The soft glow of lights outside Danbury Hospital is for the ones who didn’t come home. One of those people, 76-year-old Carole Ann Salvatore. Her family says she died on Christmas Day from complications due to COVID-19 and never got to meet her great-grandchild.
"I just miss her very much,” said her son Frank Salvatore, Jr. “My mom was just a giver. Everything was about family, so we try to keep her memory alive by making sure the family comes together.”
Salvatore’s family took part in Monday night’s vigil. Frank says his dad visits his wife’s grave every day.
Joining them in remembering loved ones lost due to COVID-19, Al Coelho. His 32-year-old son, Jonathan, died in April, leaving behind two children and a wife.
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“He was just the most wonderful person, huge heart. He was all about community service,” said Coelho.
Coelho is a minister at Faith Church in New Milford and visits with patients at Danbury Hospital. Despite losing his son, Coelho continues to visit patients at the hospital. He says it’s what his son would want.
Monday night was about honoring the loved ones no longer with us. The hospital’s nurses and their union organized the event.
“The last year has been horrible. We still have difficulty at times thinking about the patients we were not able to save,” said Janice Stauffer, a Danbury Hospital RN.
Organizers say they also wanted to thank the community for their endless support. Nurses dropped off non-perishable goods to be donated to local food pantries.
“When we were knee-deep in the pandemic, we didn’t have the ability to collectively stop and thank the community. That’s why we’re here today,” said Megan O’Toole, a Danbury Hospital RN.
In the last year, 181 patients at Danbury Hospital died due to COVID-19. Hundreds more survived, but the work is still far from over. And the memories of those who didn’t make it lives on in families, friends, and the nurses who held their hands.
“COVID affects all of us in one way or another, whether we lose a loved one, we know a loved one that’s gone, but we can do our part by social distancing, wearing masks, and if you have the opportunity to get the vaccine, please get it,” said Salvatore.