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story.lead_photo.caption Among the lives lost to the coronavirus in Arkansas in October 2020 were (top row, from left) Pastor George Autrey Dudley, Arno Tourel, Margaret “Jeanne” Cook, Donald Braswell, Barbara Franke, Litokwa Tomeing, (bottom row, from left) Mark Fields, Kimberly Flanery, Richard “Ric” Stripling, Jimmy Hynum and William Harper Jr.

A former president of the Marshall Islands, 80, living in Springdale.

A 53-year-old Brinkley musician and teacher.

A European grand opera singer, 95, who migrated to Little Rock.

A 73-year-old North Little Rock plant and garden enthusiast.

They are among some 2,337 Arkansans who have lost their lives since March to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

As Arkansas and the U.S. enter another surge of the covid-19 pandemic, which scientists warn will be the worst yet, daily numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths routinely set records now.

This Arkansas Democrat-Gazette occasional series, "Lives Remembered," looks beyond the numbers to tell the stories of fellow Arkansans claimed by the virus. Those featured below are among at least 541 who died in October, according to the state Department of Health.

[LIVES REMEMBERED: Read more stories of Arkansans who have died of covid-19 » arkansasonline.com/livesremembered/]

Talking to the newspaper about their loved ones, survivors also considered how to control the swelling pandemic. Many advised: Follow public health guidelines every day, without fail.

Angela Hynum, who lost her husband, Jimmy, a Palestine-Wheatley music teacher, said the couple wore masks and avoided gatherings for months. Then as schools reopened this fall and virus cases seemed to level off, a local church invited them to take lead roles in a musical program. They said yes.

"We were all feeling too safe. We felt comfortable. That was stupid," she said. "We paid the ultimate price."

Wilma Crowder, whose uncle Arno Tourel was healthy and active in his 90s, said: "I know there's a lot of people that are not complying with things we are told to do. Half the people still won't wear their masks, won't keep their distance and won't stop taking a bunch of people at one time into gatherings.

"I don't know where we're going to go from here, but it's not good."

Richard "Ric" Stripling, 67, of Gentry, died Oct. 1. Co-owner and operator of a home for adults with disabilities, he worked in sales before discovering, almost 20 years ago, a passion for serving disabled adults, according to friends and family.

Pathfinder Inc. of Jacksonville, provider of vocational training for the disabled, asked Stripling's wife, Debbie, in 2003 to start a skills training center in Northwest Arkansas. "He left [sales] to come help me," she said.

As transportation director, "he did so much more than his title gives him credit for," said Ashley Hammer, a Pathfinder director for Northwest Arkansas. "He not only managed a fleet of drivers, but also assisted with transporting clients to and from the day program, helped with Special Olympics, family food baskets, supervised special client activities on weekends and assisted with overall day-to-day operations."

After retirement in 2016, the Striplings bought the Apple Crest Inn in Gentry to house disabled adults already living with them, according to Joshua Hagan, who worked with Stripling in real estate.

"(His) life was spent making other lives better," Hagan said.

One of the inn's residents became fatigued and eventually tested positive for covid-19. Ric Stripling became sick along with others in the house, including his daughter and son-in-law.

All recovered, except the father of four, who had underlying health conditions, said his wife. He tested positive Sept. 19, according to a Benton County coroner's report, and died 12 days later at Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas in Rogers.

Arno Tourel, 95, of Little Rock, Oct. 3. Born in affluence in 1925 Italy, Tourel's family fortunes tumbled after the rise of fascist Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, niece Wilma Crowder said.

With World War II raging as he reached adulthood, Tourel nonetheless cultivated a love of culture and an insatiable desire for learning that would define the life he made in the United States.

Before settling in Arkansas, Tourel traveled throughout Europe, singing as a tenor in a grand opera. In the '50s, he moved to Oklahoma. He made friends and followed them to Arkansas. Later, Tourel's parents joined him, Crowder said.

Tourel taught voice and joined the performing arts program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, his niece said. He worked in eclectic fields. He learned and taught violin, appraised antiques, styled hair, managed a restaurant, and reviewed manuscripts for obscure and well-known authors, Crowder said. She estimates that her uncle completed about 10 degrees, several at the doctoral level.

"He was a highly educated man -- he had so many degrees you wouldn't believe it," Crowder said. "If he had his way, he would have been going to school up until the last day of his life.

