New York Times Remembers America’s Coronavirus Deaths

An Incalculable Loss.”

“America is fast approaching a grim milestone in the coronavirus outbreak – each figure here represents one of the nearly 100,000 lives lost so far. But a count reveals only so much. Memories, gathered from obituaries across the country, help us to reckon with what was lost.”

With those words, the New York Times filled its Sunday newspaper with names of coronavirus victims in the U.S. who have died in the three months since the global pandemic reached our shores.

At a time when death has been muted in this country, there is a sense of gratitude to the NYT for taking these silent deaths and celebrating their lives in a way most have not been able to do while the country has been in quarantine and isolation during this global pandemic. Silent deaths, silent tears, silent grieving.

As the death toll approached 100,000, a dedicated group from The Times began to scour newspapers across the country sifting through the tens of thousands of names to choose 1,000 to feature. Yes … the entire front page and four more inside pages were filled with names represented 1,000 victims of the 100,000.

But The Times went a step further. They included not just a list of names, which would have appeared daunting enough, but also a brief biographical line that gave a tiny glimpse of that individual.

There was no notification but there, halfway through the list, on page 13, first column, near the bottom, was the name of my step-dad who passed away in Richmond, Virginia, on April 24 – exactly one month earlier – from Covid-19.

My sharp-eyed sister had found it early Sunday morning and sent a text with above snippet that said:

Calvin Tompkins Lucy Jr., 93, Virginia, organized his Class of 1943 high school reunions through the 70th in 2013.

The project sounds almost insurmountable. Take one thousand of the almost 100,000 American citizens who have died from Covid-19 and list them on the front page of the New York Times. Not just a list of names, but also include a bio line highlighting a moment from each person’s life.

Here’s a bit more behind the name….

We lost my step-dad in the early hours of April 24 after he had spent 10 days in the hospital. He was 93. His assisted living residence in Midlothian was one of those hit by coronavirus. You saw one line of his life in the New York Times … let me tell you a little more about this remarkable man.

Calvin Tompkins Lucy Jr. died alone in a hospital in Richmond surrounded by doctors and nurses in Covid-proof attire, like exterminators who spray our homes for bugs, covered head to toe to protect against this highly contagious virus. He is now a statistic, another number on the charts. Years from now our children will say their grandfather died in the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020.

His passing came during spring in Virginia, one of the most beautiful times of the year. He loved to tend his roses and the flowers that surrounded his home so it somehow seemed fitting that he slipped away while everything was blooming all around us.

Affectionately known growing up as “Brother,” he was a “soda jerk” making ice cream and malted goodies during his teen years at the neighborhood northside Richmond pharmacy known as Willey Drug.

He was a John Marshall High School Class of 1943 graduate who, as noted by the New York Times, organized his class reunions up through the 70th that was held in 2013.

He was a Virginia Tech graduate, Class of 1948, engineering, and remained a Hokie the rest of his life. On game day, he would set up his TV tray with his lunch or dinner, and parked himself in front of the television for Virginia Tech football until the game was over. We would joke about interrupting in one way or another because he was glued to that game.

He was a World War II veteran of the U.S. Navy, serving on the U.S.S. Denver. A lifelong employee of Virginia Power (VEPCO) until his retirement. His dad, Calvin T. Lucy Sr., was one of the founders of WRVA 1040 radio, WWBT-TV, and WCVE public TV in Richmond.

Cal came into our lives after my dad died. Mom was still so young, only in her 40s since Dad was only 51 when we lost him to cancer. Cal had Dad’s characteristics. He was quiet, friendly, easy going, and had a gentle humor, a quick smile, and always a corny joke up his sleeve.

A voracious reader of American writer Louis L’Amour, he enjoyed photography and caring for the multitude of bird feeders around my parents’ Salisbury home. He could repair anything and his garage workshop was busy with projects from woodworking to repair of small engines.

Cal was easy to get along with and, though I missed my dad terribly, he filled in the empty spaces. My sisters and I were 22, 20, and 13 when our Dad died. With Cal we wrapped our arms around him from the very beginning and we became a family.

