Family Members Mourn Cedar Rapids Couple Who Died Of COVID Within Hours Of Each Other
COVID-19 has devastated families across the state, killing 3,354 Iowans as of Thursday afternoon. The respiratory disease has taken lives across all 99 counties, among them parents and teachers, coaches and retired judges, refugees and a survivor of the Holocaust. And more than once, the coronavirus has taken married couples who have died within just hours of each other, including Jerry and Rosie Morrow of Cedar Rapids.
The Morrows were together for 47 years. But last month, in just 11 hours and 42 minutes, they were both gone, taken by COVID-19. A double obituary ran in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, at least the third in recent weeks.
It’s a kind of loss that takes your breath away.
For the loved ones of Jerry and Rosie, losing them is losing the people who have held their family together all these years.
"They were people that everybody looked up to them for their troubles. And they was pretty much everybody's counselor. So now we need to find out who's going to be that person to step up," said Dounte Harris, one of Jerry's sons.
Family members say that Mom and Pops, as they were universally known, were loving and powerful, touching everyone they met and teaching their family to love God and each other. And it is a huge family: 39 grandchildren and 47 great grandchildren.
Freida Harris Hobbs, one of Rosie’s daughters, says when any of them needed help, they knew they had a place to stay.
"They basically raised all of us. All these three generations we're talking about, at some point in time they raised," Hobbs said. "She raised a lot of people, besides family."
They say if anyone was struggling to pay for groceries, all they had to do was call and Jerry would have a bag waiting. He himself experienced hunger when he was younger, and made sure no one in his family would have to face that.
"He made sure there was food on the table for everyone. He made sure…he brought us together with the food and the music and the love," said Terriana Harris, the oldest granddaughter.
And Jerry was funny, they said. He loved to liven up a room by teasing people and would even laugh at his own jokes.
When they needed advice or someone to settle a dispute, Harris says Rosie was the one to call.
"If we didn't agree on something, everybody will call Mom. 'Mom, this is what's going on, that's what's going on.' And usually, most of the time, we kind of took her advice and we agreed to disagree," Terriana Harris said.
The family still doesn’t really know how they contracted COVID. It all happened so fast.
Hobbs says Jerry didn’t seem to realize how sick he was. Then a stroke hit.
"The next thing you know, somebody calling me telling me that he's in the hospital, he had a stroke. He drove himself to the hospital," Hobbs said.
Soon after, Rosie started going downhill. Hobbs was with her, bringing her water and checking on her during the night, when she suffered a stroke.
"And then I looked down, this fast, her tongue swelled. So now I can’t hardly understand her. So I call 911. And they come and just that fast…it…the COVID caused that stroke. And then the stroke led up to what it led up to," Hobbs said.
They say both seemed to improve once they were in the hospital, before fading rapidly.
Harris says what agonizes the family is they weren’t able to be with them in their final hours, because of COVID restrictions.
"I begged them, 'just let me go'. Just up...but because it was the COVID floor, they wouldn't. I said 'I just need two minutes'. And they wouldn't. They denied it. They wouldn't let me go up," she said.
Jerry went first, and then Rosie, less than 12 hours later.
Harris can’t help but feel that more could’ve been done to help them through this disease that is overwhelming hospitals across the country.
"I'm glad that they're together, that they went together, but we didn't want to see any of…either one of them go," she said.
Now the family is left with this staggering loss. And the financial cost of two unexpected deaths has been significant, forcing the family to crowdfund funeral expenses on the site GoFundMe.
The family’s advice: take COVID seriously. And learn how to love from a distance.
"They just need to just pay attention and slow down. And love each other for a distance versus in each other's faces," Dounte Harris said.
Jerry and Rosie were the people their family would turn to in times like these. Now they’re having to find new ways to turn to each other.
"Cherish every minute with each other," Terriana Harris added, "because one day it will become a memory."