Loved ones remember those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 in Ontario
TORONTO -- In the midst of a global pandemic, more than 2,500 people in Ontario have lost their lives to COVID-19.
The rapid spread of the disease has forced the provincial government to ban all gatherings of more than five people, leaving large funerals out of the question and little opportunity for families to say goodbye.
CTV News and CP24 have spoken and will continue to speak with loved ones during this difficult time.
Here are just some stories about those they have lost.
Phyllis Thompson, 89
Thompson is being remembered as a matriarch who loved to belt out the music of Vera Lynn and always kept her sense of humour.
Thompson lived at Seven Oaks in Scarborough, one of the long-term care homes that has been ravaged by COVID-19. She became sick on April 4 and died the next day.
Her daughter says she’s thankful a personal support worker allowed her to say goodbye over the phone.
“I will always be forever grateful to the beautiful woman who gave me an opportunity to say once more…’I love you, Mom,’” Jayne Cascagnette said.
Thompson was the daughter of a Lieutenant Colonel and a military nurse and grew up in Quebec City. She met her husband while working for the Navy and the couple had two daughters and a son. Cascagnette remembers her mother loving Nascar, figure skating and country music.
She leaves behind many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Albert Beaupre, 101
Beaupre was a decorated veteran of the Second World War, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, and “not just a statistic,” his daughter said after he died of COVID-19 on April 28.
“He did so many amazing things in his life and was a success at everything he did,” Patricia Watson said.
After serving in the Canadian Navy as Petty Officer 1st class, Beaupre went on to complete his education at Ryerson and became a stationary engineer.
Beaupre was a resident of Royal Rose Place, a nursing home in Welland, Ont.
“There was no need for him to lose his life to this and for me to lose my dad and my children to lose their papa,” Watson said, adding that she never even got the chance to say goodbye.
“His family was so very important to him and he was very proud of every one of us.”
“I miss you every day dad.”
Maria Celico Napoli
A beloved mother and "abuela,” Maria Celico Napoli died suddenly at Humber River Hospital in Toronto after being diagnosed with COVID-19 just five days earlier.
"It was heart-wrenchingly swift," her daughter, Jacqueline Kuehnel, said.
"Calls and videos were sorely inadequate and our absence by her bedside made grief abstract and unreal,” her son, Osvaldo Napoli, said.
Maria or "Mariuccia,” as she was known in her hometown of Calabria, Italy, experienced significant hardship. Yet after living through the Second World War and multiple immigrations to Uruguay, Argentina and finally Canada, she faced life with a selfless spirit that extended love and kindness to everyone she met.
A skilled and creative seamstress, she made beautiful wedding dresses and later, Halloween costumes for her two beloved granddaughters.
"These little treasures will be passed on to the next generation, honoring her inventiveness and talent," granddaughter, Gabriella Caira, said.
"Her cooking was Mediterranean with a distinct and comforting taste that we were never able to replicate," granddaughter, Celine Caira, said. "We will dearly miss her homemade canelloni, gnogghi, ‘verduras’ and soothing chicken broth."
She loved to dance, travel, listen to mariachis, look pretty, see humour in self-deprecation, give gifts, tell stories, watch telenovelas, and to care for her plants and beloved canary birds. She could not stand the suffering of the innocent and vulnerable and hated gossiping and mean-spirited people.
Her family says Napoli remained undeterred by the challenges of life and always put kindness above all else.
Robert Armstrong, 81
Armstrong contracted COVID-19 at Bradford Valley Care Community and died suddenly, his daughter said.
“He was the only resident on his unit to contract the disease,” Sherri Diamantopoulos said. “The neighbouring unit had 10 cases. On our father’s unit he was the only one.”
“On April 11, we received a phone call that he would not make it through the day.”
Diamantopoulos said she was then told she was allowed to briefly visit with her father.
“I entered the room, told him ‘daddy, I am here,’ held his hand, he squeezed my hand and opened his eyes,” she said. “I was only allowed to stay 40 minutes.”
She said her father died that night, only six hours after their visit.
“A kind-hearted man who enjoyed life is now gone.”
Trudy Koper, 93
With nine children and nearly 50 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, Koper’s life at her Brampton nursing home centred around visits from loved ones.
“When COVID-19 came into the picture all of this stopped and mom’s biggest fear in life was realized,” her daughter Joanne said. “She was now alone and separated from her beloved family.”
Joanne said they found out her mother had tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Easter Sunday. They had hope she would overcome the illness but all became increasingly worried when she stopped eating and drinking.