After his retirement from Virginia Dominion Power, Cal remained active in everything. We called him our Energizer Bunny. He was involved in the community, his church, Dominion Power retirees, and his high school alumni. It was hard to accept that the Energizer Bunny’s battery had finally played out.

If your family has not been touched by this horrid monster of a disease, count yourself fortunate. Because we have. And our hearts are broken at our loss. It’s not a hoax, and it’s not the flu.

Cover photo: Calvin Lucy, a member of the Virginia Tech Cadet Corps, circa 1940s

 

Obituary from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

LUCY, Calvin Tompkins Jr., age 93, died on April 24, 2020, from complications due to Covid-19, at St. Francis Medical Center, Midlothian, Va.

He was born August 17, 1926, at Hygea Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. He was preceded in death by his father, Calvin Tompkins Lucy Sr. (a WRVA and national radio broadcasting pioneer); his mother, Kathleen Seelinger Baseler Lucy; sister, Bettie Lucy Cox and brother-in-law, James Bernard Cox Jr.; adopted son, James Christian Lucy and wife, Eula Elizabeth Osborne Randall Lucy. Calvin is survived by his daughters, Kathryn Graham Lucy Wilkins, Charlotte Allen Lucy Roberts (Jim); and son, Calvin T. Lucy III (Elizabeth Holt, Graham Wright).

Also surviving are grandchildren, Karen Patricia Wilkins Lynne (Andy), Rebecca Kathryn Wilkins Henderson (Douglas), Jeffrey Thomas Wilkins (Carly), Joshua Graham Hale Mott; and great-grandchildren, Ethan Callom Lynne, Lucy Helen Lynne, Madeline Kathryn Henderson, Sophie Eileen Henderson, Floyd Durward Wilkins and Murray Homer Wilkins.

Also surviving are stepdaughters, Barbara Lynn Randall Mitchell (William), Gail Elizabeth Randall Aspinwall (William) and Lori Rae Randall Phillips (Jon); as well as step-grandchildren, Matthew William Mitchell (Valerie), Katelyn Mitchell Lord (Colin), Molly Kennedy Wear, and Emily Schuyler Phillips.

Calvin was educated in Richmond City and Henrico County public schools, becoming John Marshall High School’s 1943 Class Historian and Honor Society President, graduating in June, 1943. He enrolled in Electrical Engineering at the V.P.I. Richmond Extension in July, 1943 and was inducted into the U.S. Navy on January 26, 1945. He served aboard the U.S.S. Denver as an Electronic Technician until his discharge on August 6, 1946.

Re-enrolling at V.P.I. in September 1946 under the G.I. Bill of Rights, he returned to the Va. Tech Cadet Corps., graduating in July 1948 with a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering, Electronics Option. During the Vietnam War, Calvin was appointed to serve as a member of Selective Service Draft Board #56 (North Richmond), serving until the Selective Service System was ended.

As an Electrical Engineer, with an FCC Commercial First-Class Radio-Telephone Operator’s License, Calvin was employed October, 1949 by Dominion Va. Power (then VEPCO). There, starting as a Mobile Radio Technician, he worked through a variety of engineering/ operations/ executive positions, helping pioneer VEPCO’s first IT Dept. and engineering many computer systems. He retired May 31, 1988, from Dominion’s Telecommunications Dept., after 39 and a half total years of service.

A “fixer – jack of all trades,” he enjoyed photography, woodworking, personal computers, civic work, politics, birding, and gardening. With much classmate assistance, he organized the later-year JMHS class of 1943 reunions through the 70th in 2013, finally donating all class records to the Richmond Valentine Museum.

Due to current Covid-19 precautions, a memorial service at Huguenot Road Baptist Church is being planned in Calvin’s birthday month of August, with interment to be private. For further information, email son, Tom ([email protected]).

In lieu of flowers, Calvin requested that donations be made to the Virginia Tech Cadet Corps, payable to the Virginia Tech Foundation, noted as a memorial to “Calvin T. Lucy, Jr.” The mailing address is: Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Advancement, 902 Prices Fork Road, Blacksburg, Va. 24061. To make an online donation, please go to [email protected]

The family would like to express their sincere appreciation to the staff of Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center, especially the Palliative Care nurses. Their loving presence brought him peace and made our absence, due to Covid-19, much more bearable.

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