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Remembering Those Killed By COVID-19: Dorothy Pearl Davis

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Dorothy Pearl Davis, as described by those who knew her, was loyal, loving, warm and caring, hardworking, loved to cook. She was a certified nursing assistant at Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Pearl, as she was known by everyone around her, was also the first nursing home employee to die of COVID-19 in San Antonio, Texas. She was 60 years old. We want to take a moment to honor her and the many lives she touched with her niece Tasha Steen. I'm so sorry for your loss. And welcome to the program.

TASHA STEEN: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What would you add to our description of your aunt?

STEEN: My Aunt Pearl was definitely the glue to our family. When my grandparents passed away, she was the one who kept our family together. Any time we had a family gathering or anything, it was because of her. She would just call and say, we're getting together next month. And you're going to do this. You're bringing. This, this is what - and we would not say no. We would just say, OK - that's all we could say. You couldn't tell her no. She was more than life to us. Just losing her now, it really does hurt.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Was she a San Antonio native?

STEEN: Yes, she was, born and raised.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We read she had some great recipes - Dr. Pepper ribs - sounds very Texas (laughter).

STEEN: Oh, my goodness, yes. And it was like - whenever she would make things like that, she would call everyone. And she would say, I made some Coca-Cola ribs. I made some pecan pie. I made some potato salad. But don't come over. But she knew when she said that, we were coming. That was my invitation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. She became ill in March, just as COVID-19 was starting to speed through a number of nursing homes. Was she concerned?

STEEN: Yes, she was. I'll never forget she called my mom right before this happened, and she told her how scared she was because that job did not give her the proper equipment she needed. She didn't have any gloves, any masks, any hand sanitizer, anything like that. And she would tell my mom she was doing everything she could. She was constantly keeping her hands in her pocket, washing her hands over and over and just trying to do whatever she could to protect her.

And the day she got sick, she said someone had sneezed on her. And from that moment, she said literally hours later, she started feeling sick, and it started going downhill from there. The only reason why she continued to go is because, like I said, she was the glue to our family. She was also taking care of her grandchildren, so she had no choice but to work. She's always been the type of person to work two, three jobs at a time. She was like a workaholic.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She died just last week. Were you able to say goodbye?

STEEN: It was on Mother's Day. And that Friday, we had a Zoom meeting and a few of the family members - her closest family members - we all got to say goodbye then.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What was that like?

STEEN: Oh, God. That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. When I had to tell her goodbye, I felt a piece of me go with her. That was my favorite aunt. Every time I seen her, we danced together. That was something that she always did. I saw her right before she got sick. And we danced in my parents' front yard. So I tell her, when I see you again, we will have a dance again.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you think about how your aunt passed, is there anything that you've sort of taken away from this experience?

STEEN: I've taken that as long as you have your family and your friends here, you have to love them while they're here. My aunt was one of the strongest women that I know. I've never known my Aunt Pearl to be sick - not one day. In my whole 35 years of living, I've never known her to be sick. And for something like this to be the reason that she's no longer here - we have to be serious about this disease. And we have to do what's best to get over it because losing someone like this is very painful. It's the worst feeling in the world to know that my aunt is not going to be here anymore because of that. I know we had more years with her - she had more life in her, but her time was up.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Tasha Steen talking about her aunt Dorothy Pearl Davis, who died last week on Mother's Day from COVID-19. Thank you very much.

STEEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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