Tourel planned to live past 100 and was in good health, Crowder said.

In late September after he began struggling to "get up and move," she took him to the hospital. Admitted to Baptist Health-Little Rock with blood clots, he soon tested positive for covid-19. It's not clear how he contracted the coronavirus, his niece said. Everyone in contact with him tested negative.

Margaret "Jeanne" Cook, 96, of North Little Rock, Oct. 6. Daughter Beverly Williams got several calls from friends after her mother's death, saying they still had this piece or that of Cook's artwork in their homes.

Her mother loved to paint images of flowers, Santas, even a parade of animals on the wall of the children's wing at her North Little Rock church. "Anything that she could find that looked plain, boring, like a box or a pan, she would take it and then it would be on your wall hanging," Williams said.

Her mother also loved to sing, especially hymns and 1940s Big Band music.

Cook worked as a registered nurse for more than 40 years, specializing in geriatric care. After she retired, she started volunteering at her church and at Baptist Health-North Little Rock, where she worked at the gift shop and as president of the volunteer association.

The mother of two lived alone after her husband's death before moving recently into Lakewood Nursing and Rehab in North Little Rock. She tested positive for covid-19 Sept. 28, according to a Pulaski County coroner's report and was admitted Oct. 5 to Baptist Health-North Little Rock, where she had done volunteer work.

Her daughter said nurses who called to update the family on Cook's condition often knew and recognized her.

Cook had "lots of friends and was extremely loved, and she's missed every day," Williams said.

Barbara Franke, 73, of North Little Rock, Oct. 8. Part of the family that started long-running Little Rock restaurant Franke's Cafeteria, she chose to pursue other passions that included plants and working in nurseries, said her son, Brian Baker.

"We could drive down the street, and she'd be pointing out things, all kinds of plants, to me," he recalled. "You name it, she knew it."

After a divorce and raising two sons, Franke lived in her North Little Rock home for more than 40 years. Her cheese dip was a family favorite, and she was known for her positive outlook, her son said.

"She was funny. She would just keep you laughing, always had a great sense of humor," he said. She never seemed "down or depressed."

Later, with health problems that included congestive heart failure and COPD, she moved to Lakewood Health and Rehab in North Little Rock, according to her son.

She tested positive for covid-19 after returning to the nursing home from a hospital visit, Baker said. She entered hospice care in late September. Her son attributed her death largely to existing ailments. "It wasn't just straight covid," he said.

A 56-year-old Mammoth Spring woman, Oct. 8. Valedictorian in high school, she became a registered nurse, then went on to earn bachelor's degrees in biology and nursing, and a master's in education, according to her obituary.

Her "enjoyment on this earth included her horse, music, reading, traveling, golf and fly fishing. Her trophy was a 5½ lb. rainbow trout she caught on her fly rod." She died at Baptist Health-Little Rock about three weeks after testing positive for covid-19, according to a Pulaski County coroner's report.

A 45-year-old Sherwood man, Oct. 10. A De Queen native, "it was only fitting" that he met his wife at a Razorback game in 2014, according to his obituary. "They instantly fell in love and married four months later."

He "was passionate about many things in life, but he especially enjoyed deer hunting, golfing, fishing and all things Razorbacks."

Fighting a long battle with kidney failure, he was admitted to Baptist Health-North Little Rock on Sept. 19 with shortness of breath, then tested positive for covid-19, according to a Pulaski County coroner's report.

Litokwa Tomeing, 80, of Springdale, Oct. 12. The former president of the Republic of the Marshall Islands died at his daughter's home, according to an article posted on the Marshall Islands government website.

A tribal chieftain, Tomeing was the fourth president of the republic between 2008 to 2009, and held earlier posts that included speaker of the Nitijela (Parliament) and vice speaker. He was a senator from 1979 until his retirement in 2018, according to the government website. He was also a teacher and curriculum specialist in Marshall Islands schools.

The central Pacific island chain, under U.S. control since World War II, was granted independence in 1979. Its 2018 population was 58,413, according to the World Bank.

Tomeing, who helped form the republic in 1979, lost a "no-confidence" vote in October 2009 and had to leave office, according to news accounts.

A message of condolence from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Tomeing a "seminal figure in the founding institutions of his nation, including his role in the Marshall Islands Constitutional Convention."