Koper’s nine children were able to see her during a Zoom call organized by the long-term care home before her entire floor was transported to hospital.
“Mom spent six days in the hospital where we had no communication with her at all,” Peios said. “Then the doctor called to say that there was no hope, mom was not going to make it.”
“Knowing that mom’s biggest fear was being alone we really wanted to make sure that she was not alone when she died. Since we live across Canada and in Mexico we needed to find a time that worked for everyone… our mom died at 9 p.m., the minute we began to pray, and we were all there with her through the spirit.”
Peios went on to thank the staff at Grace Manor for providing her mother with “the best care possible.”
William “Bill” Anderson, 82
Bill, better known as “Papa” in his family, was “larger than life,” his daughter said.
“Papa would take over a room with stores about living in Scotland as a policeman and stories about his many friends and soccer matches,” Elizabeth Koumaris said.
Bill was married to the love of his life, May Anderson, for 50 years, Koumaris said. The pair loved to travel together and meet new people, but more than anything they lived to be parents and then grandparents and then great-grandparents.
“When COVID-19 hit our family we feared for Papa’s life but he was strong and had overcome flus and pneumonia before, but not this time.”
He died at a Toronto hospital while peacefully asleep on a ventilator, his daughter said.
Charles Hudson, 92
Everyone who met Hudson loved him, his daughter said.
Barb Flanagan said her father had “kind eyes and an infectious smile” and loved cheering for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Hudson contracted COVID-19 in Niagara Falls on April 3. He died at a hospital in St. Catharines on April 11.
“I was able to be with him for most of his last day, and I am forever grateful that we could share that time,” Flanagan said.
Hudson was born in Cochrane and moved to Niagara Falls in the 1950s. He had a successful aluminum siding business for more than 30 years and also owned and operated Muskoka Glens Campground in Huntsville with his wife until they retired.
Although he was 92, Hudson still drove his trademark pickup, loved going to the casino and taking part in the activities at Lundy Manor.
He leaves behind two children, five step-children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Christine Mandegarian, in her 50s
Mandegarian is being remembered as a loving and compassionate woman, who loved her job so much, she put herself in harm’s way to take care of others.
She worked as a personal support worker for 31 years and died on April 15.
“She tested positive and within 24 hours she died,” her husband Paul said. “It’s surprising.”
The couple was married for 33 years and had two children.
Mandegarian’s union believes she contracted the virus at work.
"This tragic death is a difficult reminder of the very real dangers health-care workers face in the selfless delivery of care for Ontario families, as well as the support and protection that they need immediately,’ Services Employees International Union Healthcare said in a statement.
Arlene Reid, 51
Reid was the province’s second health-care worker to die as a result of COVID-19.
The Services Employees International Union Healthcare said she was a personal support worker at the Victorian Order of Nurses in Peel Region, an organization that delivers home and community care.
The mother of five is being remembered by her family as a vibrant person with a big heart.
“Our mom, she was amazing, she really loved what she did,” her daughter, Antoniette Bryden said. “She was our rock in everything that we did, in everything that we tried to do.”
“She was just an amazing, phenomenal woman. She goes above and beyond in everything she does, a dedicated hard worker.”
Sharon Roberts, 59
Roberts was a personal support worker for 24 years.
She worked at Downsview Long Term Care in Toronto. She tested positive for the novel coronavirus on April 27 and died on May 1, her union said.
“Our union is mourning the loss of this beautiful soul,” Sharleen Stewart said.
Theresa Fatoba, who worked alongside Roberts at the home, said her death has left everyone broken-hearted.
“She’s very hardworking, she likes to come to work early, she’s agile, she’s punctual, she’s dedicated. It’s painful to lose people like that.”
Leonard Rodriques, 61
Rodriques was a personal support worker in Toronto. He tested positive for COVID-19 on April 26 and died 10 days later.
A union representative said he worked with Access Independent Living Services, which provides services for people with physical support needs.
"He’ll be truly missed by his Unifor family and all those who knew him,” Jerry Dias said.
Beattie advocated for his colleagues to have personal protective equipment before dying of COVID-19.
The nurse at the licensed seniors’ facility Kensington Village in London, Ont., loved his work and his union says he was well-liked and respected.
The facility has been dealing with an outbreak since April 3. Five residents died and seven other staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
After testing positive, Beattie had been off work and was seeking treatment.
On May 14, the Ontario Nurses Association said Beattie, who had been a nurse for 23 years, had succumbed to COVID-19.
The ONA says the Ministry of Labour has been called in to investigate Beattie’s death.
