The Pandemic Year • First Death On March 23, 2020
By MICHAEL FORSTER ROTHBART • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Now, one year later, there have been over 3,500 positive cases here; 54 county residents have died from COVID-19 and related complications. At least eight former local residents are also known to have died from the virus. The deceased ranged in age from 55 to 103, with more women than men dying of COVID.
In tribute to the lives lost, are brief profiles of the fatalities identified in public records. Other families have chosen to keep the deaths anonymous.
• March 23. Brenda Utter of Morris, age 63, became the first casualty when she “passed away unexpectedly following a brief and courageous battle with the coronavirus,” according to her obituary. She had worked at Preferred Mutual Insurance Company in New Berlin for most of her life, and left behind her husband of 44 years.
• The Otsego County Department of Health reported three additional deaths from COVID-19 on April 8, April 15 and April 16.
• April 12. Oneonta native Jemele “Jem” Nader Mitrano died in Norwalk, Conn., at age 92. She lived for more than 50 years in Manhattan but returned during summers to visit family, including her older brother, former Oneonta mayor Sam Nader.
• May 19. The county confirmed a fifth COVID death, an unspecified person over the age of 60. After this, there was a period of 10 weeks with no deaths from coronavirus reported.
• Aug. 2. Melanie Ruth Jones of Worcester, 60, was found dead at home after apparent respiratory failure. She was tested after her death and found to have COVID. Her husband, Wayne Dennis Jones, 68, passed away the same evening after receiving the news. His death was not officially caused by coronavirus, although he had earlier tested positive for COVID-19.
• Sept. 20. Donald Kirby Jr. of Worcester, 79, died at Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown. He worked as an electrician at SUNY Oneonta, had served as a chief for the Charlotteville Fire Department and was active in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Worcester.
• Oct. 27. A man over the age of 60 died after being hospitalized for more than two weeks with coronavirus, according to the Otsego County Health Department.
• Dec. 14. A woman over the age of 55 became sick with COVID-19 at the end of November and died of the virus over the weekend, the county health department announced.
• Dec. 15. An elderly woman became the county’s 10th COVID fatality after she caught the virus from an employee at Robynwood Adult Home in Oneonta. The employee attended a Thanksgiving dinner with someone who later tested positive, then went to work after being exposed, subsequently infecting multiple patients including the woman who died.
• Dec. 21. A woman over 55 had been hospitalized for “less than a week” but had not been intubated when she died, the county department of health reported.
• Dec. 23. A second resident at Robynwood Adult Home, Oneonta, died after she was exposed during a COVID-19 outbreak in the facility, the state Department of Health reported. The outbreak started when an employee came to work after being exposed to the virus during a Thanksgiving gathering.
• Dec 24. Bill Magee, age 81, of Nelson, represented Otsego County in the State Assembly for 28 years. He caught COVID during an outbreak that killed 43 residents of a Morrisville nursing home where he lived since 2019, but was asymptomatic until shortly before he died. His greatest accomplishment was his advocacy for farmers, according to his niece.
• Dec. 26. Ray Armitage of Cooperstown, 93, died at Bassett hospital after living at Clara Welch Thanksgiving Home for 4 years. He was a Navy veteran who worked for 45 years for Pfizer pharmaceutical company, and was passionate about golf, baseball and his dogs.
• Dec. 26. Aneilia Mead of Oneonta, 91, was the first of four patients at Cooperstown Center to die of COVID-related causes during an outbreak at the nursing home. She lived her whole life in Oneonta, working for two family businesses, and traveled the country extensively with her husband on their Harley. She last rode a motorcycle on her 90th birthday.
• Dec. 28. Otsego County reported four deaths in one day, two men and two women, three of them residents at Cooperstown Center. The nursing home initially blamed the deaths on a bleeding hernia, pneumonia and sepsis, but the county later confirmed all were also COVID-related.
• Dec. 29. Bruce Hall of Oneonta, 71, died after several weeks in Bassett hospital battling COVID pneumonia. He worked for the New York State Lottery for 25 years and was happiest on his fishing boat. “For a man of his age, he was quite active and healthy, which makes his death come as a deep blow,” according to his obituary. His death was connected to a November cluster of 41 COVID cases at the Copper Fox Tavern in Oneonta.
• In January, Otsego County reported a 19th COVID death from 2020, a woman over 55. Her death in December at a hospital outside the county was later confirmed as a COVID-19 fatality.
• Jan. 5. A man over the age of 55 was the first COVID death of 2021. The county reported two additional deaths from coronavirus on Jan. 7.
• Jan. 6. Two former county residents died. Oneonta native Gary Hungerford, 78, “passed away suddenly because of COVID-19” in Farmingdale, according to a death notice. Earl Edwards, 85, from Otego, died in St. Mary’s hospital in Amsterdam with “his wife on the phone comforting him after valiantly battling COVID for several days,” his obituary said. He owned a lumber company in Otego, produced maple syrup and served on the Otego Town Board.
• Jan. 11. Bill Davidson of Unadilla, 85, died at the Veterans’ Home in Oxford, one of six COVID-related deaths there. He was a middle school teacher and coach for 32 years.
• Jan. 13. Carla Simonds of West Oneonta, 69, was nurse at the Oneonta Nursing Home and then Otsego County Public Health for many years. She died in Bassett Hospital, leaving behind her husband of 49 years.
•Jan 20. The county announced the deaths of two women over the age of 55 on two consecutive days. Both had previously been hospitalized as a result of the virus.
• Jan 24. Pat O’Brien of Oneonta, 85, died at Fox Nursing Home at the start of a COVID-19 outbreak that killed 14 residents and infected 116 people. She had lived in the nursing home for 7 years.
• Jan 24. Bernice Marlette a lifelong resident of Mount Vision, 99, died at Fox Nursing Home on her birthday. She was remembered for her devotion to her church and her family, including 19 grandchildren; and 28 great-grandchildren.
• Jan 24 to Jan 30. The Otsego County Department of Health reported another eight deaths from COVID-19 in one week, most of them at the Fox Nursing Home. Due to a paperwork error, the state was informed but the county was not told until Feb. 9. One of the fatalities was Charles Rizzo, who died Jan. 30 at age 97, a Navy veteran who served during World War II and later became a nurse in Oneonta.
•Jan. 30. Janice Gill of Unadilla, 79, died in UHS Delaware Valley Hospital in Walton after a brief illness from COVID-19. She worked as a supervisor for Amphenol in Sidney, and earned her college degree at Sullivan Co. Community College after she retired.
• Feb. 1. Shirley Banner of Cooperstown, 87, died at Alpine Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Little Falls from COVID-19 complications. In the 1940s she attended a one-room schoolhouse in Milford Center. She raised six kids and worked in more than that number of restaurants in Oneonta and Cooperstown.
• Feb. 2. Rivkah Feldman, 87, lived in Sloansville and Manhattan, and died in New York City of complications from COVID-19. She worked as an English professor in NYC and taught at both SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Cobleskill.
• Feb. 4. Frances Sokol of Unadilla, 100, died with COVID at Fox Nursing Home. She was a Quaker activist known for her work on peace and racial justice issues. In the first week of Feburary, the county announced four additional deaths at the same nursing home.
• Feb. 4. Todd Goodrich of Springfield , N.Y., died in Redstone Rehab Center, East Longmeadow, MA, from the effects of diabetes and COVID-19. He worked at MassMutual, Springfield, for more than 30 years.
Thirteen additional Otsego County residents died in the past month. Obituaries with more details about those who died can be found at www.AllOTSEGO.com.