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story.lead_photo.caption Among the lives lost to the coronavirus in Arkansas in September 2020 were (top row, from left) Jimmy Horn, Rosie Holmes, Dorothy Henderson, Rev. Robert Floyd Jr., (bottom row, from left) Elizabeth Hendricks, Mary Ruth “Sissy” House and Linda Joyce Pledger.

A 73-year-old Little Rock woman who enjoyed volunteer work, travel and exercise.

A longtime Baptist preacher, 67, who was a stroke survivor in a Little Rock nursing home.

A 52-year-old Eudora rice mill worker who shared a mobile home with his mother -- until they were hospitalized 175 miles apart with coronavirus complications.

Deaths tied to the covid-19 global pandemic are no longer rare in Arkansas.

At least 1,684 state residents have died from the virus in less than seven months; 371 in September alone, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

The numbers merely hint at the toll. This Arkansas Democrat-Gazette occasional series, "Lives Remembered," focuses on the stories of a few who fought covid-19 and lost their lives.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage »]

Despite a bum knee, Jimmy Horn of Eudora always looked forward to rice-harvesting season at the mill where he had worked nearly three decades.

Then early last month, about Sept. 7, his mother Donnie Sue Horn was taken to a Monroe, La., hospital after falling ill with covid-19.

Within hours, he was rushed to Little Rock by ambulance when he struggled to catch his breath after a shower. A diabetic with high blood pressure, his condition worsened. He spent about four days on a ventilator at Baptist Health-Little Rock as a family member relayed information to his seriously ill, 77-year-old mother.

"I'm not sure, sir, what transpired," she said last week in a phone interview punctuated by sobs and pauses.

"I do know that they put a phone by him, and I talked to him and told him goodbye," she said. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life."

Using public records, the Democrat-Gazette has identified almost 40% of Arkansans -- 146 -- who are known now to have died in September from covid-19.

Following are stories of a few of them, told through family members, friends, coroners' reports, obituaries and other public records. The newspaper generally publishes names and photographs only with family members' permission.

Rosie Holmes, 89, of Pine Bluff, died Sept. 3. The widow and mother of 10 loved gardening and fishing. She was fishing when she met her husband, according to a daughter, Sheila Holmes.

Rosie Holmes

A churchgoer who read the Bible with her children, Holmes valued education and sent two children to a newly integrated school in Wabbaseka. "My mother wanted me to experience better," her daughter said.

Though the two soon left the school because of conflicts surrounding integration, Holmes still taught her children to value their educations. It's one reason her daughter works at a Little Rock school today.

"She was 5-foot or 5-foot-1 little lady, but she had a lot of spunk, she did," her daughter said.

When covid-19 struck and visitors were barred from hospitals and long-term care facilities, family members rotated shifts to stand by Holmes' Jefferson County nursing home window to ensure she wasn't alone.

She couldn't speak, but when they shouted, "she would raise a finger to let us know that she knew we were there," her daughter said.

Dorothy Henderson, 73, of Little Rock, Sept. 3. When she retired as a Quality Foods warehouse worker, Henderson decided to start volunteering.

Dorothy J. Henderson

She signed up to work for North Little Rock's Hays Senior Center, where she already enjoyed exercising. She also volunteered with AARP and began traveling with those groups, visiting Hawaii, the Bahamas and other spots, her husband Reginald Henderson said.

He and his wife met at work and were married for 33 years. They each had two children, and together, 11 grandchildren.

In early August, she wasn't feeling well and struggled to get through one of their regular walks. Because of a history of kidney problems, the couple suspected a recurrence.

Her doctor prescribed medication and sent her home, but she didn't improve. On Aug. 7, five days after her first doctor visit, Reginald Henderson took his wife to CHI St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock where, according to a Pulaski County coroner's report, she tested positive for covid-19.

"That was my last time talking to her, when she was admitted," he said. She died almost a month later.

"She was just a wonderful woman," he said. "Thirty-three years, and nothing to complain about."