One of his greatest legacies, Pompeo said, was "successfully advocating for the establishment of the nation's first consulate in the United States in Springdale, Arkansas, to serve what is now the largest Marshallese community outside of the Marshall Islands."

A Washington County coroner's report said Tomeing died of end-stage COPD and covid-19, for which he had tested positive.

William Harper Jr., 71, of Redfield, Oct. 12. A commercial fisherman and dirt-track racer, Harper battled covid-19 for more than a month, according to a Pulaski County coroner's report and his daughter, Billie Branch.

She requested that doctors stop sedating her father so the family could ask whether he wanted a tracheostomy -- a tube inserted into his windpipe to carry oxygen to his lungs. Weakened after about two weeks on a ventilator, Harper rejected the tube, communicating with nods and blinks, said Branch, 45.

"'Do you understand what this means?'" she asked him. "He shook his head yes. 'You realize you're going to go to heaven?' He said yes. 'Are you sure this is what you want,' and he shook his head yes."

The coroner's report says Harper was "of sound mind asking to be extubated."

"I think he was just tired," Branch said. "That wasn't him. They had already invaded him," she said, noting that the man who "looked like Santa Claus" was dismayed to find his long silvery hair and beard shorn. "He made me promise him not to leave him up there struggling. At times, I have second thoughts."

Harper was born in Kirkland, Wash., and grew up in Omaha, Neb., Branch said. He moved to Arkansas as an adult to be close to family.

A father of five, he fished for buffalo and catfish on the Arkansas River and sold his catch to fish markets. His kids helped him work on Bomber-class stock cars that he drove on dirt tracks.

"He was always happy," Branch said. "Always."

Donald Braswell, 77, of Vilonia, Oct. 14. He enjoyed camping, hiking and watching spaghetti Westerns -- especially those featuring actor Clint Eastwood, said a daughter, Kandi Braswell.

Born in Alva, Okla., he served in the U.S. Air Force and lived "all over." He and wife Wanda's family included two daughters and a son from the couple's previous marriages.

Braswell arrived in Arkansas via a job assembling planes with the company now called Dassault Falcon Jet Corp. Introverted but devoted to his family, he escorted his daughters to Star Trek conventions and once sold a car to afford a doll for one of them. The family made weekly trips to a favorite roadside stand that served hot dogs and soft-serve ice cream.

In recent years, Braswell experienced early stages of dementia. He was living in an assisted-living facility when he fell ill with pneumonia. His daughter believes he contracted covid-19 in a rehabilitation facility after a hospital stay.

On Oct. 9, she learned that he had been hospitalized at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff, where he suffered seizures and strokes because of covid-19. The family chose to stop treatment after a scan showed no brain function.

They were able to say goodbye through a video call, "so technically he wasn't alone," she said. "There are some days that are harder than others," she added. "Some days I'll just start crying out of nowhere."

Mark Fields, 58, of North Little Rock, Oct. 16. The Arkansas native enjoyed football and working out, and hoped to start a business repairing computers and televisions, according to his daughter, Maya Fields.

He worked as a mentor at the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center in Alexander, a state lockup and treatment facility for youths.

One of a large family of brothers and sisters, Fields was outgoing and liked helping people, even those he didn't know, his daughter said. A deacon at church, he enjoyed reading the Bible and watching the Dallas Cowboys.

"He was a God-loving man who worked hard and dedicated his life to the Lord," she said.

His daughter believes he contracted covid-19 while working in the juvenile lockup at Alexander.

"It hit him pretty quickly," she said. He was admitted to CHI St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock on Sept. 17 with shortness of breath, according to a Pulaski County coroner's report. Fields was on a ventilator and other life-support machines, she said. He tested positive for covid-19 as late as Oct. 15, the day before he died.

His medical history included diabetes and high blood pressure. "He had underlying medical conditions that made it hard for him to fight off the virus," his daughter said.

Rex Ellison, 55, of Hoxie, Oct. 18. A local wrestler, he was best known for performing in rings in Tuckerman and Walnut Ridge, according to his brother Mark Ellison.

In the ring, he went by the name "Sexy" Rex Ellison. To those close to him, he was known for his abundant kindness and love of art and fishing, his brother said.

In September, he purchased a fly-fishing rod while preparing to undergo chemotherapy for multiple myeloma cancer at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

The brothers planned to go fishing in Mammoth Spring, near the Missouri border, once Rex was released from the hospital.

