BRENDA L. UTTER, 63, MORRIS
By ELIZABETH COOPER • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
MORRIS – Just a few months ago, Brenda Utter celebrated surviving breast cancer for 5 years.
“She was so ecstatic about making it,” her husband of 44 years, Phillip Utter, said Monday, March 30, just four days after she died of COVID-19.
Brenda Utter, of Morris, was the first person in Otsego County to die of the virus, which had taken 3,578 lives nationally and 1,500 in New York State as of early this week.
In an interview, Phillip Utter said he was still in shock. The illness took his wife within about a week of her first signs of sickness, he said.
The couple went shopping for groceries on March 14 to buy provisions so they could stay home and practice social distancing, as health officials had advised.
They didn’t know anyone who had coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, and they had not traveled abroad. They had no idea that would be the last time Brenda Utter left the house until she was hospitalized.
Though they felt fine that day, they knew they should be careful. In addition to being a cancer survivor, Brenda Utter had diabetes and heart issues.
“Obviously, she had everything going against her, if you want to get down to it,” the husband said.
“We had kind of hunkered down because we were hearing that we should, and then she kind of got a cough and a fever,” he said. “And then it developed a little bit more.”
By Monday, March 23, Brenda was having trouble breathing and the couple called her healthcare provider in the Bassett Healthcare Network. After discussing her symptoms, the provider said Brenda Utter should come to the hospital to be seen.
“They took her into the tent and I sat in the car for close to two hours,” her husband said. “Finally a nurse came out and said they were going to admit her.”
He went home to get her CPAP machine to help her breath at night, and when he returned he was allowed to see her.
She was having a lot of trouble breathing; she was scared,” Phillip said, his voice shaking with emotion. “That was the last time I talked to her.”
She had to be intubated and could no longer speak, but medical staff were in constant contact so he always knew what was happening.
“She was gone in three days’ time,” he said. “It didn’t take any time to take her life.”
Because of the danger of spreading the virus, hospitals across America are observing strict quarantine policies with their COVID patients; Bassett is no exception.
Brenda’s husband understands the reasons, but it was unbearably hard. “It is horrible that you can’t be there,” he said. “That is what you are supposed to do. Be there with them and hold their hand or whatever to comfort them. I guess she knew I was there in spirit.”
Now, Utter, who works at Amphenol Aerospace in Sydney, has himself tested positive for the disease.
Because of social-distancing protocols there shouldn’t be a funeral now anyway, just a graveside service when the COVID crisis is over and people can gather again.
Instead, the funeral director will bring Brenda Utter home one last time. First close family members will come to say farewell.
“When they are done, I will put on my mask and gloves and go in and say my goodbyes,” said Utter, who must follow precautionary measures so nothing gets contaminated.
Now, after more than four decades of marriage, he is left only with his memories. “Brenda was a good hearted person,” he said. “She was kind to everybody.”
He said she loved to go to North Carolina’s Outer Banks on vacation, she loved the waves there and the peace they brought her.
Her former co-workers from Preferred Mutual Insurance – she retired a few years ago – told him that what they will miss the most is her laughter.
“Her heart was bigger than all the outdoors,” Phillip Utter said.