Nagarajah Thesingarajah, 61, and Pushparani Nagarajah, 56
The Brampton couple both tested positive for COVID-19 and later died days apart, leaving their three daughters behind.
Nathan Kathirgamanathan, the couple’s nephew, said his three cousins, aged 29, 22 and 19, “are going through so much pain.”
“It’s sad that they had to go, but there’s a reason why they went together,” he said.
Foon Hay Lum, 111
One of the oldest women in Canada has died of COVID-19.
Lum died on April 24 after contracting the virus in her long-term care home, Mon Sheong Home for the Aged.
She was born in 1909 and survived the Spanish Flu, the World Wars and the Cultural Revolution but died in isolation in Toronto.
There have now been 26 deaths at the long-term care home and Lum’s granddaughter told CTV News that staff at Mon Sheong need help.
“The bodies are going out the door and nobody’s coming in to help these people,” said Helen Lee.
Keith Saunders, 48
Saunders, who worked at a grocery store in Oshawa, Ont., is remembered by his wife.
His wife, Katy Saunders, described her husband as a “sweet, gentle giant,” who “wore his heart on his sleeve.”
“I lost my soulmate and angel. But, he’s now a real angel watching down on me. You fought till your last breath. We will be together again soon.”
John Tsai, 41
Tsai was well-known in the music and hospitality industries in Waterloo Region.
He is remembered as a leader and caring soul by his community.
“John was one of the most dedicated and hard-working people I ever know,” his friend and colleague Chad Yurkin said. “He cared more about others than himself.”
Steven Tsai said he was very sad that he did not get to hug his brother one last time.
“Tell him how much I loved him, and that I would cherish our time together and to say a final goodbye,” he said.
Margaret Rose Cholock, 83
Cholock’s daughter-in-law Jennifer Cholock said the world lost a funny and loving mother and grandmother who loved the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Young and the Restless.
“We are going to miss her so much.”
She hailed from Sydney, N.S. but made Toronto her home with her husband Mike, a fellow east-coaster. He came to visit her every day in her long-term care home. Cholock lived for her daily lunches with her husband of 61 years.
Cholock’s daughter-in-law said while she worked at General Electric, her favourite role was becoming a mother and eventually a grandmother.
Cholock loved marathon phone calls with friends and is being remembered as a compassionate woman with an infectious laugh who loved people and animals.
Her family was forced to stand outside the window of her long-term care facility to say their goodbyes.
“We should have been there with her, we should have been there to hold her hand and say our goodbyes,” Jennifer said. “She was a lovely and caring woman and she deserves so much more.”
Sotos Vlachos, 89
Sotos was the definition of a family man, loved ones said.
His children said he taught them to love deeply, search for the silver lining and stay optimistic. He also told them that in his final days, he wanted a great send-off, surrounded by his beloved family.
In the end, he could have neither.
He contracted COVID-19 at the Hellenic Home for the Aged on April 16. He died on April 22.
“We are relieved that he did not suffer greatly like others in similar situations but sad that this is how it ended,” his daughter, Maria Vlachos, said.
He was born in a small village in Greece. He moved from Athens to Toronto in the 1960s, wooing his future bride Eleni with romantic letters until she joined him in Canada. Together, they built a family and a successful business. When they weren’t working together at their custom shirt-making business, they were spending time with family and friends at their cottage on Lake Simcoe.
His children say he was a character with a magnetic personality who was happiest when he was surrounded by the people he loved.
“We choose to remember my dad in this way as we look back on our memories of him,” his daughter said. “He lived a long and happy life.”
Mubarak Popat, 77
Popat became infected with the virus after travelling to the United Kingdom. He died more than two weeks later in hospital.
He is remembered by his daughter and son-in-law, who both work at the Toronto hospital where he was admitted.
“We could not make physical contact with him, we couldn’t sit in the room,” his son-in-law said. “We wore masks and gowns. We didn’t look like the family members he normally sees and recognizes.”
His daughter said the experience felt “devastatingly isolating,” adding that she was heartbroken that her father had to spend his final moments of his life alone.
“It was unimaginably hard and unimaginable traumatizing.”
Jamal Ali, 45
A popular Scarborough basketball coach is being remembered for the difference he made in the lives of the hundreds of children who passed through his program.
Ali was the head coach of the Scarborough Blues under 12 team.
The 45-year-old had checked himself into hospital after beginning to exhibit symptoms of the virus upon returning from a business trip to England last month, friends have said.
He was then transferred to the intensive care unit once his condition began to deteriorate.
