One Year Since Ohio's First Coronavirus Death, Remembering Those We Lost
Friday marks one year since the first Ohioan died from COVID-19. Since then, more than 18,000 Ohioans have died from the virus.
On March 20, 2020, Gov. Mike DeWine opened his then-daily coronavirus news conference with the sad news about someone he knew on a personal basis.
“Mark Wagoner, Sr., prominent attorney in Toledo, someone who had been on the board of elections, someone who had been prominent in the Republican Party. Mick was very well respected,” DeWine said.
Mick’s son, former state lawmaker Mark Wagoner, said doctors first suspected his dad had a recurring bout with pneumonia, and the family was shocked when tests for COVID-19 came back positive.
The younger Wagoner says his father was beloved by his community and his family.
“It was a difficult time for the family because dad was the glue that kept us together,” Mark Wagoner says.
In late summer, Columbus attorney Abe Bahgat became ill with COVID-19. His son David Bahgat says that, just when his dad would start to get better, he would take a turn for the worse. To make matters worse, Abe got an infection in his intestines and colon.
He was sick for three months before dying on Oct. 30, 2020.
David was with his father when he passed away. He says his father lived life fully.
“For an 82-year-old, this man literally could do anything," David Bahgat says. "Still practiced law up until the day he got sick. Was traveling the world. He had a trip to Prague booked for April of last year. Nothing scared him, including the virus.”
Canton area resident Robert Burns, Jr. lost his battle with the coronavirus just a few days before Christmas. He was a former volunteer firefighter and a reserve captain for the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, and worked as a juvenile corrections officer at Indian River Schools for 29 years.
His wife, Pam, said he was outgoing and outspoken.
“He was a very black and white person," Pam Burns says. "And he didn’t mind telling you what he thought."
His son, Bobby Weston of Columbus, said he didn’t always see eye to eye with his dad, but respected him.
“I am 28 years old. I shouldn’t be burying my dad as a 28-year-old,” Weston said.
Burns was only 60 years old when he passed away on Dec. 17, 2020.
Steve Sidebottom of Westerville was a distinguished Navy veteran. For two decades, he worked in the oil industry where he often traveled to Saudi Arabia. That’s where he met his wife, Christina.
She remembered Steve as a kind man who volunteered with his church, playing guitar in the praise band. Steve had a great sense of humor and sometimes put Christina to sleep by telling funny stories.
“We did everything together, so it’s really hard. I just feel like my heart has been ripped out,” Christina Sidebottom said.
Steve Sidebottom passed away from COVID-19 on Nov. 1, 2020.
Battling COVID themselves, Gina Rollins and her sister weren’t at their mom's hospital bedside when Mary Ann Rollins passed away August 26, 2020.
“The hospital chaplains called us about 6-6:30, and we got to say our goodbyes over the phone," Rollins remembers. "And they said a prayer with her. The next call we got was at 8:30, telling us she was gone."
Gina almost lost her only son to COVID about the same time, but he luckily recovered.
Three weeks later, the family was finally able to hold a small service to honor Mary Ann, a former registered nurse who worked in public health for five decades, breaking down color barriers in her nursing program at Ohio State University.
Tiffin resident Diane Dougherty volunteered at the local independent theater, but her main job in life was raising her two kids, who were born 11 months apart.
Diane had some existing health problems when she came down with COVID-19 over the winter, and her son, Gary Dougherty, said her body couldn’t fight off the virus. She was taken to a hospital on Christmas evening, and later was transferred to a rehab center, but wasn't making any progress.
When it became clear she wasn’t going to recover from the illness, Gary said he brought her to his Central Ohio home, sitting her hospital bed in his living room.
“So, we brought her down here, and dad was here, my wife and I and one of our daughters, when she took her last breath,” Gary Dougherty says.
Diane Dougherty died Jan. 21, 2021.
Mark Daniels, a Dayton-area pastor, was also with his father, Jim Daniels, when he passed from COVID on Feb. 26, 2021. But two of his sisters couldn’t be because they were ill as well, while the third sister tested positive the next day.
Mark said he had some great conversations with his 91-year-old dad, who was an Air Force veteran, devoted father and grandfather. “He had a great sense of humor. I’m still just crushed,” Mark Daniels says.
Central Ohio resident David Cyphert had served as the fiscal officer for Bloom Township for more than a decade. His wife of 32 years, Anne Darling Cyphert, said he was a kind and gentle man.
Anne said David was active and physically fit, biking regularly and running three miles every day. She thought at first that he could beat the virus. The last time she saw him was at the local hospital, right before he was put on a ventilator.
“I’m standing outside the glass window," Anne remembers, "and they had the phone up to him, and I went, 'Fight, fight.' They gave me a thumbs up. And then I said, 'I love you,' and he took his hand. And that was the last communication we had."
David died from COVID-19 on Dec. 17, 2020.
Have you lost a loved one to COVID-19? As part of WOSU's series A Year Of COVID, we want to hear your stories and experiences from this pandemic.