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Mourning loved ones lost to COVID-19

Posted at 8:00 PM, Oct 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 22:17:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY — As statewide coronavirus deaths continue to rise, FOX 13 spoke with families who lost love ones to the virus. They want everyone to take the virus seriously so people don't have to experience what they did.

Tresha Kramer lost her father, Lorin Jay Thompson, who went by 'Jay,' to the virus in June.

"I sat in that room and saw my dad just gasping for air," Kramer said.

Thompson celebrated his 89th birthday at the end of May.

"Less than ten days later, he was gone," Kramer said.

Kramer described her father as a cowboy and family man. He spent most of his life on his ranch in Richfield. He owned a sporting goods store, served in the Korean War with the U.S. Army, and was "one of the few gunsmiths in Utah," Kramer said.

But his proudest achievement was his family.

"He was always proud of the fact that he raised 11 children," she added. "Dad was definitely a family man. He loved his kids and loved his wife."

Before the pandemic hit in February, Kramer would visit her father at the Salt Lake Veteran's Home every week.

"For the past eight years, he had been my partner two to three times a week," Kramer said tearfully. "We'd have lunch. I mean, he was my best friend."

But in March, the Salt Lake Veteran's Home was quarantined and closed to visitors due to the pandemic. Kramer was not able to see her father for months.

"I never saw my dad until the night before he died," she said, with a tear rolling down her cheek.

Katie Ward lost her father, John B. Degges, who also died in June from the coronavirus. She said her family had a similar experience.

"Really for the four months before he died, he had been living a very isolated experience," Ward said.

Degges was diagnosed with colon cancer a few years ago, and he had been living at an assisted living facility since then. Ward described her father as a shy man who loved his family and long train rides. She said her father felt fine after he had initially tested positive for COVID-19.

"He was feeling like he was going to beat this," she said. "Like he had a bad cold."

After about a week, his health began to quickly deteriorate.

"We hardly had a chance to wrap our heads around it," Ward said.

Nancy Vanderwerff lost her mother, Joy LaPreal, in May. Vanderwerff said similarly that the moment from her mother's positive COVID-19 test to her death was very fast.

"The test was given on a Monday. The results came back positive on a Tuesday. She passed away on Thursday, and was buried on Friday with no funeral," Vanderwerff said.

She said that the accelerated process meant her family was not able to get the closure they needed and deserved.

"There was no time for closure," she said. "There was no time for anything."

Ward said her family also felt like they lost out on the normal grieving process one goes through when losing a loved one.

"You miss out on a lot of the rituals that you normally have around losing someone," Ward said. "It was really sudden."

Kramer echoed those sentiments.

"Being robbed of the grieving process is probably one of the greatest hurts I feel," she said.

Ward said that although she was able to talk to her father every day, one of the hardest parts of her father's death was knowing that she was not able to be there with him in his final moments.

"I think one of the saddest things is, in the four months leading up to [his death], he hadn't really seen a lot of people," she said.

For Kramer, the loss of her father is still setting in.

"I still think I need to call dad tonight and say goodnight," she said tearfully.