While undergoing cancer treatment, he contracted the virus, his brother said. Rex Ellison tested positive on Sept. 24, according to a coroner's report and died a little more than three weeks later, according to a Pulaski County coroner's report.

"He never got to use it," his brother said of the fishing rod.

A 79-year-old Springdale woman, Oct. 19. A Northwest Arkansas native, she "enjoyed shopping and knew name-brand clothing and makeup so well that she leveraged that into a position in retail sales for a period of time in Tulsa and Springdale," according to her obituary.

The mother of three was a resident at Springdale Health and Rehabilitation Center when she tested positive for covid-19, according to a Washington County coroner's report.

A 77-year-old Harrison man, Oct. 21. He moved with his family to Flippin at age 9, and played basketball and baseball for the Flippin Bobcats, according to his obituary. After marrying and moving to Harrison, he went from working in heating and cooling to an engineering position with a local hospital, where he stayed for 40 years.

His interests included "raising beagles, fishing, camping, watching and playing sports, music and genealogy," the obituary said. He tested positive for covid-19 and died at Washington Regional Medical Center with the suspected cause of respiratory failure due to covid-19, according to a Washington County coroner's report.

Pastor George Autrey Dudley, 88, of Alexander, Oct. 24. A longtime church pastor, he and his wife, Joyce, founded the Christ Church in Little Rock in 1975. He served as pastor until turning over his duties to his son, Sean Dudley, last year.

He was "called to preach at 16," according to his wife. "He could relate to the richest person, to the poorest person, it didn't matter."

In addition to his church duties, Dudley was an entrepreneur whose businesses included Curley's BBQ, according to his obituary. He and his wife "served the best BBQ, foot-longs, and hot tamales in town." He also enjoyed hunting, fishing and playing dominoes.

The father of four was admitted Oct. 17 to Baptist Health-Little Rock after testing positive for covid-19. He died in the intensive care unit a week later, according to a Pulaski County coroner's report.

"He was true blue, he was the same on Monday as he was on Sunday," his wife said.

Jimmy Hynum, 53, of Brinkley, Oct. 29. A music teacher at Palestine-Wheatley Elementary School, Hynum was "well-liked, well-loved and well-respected by everyone," Superintendent Jon Estes said. "He will be crazily, crazily missed. It will be a hard hit on everyone."

Hynum had worked for the school district for about a decade, Estes said.

A devoted student of the tuba and euphonium, he earned regional and state honors in high school, and continued his band and music studies at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, according to his obituary.

"After 10 years and 16 days of dating, Jimmy married the love of his life in a nuptial Mass at Holy Rosary Catholic Church," the obituary said. Although he and wife, Angela, had no children of their own, "as teachers, God blessed them with hundreds of Hynum Babies of all ages who filled their lives with love, joy, and laughter."

The couple contracted covid-19 within hours of each other last month, and believe they were infected at a church choir rehearsal, his wife said. They thought they were improving -- then he worsened and had to be hospitalized. When doctors said her husband might need a ventilator, she talked to a favorite nurse about speaking with him first by phone.

"Jimmy wasn't able to talk very much. I said, 'I love you' and he said, 'I love you' several times," his wife said. "Later that night I called back to see if they put him on the vent. The nurse said no, 'but I'll let you talk to him one more time.'

"I'm grateful I got to talk to him twice."

Kimberly Flanery, 55, of Paragould, Oct. 30. A food service worker for 16 years in the Paragould School District, she tested positive for covid-19 several days before her death, according to an email from Superintendent Debbie Smith.

"Her daily dose of positivity and humor will be long remembered by the many children and adults she served. We loved Kim and will miss her greatly," Smith said.

The wife and mother enjoyed boating and fishing, and "fiercely loved her family and friends," according to her obituary.

Flanery's brother, Joshua Carpenter, said during her memorial service that his sister once happened upon an angry driver honking at him, while Carpenter was out for a run near an elementary school.

His sister began arguing back with the driver, said Carpenter, pastor at Grace United General Baptist Church in Paragould.

"There's not too many 40-year-old men who have a sister who'd go get in a fight for them in a school parking lot. But that's the kind of sister I have," he said.

Information for this article was contributed by Ginny Monk, Janelle Jesson, Lisa Hammersly, Andy Davis and Lara Farrar of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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