COVID memorials: Remembering lives lost to COVID-19

The Dayton Daily News remembers people from the region who died of COVID-19 and gives voice to those who loved them.

In one year, the coronavirus pandemic has taken the lives of more than 528,000 Americans, including more than 17,600 Ohioans. Today and throughout the week, the Dayton Daily News remembers people from the region we lost and gives voice to those who loved them.

King Cooper holds up a picture of his father, Eberechukwu Cooper who died from COVID-19 in December.
King Cooper holds up a picture of his father, Eberechukwu Cooper who died from COVID-19 in December.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Eberechukwu Cooper, 40, Riverside

Sept. 21, 1980 – Dec. 18, 2020

The loss is still new and raw for Tierra Cooper. Her beloved husband, Eberechukwu Cooper, died in December after a months-long fight with COVID.

She still talks to him. When Facebook comes up with a “memory” of one of his posts from previous years — like taking the kids to see “Black Panther” — she responds to his Facebook page with the things she wishes she could say in person.

“I told him, ‘You left me with not knowing how to teach our sons how to be a man,’” she said.

She tells him their 4-year-old son is still waiting for him to finish a game they started before his dad got sick.

Eberechukwu’s love for their children is one of Tierra’s fondest memories. She had seven kids before they met and one child together. He loved them all.

“He treated them like they were his children even though he wasn’t old enough to even father most of them,” she said. “He just immediately said, ‘I’m the father and I’m going to do what I have to do to make sure they’re OK.’”

This included working multiple jobs so she could stay home with the kids.

Eberechukwu was creative as well as hard-working.

He had a degree in engineering, and also excelled at martial arts, wrote science fiction novels, directed sci-fi films, acted and composed music.

Proud of his African-American heritage, he created a language called Koba-Ari with more than 4,000 words “to embody the meaning of being Black and proud,” his obituary says.

“He took great pride in encouraging and inspiring others to be ‘the best you, you can be!’ He touched every person’s path he crossed,” his obituary says.

Prabhaker Mateti, right, is pictured with his wife, Kalyani, and son Kiron. SUBMITTED
Prabhaker Mateti, right, is pictured with his wife, Kalyani, and son Kiron. SUBMITTED

Credit: SUBMITTED

Credit: SUBMITTED

Prabhaker Mateti, 72, Beavercreek

June 18, 1948 – Feb. 19, 2021

The COVID-19 death of Prabhaker Mateti robbed not only his family of “a rare and precious man” but also the many colleagues and university students who learned from him, said his son Kiron Mateti.

Prabhaker was best known as Dr. Mateti, an intelligent — and tough — computer engineering professor at Wright State University, where he began teaching in 1988.

“His booming voice could fill an auditorium, and while he demanded excellence from his students, he always had their best interests at heart,” his son said. “He impacted many lives across the world, from Australia to the U.S. and India.”

He was raised in the small Indian town of Mahabubabad in the state now named Telangana.

Prabhaker was the first to attend college from his family and eventually received his master’s degree from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology. In America, he earned his doctorate in computer science at the University of Illinois in 1976 when the field was in its infancy.

Prabhaker also had an unwavering moral compass, said his wife, Kalyani Mateti.

“He always honored his word. He would never play games,” she said. “He was honest and forthright. Nothing was a secret. He never kept anything from me.”

He doted on his grandchildren, introducing them to science and Indian culture, but also spoiled them with jelly beans, according to the family.

Gary Tipton was just settling into retirement when he and his wife Julia purchased a camper and the Englewood couple made plans to spend the first months of this year away in the warmth of Florida. Married for 48 years, they both came down with COVID-19. Gary would not recover and died at the age of 68. SUBMITTED
Gary Tipton was just settling into retirement when he and his wife Julia purchased a camper and the Englewood couple made plans to spend the first months of this year away in the warmth of Florida. Married for 48 years, they both came down with COVID-19. Gary would not recover and died at the age of 68. SUBMITTED

Credit: SUBMITTED

Credit: SUBMITTED

Gary W. Tipton, 68, Englewood

July 22, 1952 - Dec. 19, 2020

Gary Tipton was just settling into retirement when he and his wife Julia purchased a camper and the Englewood couple made plans to spend the first few months of this year in the warmth of Florida.

But in December, the high school sweethearts, married for 48 years, both came down with COVID-19. Gary would not recover and died.

“He was just the greatest guy around and would drop what he was doing to help someone else,” said his wife, Julia Tipton. “He just loved to be around like his close friends, his kids, his grandkids, and he loved working in the garage in his workshop.”

Gary also loved to listen to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, BB King and Buddy Guy, Julia said.

He also enjoyed singing one song in particular, “The Rodeo Song,” to sometimes irk but more often tickle his wife.

“I’m sitting here smiling thinking about him singing it,” she said.

Tawauna Averette, 42, in a photo she posted to her Facebook page in 2017. CONTRIBUTED
Tawauna Averette, 42, in a photo she posted to her Facebook page in 2017. CONTRIBUTED

Tawauna Averette, 42, Dayton

Oct. 18, 1978 – Dec. 8, 2020

Tawauna Averette, a Kettering Health Network nurse, got sick with COVID-19 at the end of October while pregnant with her seventh child.

She went to the hospital a few days after she was diagnosed, though she seemed to get better and was released. The next day she returned to the hospital.

