On Tuesday, Maryland reached a grim milestone: More than 5,000 state residents have now died from COVID-19. That’s the entire population of Chestertown, Deale or Berlin, Maryland. It’s 10 elementary schools; twice the number of people the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall can hold; and 2,000 more people than were killed in the United States on 9/11. And yet, it’s still just a fraction of the deaths from this devastating disease nationwide, which this week surpassed 300,000. Worldwide, more than 1.6 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus this year.
For many of us who haven’t directly experienced a COVID loss, the daily counts are hard to comprehend. But there’s a whole life behind every number and a trail of people who mourn them. Here are the names and stories, in miniature and compiled from news reports, of 20 of those who died in Maryland. They’re Black, white; gay, straight; criminals and correctional officers. Some are disabled, some caretakers, some mentors. All are Maryland residents, and a year ago, none of them saw this coming.
Let’s take a moment to honor the thousands of lives our state has lost — and then do everything within our power to prevent further deaths by responsibly following social distancing protocols and public health best practices. As our governor so succinctly said: “Wear the damn mask.”
April 1: Leilani Jordan, 27. Nicknamed “Butterfly” by her mother, Ms. Jordan, who had a disability that made her visually and cognitively impaired, was devoted to helping senior citizens through her job as a supermarket greeter at Giant in Largo. She was one of six children and loved the color purple, singing, attending church and her service dog, Angel.
April 1: David C. Driskell, 88. An artist, art historian, writer and holder of a National Humanities Medal, Mr. Driskell, who was also a University of Maryland distinguished professor, is credited with bringing awareness to African American art and its place in the national canon. He was trained as a painter, and his work, which often focused on nature, was displayed in major museums including the National Gallery of Art.
April 1: Richard Passman, 94. Mr. Passman was an aeronautical engineer who worked on secret, space-age projects, according to the New York Times. He guided efforts to protect intercontinental ballistic missiles from heat, designed a spy plane and an aircraft that flew faster than the speed of sound. He and his wife of 70 years moved to a Silver Spring retirement home on March 15 to be near family. It immediately locked down, and two weeks later, Mr. Passman died.
April 7: Mark Paster, 70. A chemical engineer and graduate of two Ivy League schools (the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton), Mr. Paster focused his work on biodegradable plastic and hydrogen fuel cell research. He retired (after much convincing) to a new home in Annapolis, where he pursued his passion for sailing and led an active, full life, much of it outdoors, with his wife Karen, who misses him deeply.
April 10: Mary Sanders, 75. One of 12 children, Ms. Sanders “lived happily in community with a group of her peers with disabilities,” and lit up a room with her smile. She loved Jesus, Elvis, jewelry and the color pink, according to an obituary on legacy.com. She died in Frederick after a week-long struggle with COVID and is survived by 10 siblings.
April 17: Minnie Saunders, 78. Ms. Saunders died a week after contracting COVID at FutureCare Lochearn, a nursing home in Northwest Baltimore. Her son said she had underlying health conditions that put her at greater risk, high blood pressure and diabetes, but was well cared for and able to conduct video calls with family. The facility “did everything they could,” he said.
April 18: Esther Walker, 72. Ms. Walker was a former teacher’s assistant at Meade Heights Elementary School in Anne Arundel County who had survived diabetes, having a leg amputated and triple bypass surgery only to be taken by COVID, which she also contracted at the FutureCare nursing home, said her daughter, who was blindsided by her mother’s death.
April 27: Andrew Parker, 61. Mr. Parker was 38 years into a life sentence as an inmate at the Jessup Correctional Institution when he contracted COVID-19. He was convicted of being an accessory to the 1981 murder of a Catonsville store owner, though he long maintained his innocence. He is survived by a brother, three children and grandchildren.
