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Coronavirus came to Chicago one year ago.
Though it’s likely the virus had been circulating in Chicago for longer, the first case was found Jan. 24, 2020. Since then, more than 229,000 people have become sick with COVID-19 here, and the virus has killed more than 4,500 Chicagoans.
In Chicago, the virus has killed people as young as 9 months and as old as 109 years. They were fathers, daughters, mechanics, talented dancers and more, beloved by family and friends.
Every community in Chicago has been touched by this loss.
Block Club spoke to the families and friends of 27 COVID-19 victims from across the city about what made their loved one special and what we have all lost through their death.
These stories cannot show the true pain experienced by thousands of families and friends throughout Chicago. But we hope they can give you a glimpse of what COVID-19 has taken from us and our communities during this Year of Loss.
Margie Rodriguez’s family said the city no longer has someone who could light up the room with her humor and bright red lipstick. She volunteered for years in Humboldt Park.
Larry Griffin would take displaced people into his Washington Heights home until they got back on their feet. His wife and children miss him.
Jose Cornejo was known for random acts of kindness, like chasing after the mailwoman to make sure she had cold water on hot summer days in West Elsdon.
“It’s a huge void that he left. It’s not a minor thing. He left and he will always be remembered,” said Jose’s sister, Blanca Cornejo. “I just want people to know that he was here and his life mattered to his family and to his friends.”
Calderon, 57, raised three children, took care of her aging relatives and opened her door to neighbors and strangers in need, her family said. Her beloved husband, Vicente, died just weeks before she did.
Jose Cornejo, who died from COVID-19 at 71, was known for random, simple acts of kindness. He’d chase after a mailwoman so he could give her water on hot summer days — and was always there for his family. “His life mattered.”
Rhoda Jean Hatch, 73, was the oldest of eight siblings and was first in her family to go to college. She became an educator and her family’s historian, even finding a relative who fought in the Civil War.
Nikki Shepard, 44, fought to bring joy and light to her family every day, despite living with a chronic illness. “People didn’t realize that when she went out on the dance floor for the kids, she could barely walk the next day.”
Nickolas Lee was never convicted of the crime with which he was charged. He died in jail from COVID-19. Now, his and his wife’s dreams for the future are gone — but she’s fighting for others locked up during the pandemic.
Jaroslaw “Jerry” Hankewych emigrated from Ukraine to Chicago in the wake of World War II. Over the next several decades, he’d be a resource for other immigrants in Ukrainian Village until his death from coronavirus at 77.
Jose Miguel Vazquez died at the end of March. His family wonders if he would’ve survived had he caught the virus later on in the pandemic. “Even at the hospitals, they weren’t sure what to do,” his wife said.
Coronavirus was first found in Chicago on Jan. 24, 2020. In the year since, the virus has killed more than 4,500 Chicagoans. Block Club is remembering victims from across the city with our series, A Year of Loss.