Friends have said that he did not have any pre-existing health conditions.
“He invested a lot of his time in just building their (his players’) character and just their skills. He was just a nice man,” long-time friend Morlan Washington said. “The kids believed in him, they looked up to him and they valued everything he said.”
Ian Cairney, 86
Cairney, who resided at a long-term care home in Toronto, is remembered by his granddaughter.
“He was a fun loving man who loved to joke, laugh and be around family,” Toni Sargent said. “He loved helping others, as a serving brother of the St. John Ambulance.”
Sargent said her grandfather had a tough childhood growing up with polio and living with epilepsy. As he lived through the death of both his parents, his wife and his only sister, “he was the strongest man I ever knew.”
Bernice Fiala, 80
Fiala was admitted to Chatham Kent Health Alliance where she later died of the novel coronavirus.
She is remembered by her daughter, Joanne King, who is a nurse at the health-care facility.
Joanne said the hospital told their family only one person could be by Bernice’s side when death was “imminent.”
“I hugged her. I kissed her,” she said. “I said I was there for her. I said we were all there for her. I just stayed by her side, held her hand, rubbed her hair. Made sure her music was playing, and then set up everybody so they could be there with her.”
Other family members joined Joanne virtually for Bernice’s final moments.
“The four of us were able to be with mom in her last seconds. It was peaceful. There was just a sigh and then she was gone.”
Ron Holliday, 60
Holliday is remembered as a beloved husband and father of triplet girls. He died of COVID-19 suddenly at his London, Ont. home.
An obituary stated that Holliday’s family has been left with emptiness in their hearts.
“You were our rock, the steady hand that helped guide us.”
A family friend said she was “crushed” by Holliday’s death.
“I honestly didn’t think it was real,” Megan Primeau said. “I couldn’t believe it. He was so strong, he was young still. I am heartbroken.”
Ann Olga Cvecich, 85
Cvecich was a natural healer, who loved to sing and was known for her beautiful smile, her family said.
The 85-year-old mother of three and grandmother of six died on Easter Monday after contracting COVID-19.
Cvecich was living at West Park Healthcare Centre in York. While dementia took so much, her daughter said she never lost her laughter or bright smile.
She worked as a nurse at St. Joseph's HealthCare Centre until she retired at 65. When her husband had a massive heart attack and was given only weeks to live, Olga used her caregiving instincts to nurse him back to health. The couple had two and half more years together.
When she wasn’t taking care of others, Cvecich was baking “heavenly” oatmeal cookies and making meticulous cabbage rolls, her daughter Angie Fumo said. She loved to sing hymns or the song La Paloma, her and her husband’s favourite, to her children.
“She was our rock, a devoted mother and grandmother with a strong moral compass and a strong faith. She was proud but so very humble. I am going to miss her more than I believed possible.”
Art Paleczny, 91
Paleczny was once the mayor of Waterloo and was most recently living at a senior’s home in Kitchener.
His 91st birthday was approaching when his family was told they could not be there to celebrate with him due to visitor restrictions at the facility.
“We got the call saying that he had an elevated temperature and they were quite concerned about him,” his daughter Julie Paleczny said.
Julie said she and her siblings then had the chance to celebrate their father’s birthday over video chat.
“We had a chance to tell him we love him, we didn’t want to say goodbye because there’s always hope in your mind when it’s your father, that maybe he could make his way through it,” she said.
Paleczny died the next day, just two days after he first began exhibiting serious symptoms of the virus.
Maria Tomaszewski, 83
Tomaszewski’s son said his mother was left gasping for air in her final moments of life after she contracted COVID-19 at her long-term care home.
Tomaszewski resided at Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto. She died in hospital after battling the virus for more than a week.
The facility is among the more than 100 long-term care homes in Ontario battling an outbreak.
Her son, Henry Tomaszewski said it was devastating and traumatic to watch his mother quickly deteriorate from the illness. Disappointed with the care she was receiving in the home, he rushed his mom to a Mississauga hospital.
"Her condition depleted quite rapidly without us being notified about it," Tomaszewski said. "She was gasping for air … She was really suffering and I wanted to ease that suffering."
Tomaszewski said that while trying to accept the devastating loss of his mom, he is now planning her funeral arrangements.
Mary Louise Loft, 79
Loft’s daughter would always say “I love you to the moon and back” when she would say goodbye to her mom at a Scarborough long-term care home.
It’s something Loft never forgot, even after dementia stripped her of so many other memories.
Her daughter, Sharon Kostov, said that is why her mother was moved into Seven Oaks Long Term Care Home. That’s where she died on April 6.