May 2: Gary E. Johnson, 83. A proud 1955 Baltimore Polytechnic Institute graduate, Mr. Johnson was a retired mechanical engineer, having earned his degree over 11 years of night school at Johns Hopkins University, and the last surviving sibling of eight children. He contracted COVID-19 while recuperating from hip surgery. He leaves four children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
May 13: Paul Mantheiy, 70. Mr. Mantheiy, who had diabetes, Alzheimer’s and heart trouble, was initially diagnosed with coronavirus in March while a resident at one Maryland nursing home, but pulled through after a month-long hospital stay. Then, he contracted it again at another facility. This time, he lost the battle. His family says he was a “loving father, father-in-law, grandfather, brother and uncle.”
May 16: Dar’yana Dyson, 15. The exuberant Milford Mill Academy student was pure fun; she adored her younger sisters and posted videos dancing and laughing with them on Instagram and Tik Tok. She was wiser than her years, a friend said. Dar’yana died a month shy of her 16th birthday, which her family had planned to celebrate in Ocean City. She leaves behind her mother and sisters and many others.
May 18: Jason McIntire, 43. Mr. McIntire contracted COVID-19 at the Central Maryland Correctional Facility in Sykesville while serving a combined five years for attempting to influence or intimidate a juror and fourth-degree sexual contact. His father said he was a bright man whose life went awry. “A lot of people loved him,” said his mother. He leaves four siblings.
June 4: Kathryn “Kitty” Connor, 84. An “independent woman” ahead of her times, according to her daughter, Ms. Connor lived by the Quaker principle of justice through social action, and fought to make the world a more equitable place for women, people of color and the elderly. She died at the Broadmead Retirement Community and is survived by two children and two granddaughters.
June 8: Karen Kennedy, 60. Ms. Kennedy, a 20-year veteran correctional officer, worked at the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center, and worried about contracting coronavirus in the cramped facility, but felt she had no choice. She had bills to pay, her daughter said. She radiated positivity on the job, says one public defender, who called her a “ray of sunshine.”
June 10: Myrtle Johnson, 89. The Annapolis resident was a retired nurse, who first worked at a racially segregated facility in Kentucky, and her family’s resident historian and storyteller. She was a devoted Christian who established a weekly Bible study in her senior home. Two children preceded her in death. She is survived by seven other children, 18 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.
July 25: Joseph Costa, 56. Dr. Costa ran the critical care unit at Mercy Medical Center, treating others for COVID-19, before succumbing to it himself, surrounded by colleagues and his husband of 28 years, who described him as a cerebral scientist who loved opera, played the piano, was learning the mandolin and was fluent in both German and Italian. He is survived by his husband, parents, two sisters and nieces and nephews.
September: Barthphine Maduh, 68. Mr. Maduh was a longtime correctional officer who trained and mentored new officers, and was described by colleagues as a caring peacemaker and “gentle soul” dedicated to the job. He liked to talk football, though he was no fan of the Ravens. He is survived by his wife of 38 years and their four children.
Nov. 19: Jack Dawson, 91. The long-retired sports director and anchor for WMAR-TV “was like everybody’s father” at the station, a former production manager said, a leader others looked up to. He was smart, funny and as big a sports fan as those who followed him. He left behind four children, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Nov. 27: Antwion Ball, 43. The Baltimore City math teacher taught his students the value of education, respect and achievement, telling “Black boys you can be somebody,” his sister said. He loved to dance, genuinely cared about others, was a mentor to many and was known to his friends by the nickname “Busta.” He also ran a college readiness program for at-risk kids on Saturdays for nearly a decade. He is survived by his parents, three siblings and a daughter.
Dec. 4: John F. Bailey Sr., 84. As a Baltimore County educator, Mr. Bailey led the school system’s effort in the 1970s to hire African American teachers, drawing new recruits with his “sparkling personality.” He was generous with his time and money and active in the Catholic church. He and his wife had four children, two of whom had Duchenne muscular dystrophy and required extensive daily care to lead full lives.
Tricia Bishop (firstname.lastname@example.org) is The Sun’s opinion editor. Her column runs every third Wednesday.