Siblings find closure a year after COVID-19 thrashed choir

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From front left, Wendy Jensen, Joe Woodmansee, Linda Holeman and Bonnie Dawson, the four children of Carole Rae Woodmansee, are joined by family friend Debbie Blazina, at right, Saturday, March 27, 2021, as they clean the headstone Carole shares with their father, Jim, who died in 2003, at Union Cemetery in Sedro-Woolley, Wash., north of Seattle, prior to a memorial service. Carole died a year ago on the same date in 2020, the day of her 81st birthday, from complications of COVID-19 after contracting it during a choir practice that sickened 53 people and killed two a superspreader event that would become one of the most pivotal transmission episodes in understanding the virus. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash. – SEDRO-With dish soap, brushes and plastic water jugs in hand, Carole Rae Woodmansee’s four children cleaned the gravestone their mother shares with their father, Jim. Each scrub shined engraved letters spelling out their mother’s name and the days of her birth and death: March 27, 1939, and March 27, 2020.

Carole passed away on her 81st birthday.

That morning marked a year since she died of complications of COVID-19 after contracting it during a choir practice that sickened 53 people and killed two — a superspreader event that would become one of the most pivotal transmission episodes in understanding the virus.

For the siblings, the somber anniversary offered a chance at closure after the pandemic stunted their mourning. They were finally holding a memorial befitting of their mother’s footprint in the community.

“The hardest thing is that there was no goodbye. It was like she just disappeared,” said Carole’s youngest child, Wendy Jensen.

After cleaning, the siblings reminisce. They say their father must be happy to be back with his wife of 46 years. They thank them for being good parents and recall how their mother used to say “my” before calling their names and those of other loved ones.

“I was always ‘My Bonnie,’” Bonnie Dawson tells her siblings. “I miss being ‘My Bonnie.’”

“She had been missing Dad for a long time,” eldest sibling Linda Holeman adds. Their father, Jim, passed away in 2003.