Loft had four children, many grandchildren and even more foster children.
“My mom would take in babies and children in the middle of the night if needed. She loved them as her own,” said Kostov.
Loft was a foster parent for 25 years. She also loved writing and even had a book of poems published. Many of her poems were about her grandchildren, her children and all their milestones.
Her daughter says she was such a talented baker, friends encouraged her to open a bakery.
Loft is being remembered for baking the best apple pies, playing any instrument by ear and singing her children to sleep.
Jean Zerilla, 95
Zerilla resided at Eatonville Care Centre for nearly 10 years. She was one month shy of her 96th birthday when she died of COVID-19 on April 20.
She came to Canada from the United Kingdom in 1951, her daughter Carol Logan said. She worked as a legal secretary in a number of law firms in Toronto and she loved to paint on the side.
“She will be missed by her three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren,” Logan said.
Logan went on to praise the staff at the facility who cared for her mother for all those years. Zerilla’s sisters also lived at the facility and died in 2014.
“I am grateful to the staff for their care,” she said. “I have known many of them for a long time. They did a wonderful job in caring for her right up to the end.”
William Turnbull, 88
Turnbull, who was better known as Bill, was a resident of a long-term care home in Kitchener.
His niece, Deb Mattina, said her uncle had a passion for wildlife and golf and is being remembered as a kind, friendly and social man.
Mattina said family members were given the option to come with PPE on to say goodbye but because she and her husband are both seniors as well, they were unable to attend.
Martin Frogley, 58
Frogley’s family said he died peacefully on April 15, listening to the music he loved.
Frogley lived in Participation House, an assisted living facility for people with physical and developmental disabilities in Markham. The residence has been hard hit by an outbreak that has affected the vast majority of residents.
Many staff have also been sickened and some walked off the job last Thursday, leaving the home facing critical staffing shortages.
Frogley died at Markham Stouffville Hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.
His family said he will be remembered as “a wonderful son, uncle and the best brother anyone could ever have asked for.”
Patricia “Patty” Baird, 53
Baird died on April 15 after contracting COVID-19 at her assisted living facility.
She lived at Participation House in Markham for the last five years. Patty was the second resident to die.
Earl Baird said his sister tested positive for the virus on Monday and died at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday.
“We all know of this dreadful virus and now our family has been personally affected,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “I cannot describe the pure love and a heart that our universe could not contain that was within Patty.”
Raymond Johnston, 70
Johnston’s family said he was a “good guy” who will be missed immensely.
“Raymond’s parents worked hard to get him into Participation House where he was treated well and loved by his Participation House family,” his brother-in-law, Eddy Adamec, said in a statement.
Johnston died in hospital on April 24 of COVID-19.
A photograph of Johnston has not been provided.
Heather Budway, 56
Budway was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was living at Pinecrest Nursing Home.
An outbreak of COVID-19 was declared at the facility on March 18. More than half of the 65 residents at the facility have died.
Budway's family was told she was suffering from a fever and that her health had taken a turn for the worse two days later. They were told to come down to the long-term care home, where they could be guided to a window to say their goodbyes, but they never got that chance.
“We had stood outside the window for maybe an hour looking at our mom, and trying to be with her,” her daughter Brittany Perry said.
“They opened the curtain and they told us that she had actually passed away. I don’t know how long she was there, passed on her bed.”
Perry said hearing that her mother had died through a window left her “completely heartbroken.”
Michael St. Thomas, 72
Thomas was living at Pinecrest Nursing Home with an underlying respiratory problem when he contracted the virus.
He has been described by his cousin, Patricia Lynn St. Thomas, as “a big guy” who was “just full of heart.” He was an avid volunteer at a local legion.
“He loved his community and family,” she said, adding that he was “an all-around great guy.”
Ted, 91, and Jean Pollock 82
Jean and Ted Pollock we’re married for nearly 30 years and they died within a week of each other.
Ted was 91 and lived at the Pinecrest Nursing Home. Jean went there every day to see her husband. She fell ill first and died.
Ted didn’t have much time to mourn the passing of his wife. Seven days after Jean died, so did Ted.
Jean is being remembered by loved ones as a passionate volunteer at the facility.
Ted is remembered as a retired insurance salesman who loved to fish and hunt.
CONTACT US: If you’ve lost someone to COVID-19, you can share their story with us here.
With files from Avery Haines, Sean Davidson, Nicole Lampa, Chase Banger, Rosie Del Campo, Katherine DeClerq and Mike Walker