INDIANAPOLIS – More than 400,000 people in the United States have now died from COVID-19. This includes an Indianapolis couple who have been married for three decades. Ernest Ronald Wilkins, 66, and his wife Ann Grissom-Wilkins, 59, died one day apart this month after catching COVID-19.
Since March, they have tried to do everything right so as not to get sick. Her family said the couple are very careful because Ronald is diabetic and Ann recently completed radiation therapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Relatives and the couple even decided to video chat Thanksgiving this year to be on the safe side.
“We didn’t want to be that family where they talk about the empty chair,” said Ruth Grissom, Ann’s sister.
Despite taking all precautions, Ruth said the couple signed COVID-19 in early December. It wasn’t long before Ann went to the hospital with severe symptoms.
“It’s been a real roller coaster all along,” said Ruth. “But Ann had four good days and then the bottom fell out from under us.”
A few days after Ann was hospitalized, Ronald was also admitted to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. Ronald’s longtime friend Bryan Bradford encouraged him to leave.
“This was the last conversation I and Ron had,” said Bradford. “And that conversation was, he was really scared of losing his wife.”
Ann went to intensive care on Christmas Eve and was on a ventilator the day after Christmas. Ronald was also put on a ventilator.
“It was a total shock to me knowing how careful both of them are,” said Lyz Wilkins, Ronald’s second cousin.
Not being able to visit her was the hardest part for the family, especially when it was time to say goodbye. Ronald died on January 8th. His loving wife Ann never knew of his death until she died a day later. The couple had three children.
“It’s nothing more than saying goodbye to your sister who you haven’t been able to talk to for a week when she was removed from the ventilator and she can’t talk, she can’t talk, she’s passed out,” she told Ruth .
Ronald retired after 12 years with Allstate Insurance. He has also held jobs at Indianapolis Public Schools and RCA. Ann, a graduate of Butler University, was a former longtime teacher at Indianapolis Public Schools and served for many years with the Indiana State Teachers Association
Ronald and Ann planned to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it was available to them. The family hopes others will take advantage of the opportunity the couple never had.
“We hope it helps someone else, another family,” said Ruth. “So they don’t have to do what we did.”
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