and singing, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him happier. He genuinely loved driving.”
When not working, Mr. Dudley for some years drove a cherry-red Mustang convertible trimmed in black. On a hot summer day years ago, he took his two sons to buy milkshakes. He blasted a gospel rap CD from a friend on the sound system. Michael, then a teenager, was mortified.
A devout churchgoer and preacher, Mr. Dudley belonged to the Community Church of Christ in East Baltimore and St. Matthew’s Gospel Tabernacle in West Baltimore. From 1986 to 1995, he was pastor at the second campus of the Community Church of Christ in West Baltimore.
He always wore a suit and a hat to attend services. To family gatherings, he would tuck his shirt into his jeans, his son recalled with a laugh.
Mr. Dudley had a knack for always finding the right words at the most difficult time. When Michael’s grandmother, his dad’s mom, died, he was devastated. Though grieving also, his father managed to deliver the eulogy. “I could barely lift my head up, and here he is eulogizing.”
His son has yearned for that strength in recent days.
Mr. Dudley’s last day of work was Monday, March 23. He woke up the following day coughing. His wife urged him to stay home. The cough worsened.
Three days later, he was in an ambulance on his way to Northwest Hospital, where he was placed in a medically induced coma. When his family called later to check on his condition, they learned he was on life support. He was transferred to the University of Maryland Medical Center, where his condition deteriorated further. A test for the coronavirus came back positive.
The hospital workers set up a call on Zoom, the video conferencing service, so his family could say “I love you” one last time.
“I can accept the fact that he was dying. I can accept that,” said his son. “But it was the fact that he lived his life the way that he did, treated people the way that he did, and to go out like this. ... It’s probably the most unfair thing I’ve ever seen.”
In addition to his wife and sons, Mr. Dudley is survived by his youngest brother, Ronald, of Baltimore and one granddaughter. A brother, Charles, and sister, Jackie, preceded him in death.