On and off a ventilator, Tawauna gave birth in the ICU to Skye via C-section six weeks early because doctors were worried about her health.

Tawauna died in December without being able to hold Skye in her arms.

“She got to Facetime with her while she was in the hospital, but that was very, very, hard for her,” said her husband Charles Averette, who said Skye was not diagnosed with COVID-19.

Through her illness, Tawauna kept friends updated on her Facebook page. On Nov. 6, she wrote, “Y’all don’t understand what it’s like to not hug and kiss on your kids when you can’t.”

Even a few days before she died, Tawauna seemed to be getting better, Charles said. He thought she might make it home.

“It’s hard,” Charles said. “She was everything for us, and we don’t have her no more.”

Sherri Walden is pictured with her brother Robbie Martin, who died of COVID-19 in December. SUBMITTED
Sherri Walden is pictured with her brother Robbie Martin, who died of COVID-19 in December. SUBMITTED

Credit: SUBMITTED

Credit: SUBMITTED

Robert L. Martin, 53, Springfield

July 5, 1967 – Dec. 13, 2020

As a nurse, Sherri Walden has been at the bedside of COVID-19 patients and done her best to help families through the painful ordeal of being separated at life’s end.

In December, the circumstances were bitterly reversed as her brother, Robbie Martin, was dying from the disease.

“I’d like to have held his hand,” Sherri said. “That didn’t happen.”

Robbie was known around Springfield as outgoing, often riding the bus and dropping in on churches to visit with people, said Sherri, also of Springfield.

“Everybody just knew him because he was so friendly. He would just start conversations,” she said. “I couldn’t believe the outpouring on Facebook of people over the years that remembered him because he was just such a nice person.”

Robbie, the youngest of five siblings, also enjoyed attending family functions, auto racing and watching “goofball wrestling,” Sherri said.

Just before Robbie was put on a ventilator, it was Sherri’s turn to speak with a nurse on the other end of the line.

“I asked her to put the phone to his ear just so I could tell him I love him,” she said.

Sherri said Robbie’s numbers improved the Friday before he died, giving her hope.

“I was thinking he was going to be taken off the vent. I thought he’s going to be one of the ones who won,” she said. “And I felt like he deserved to be one of the people that got well.”

Linda and Jerry Oberdorf met at a sock hop after a Fairfield High School basketball game and became high school sweethearts. SUBMITTED
Linda and Jerry Oberdorf met at a sock hop after a Fairfield High School basketball game and became high school sweethearts. SUBMITTED

Credit: SUBMITTED

Credit: SUBMITTED

Linda Oberdorf, 73, Fairfield

Oct. 4, 1946 – Sept. 24, 2020

Linda and Jerry Oberdorf met at a sock hop after a Fairfield High School basketball game. Linda was a sophomore and Jerry a senior. She was in the marching band; he was a three-sport letterman.

“We were high school sweethearts,” Jerry said.

Together 59 years, the avid travelers went to Hilton Head, South Carolina, in September after postponing several other trips earlier in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On the way back, Linda developed severe breathing problems and they called for an ambulance in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she was admitted to a hospital.

“I stayed with her until they took her to her room. I was not allowed to go with her,” Jerry said. “I kissed her and told her I loved her, not knowing that would be the last time I would speak to her face-to-face.”

They married between Jerry’s junior and senior years at Northwestern University, where he played football. After college they returned to Fairfield and raised three children.

Linda worked for a time at Marilyn’s Shoppe, a dress store in Hamilton, as well as at Shillito’s, where she helped hire people to work at the department store. She also worked with infants at a child care.

Linda was also active at their church, Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Hamilton, where she was known for cooking up entire dinners of spaghetti and meatballs and baking cookies for children’s programs, Jerry said.

While they greatly enjoyed travel, including about 20 cruises and other overseas trips, home life mattered the most, Jerry said.

“We just enjoyed ourselves together. What I wouldn’t give to hear her say, ‘Jerry, get me another cup of coffee,’” he said. “You just don’t realize those things until they are gone.”

Ruth Parks is pictured with her granddaugher Kelly Perry. SUBMITTED
Ruth Parks is pictured with her granddaugher Kelly Perry. SUBMITTED

Credit: SUBMITTED

Credit: SUBMITTED

Ruth Parks, 100, Springfield

March 19, 1920 – Nov. 10, 2020

Had Ruth Parks’ birthday been a couple of weeks earlier, she might have turned 100 surrounded by family.

Instead, an Ohio Department of Health order limited access to nursing homes the week before her March 19 birthday last year.

“She turned 100 and I celebrated at the window of the nursing home,” said Parks’ granddaughter, Kelly Perry.

The family was able to send gifts to Ruth. Kelly selected one of her gifts because of special memories shared with her grandmother.

“Schuler’s doughnuts were one of her favorite things — glazed and wheat,” she said. “When I was a child, before church, we would always go to Schuler’s and get doughnuts.”

Her grandmother was “always smiling,” Kelly said. “She just was such a sweet lady.”

Kelly said she had visited her grandmother weekly until the pandemic.

Her grandmother taught her to be a good person and care about others. But many people have not cared enough about others during the past year, Kelly said.

“That’s what’s heartbreaking about this pandemic,” she said. “I just see so much selfishness with not wanting to follow (health) orders and the guidelines of the state. And losing my grandmother, who was my role model through my entire life, is very heart-wrenching.”

Staff Writer Eileen McClory contributed to this story.