Most readers will not recognize the name of Jerry Townsend, a native San Antonian and a decorated veteran of the San Antonio Police Department who retired after 33 years. Fellow Lee High School graduates of a certain age may remember that Townsend played on the football team that made it to the state championship in 1965 before attending the University of Texas at Austin on a football scholarship.
Joan Reeder Townsend, his wife of 52 years, was the first to fall ill with COVID-19 on July 14 last year. The couple immediately sought medical attention and quarantined at home. Jerry fell ill on July 28 and was taken to a hospital three days later as his symptoms grew serious. Joan wheeled him into an emergency room in a wheelchair, their last time together. He died on Aug. 19.
Not everyone among the 2,365 Bexar County residents who have died of COVID-19 fit the profile of a senior citizen.
Most readers will not recognize the name of Joey Harvey, either. A close friend described him as a lifelong sports fanatic who lived his dream as an employee of Spurs Sports & Entertainment for a decade and one of the first employees of SS&E’s pro soccer club, San Antonio FC. He was only 33, working in the University of Texas at El Paso athletic department when he fell ill. He succumbed to COVID-19 on Jan. 21.
Among the 2,363 other residents of this city and county who have died since last March, all but a few are largely unknown to most of us, but all leave behind families, friends, and co-workers affected by their untimely deaths. Most, unfortunately, have become numbers rather than stories.
A city can’t mourn numbers. San Antonio should not let the lives of so many who have died in this pandemic slip into the past without giving them the remembrance they deserve and that their families need to heal.
This is an invitation from our team at the San Antonio Report to each one of those families: Let our publication help you tell the story of a lost loved one and put a human face on this pandemic. Let the community mourn alongside you.
March 13 is the date San Antonio recognizes as the arrival of the pandemic in the local population. That gives editors ample time to solicit and prepare family remembrances for publication to commemorate the first year of the pandemic as we look ahead to the day when enough people are vaccinated to finally contain the virus.
You do not need to be a skilled writer to do justice to your lost loved one. And editors here will be happy to help. Please tell us in your words (300-500) about the life and times of the grandparent, the spouse, the sibling, the neighbor, or the co-worker you lost and how important their lives were to you.
Send your stories and attach a photo of your loved one in an email to email@example.com.
Share with us the stories your own family and friends are sharing with one another. We will publish these remembrances in the coming weeks if we get the kind of response we hope for. We can’t expect to tell 2,600 stories, but we certainly can tell enough stories to rise above the numbers and remind everyone in San Antonio that our collective loss has been significant and merits remembrance now and in the years to come.
If you are reading this column and have a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker who you know has lost someone to COVID-19, please share this column with them. No one ever regrets seeing a family member or close friend memorialized in a story read by the larger community.