A 55-year-old Wrightsville Unit inmate, Wrightsville, Sept. 9. Charged in a September 2019 assault against a woman in Sevier County, he pleaded guilty in February to counts that included weapons possession, assault and terroristic threatening, according to court records. His sentence was eight years.

Covid-19 has been particularly deadly in group living situations like nursing homes and prisons.

According to a Pulaski County coroner's report, he tested positive for the virus on Aug. 4 and was admitted to UAMS Medical Center in Little Rock on Aug. 19 with "acute hypoxic respiratory failure secondary to covid-19."

Mary Ruth "Sissy" House, 64, of Cabot, Sept. 10. She worked "one to two jobs her entire life" to provide for herself and her child, said son Steve Jernigan. She plastered pictures of her two grandchildren, ages 8 and 6, through her work space.

Mary House (Special to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

An employee of the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, House probably contracted the virus at work, he said, because co-workers on her floor also became ill.

About Aug. 10 or 11, she experienced a cough and upset stomach but tested negative for the coronavirus. On Aug. 13, House felt dizzy and her blood pressure dropped. She drove herself to a Sherwood rehabilitation hospital, her son said, where she tested positive. She was diagnosed with pneumonia as well.

"She drove herself because she didn't want to endanger anyone else. She wanted to do things herself. She was a strong-willed woman," Jernigan said.

Transferred to CHI St. Vincent Infirmary's critical care unit, she improved at first. But with underlying medical problems that included diabetes, she began to struggle and was moved to the covid-19 intensive-care unit.

Doctors recommended a ventilator and House seemed "happy and optimistic," her son said. She seemed to slowly improve for about two weeks. Then her oxygen levels dropped and the ventilator and medication didn't help. Her heart stopped, her son said.

Going through her papers, he found numerous letters and notes praising his mother: "What a hard worker, great co-worker, great friend. Those things always come up," he said.

Jimmy Horn, 52, of Eudora, Sept. 12. Horn spent his life in southeast Arkansas, growing up in a town of fewer than 2,000 people just north of the Louisiana border.

James Horn (Special to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

He learned to hunt deer as a boy, a hobby he carried on throughout his life, according to his mother, Donnie Sue Horn. "He loved outside," fishing and hunting, his mother said. "He actually has -- I think it's four deer heads that he's mounted in his room. That's what's on his walls."

After graduating from high school, he worked on his father's farm, growing soybeans and rice. He later joined Producers Rice Mill, where he worked for about 30 years, most recently as a rice grader, his mom said.

At their Baptist church, the older women "said any time they saw him, he had to hug them, hold open the door and carry out their groceries. He was just that type," she said.

When he first fell ill coughing, he assumed it was from dust kicked up by trucks going to the mill, his mother said. When he got worse, he visited his doctor and tested positive for covid-19. She tested positive later.

After both were hospitalized, he struggled to breathe.

"All I can think is that Jimmy was a Christian, and I have always known that God's in control. I think he did this just so that -- maybe it was his way of helping me cope with [Jimmy's] death," his mother said. "It's just like my heart has been torn out."

After her son died, Donnie Sue Horn still faced a lengthy battle with covid-19 infection. After her first hospital release, she was readmitted Sept. 29 with blood clots developed as a result of the virus, she said. She was released again Oct. 2.

Veronica "Ronnie" Mangold, 72, of Gould, Sept. 12. The mother of two was a factory worker until the mid-1970s, when her family could afford for her to become a full-time homemaker, according to a daughter, Lynn King.

Her hobby was photography. After a course at East Arkansas Community College, she enjoyed shooting outdoors, especially landscapes, animals and her daughters riding horses.

Before Mangold felt ill and tested positive for covid-19 on Aug. 21, she had been living at home despite requiring supplemental oxygen for about a year. Around Aug. 28, her daughter said, she was taken by ambulance to Baptist Health-North Little Rock.

As her condition declined, family members couldn't visit because of public health rules to prevent spread of the virus. When doctors called King to say her mother was near death, the long drive kept her from getting to the hospital in time. Even so, she put on protective gear to spend a few minutes at her mother's side.

Mangold's sister, daughter and son-in-law tested positive as well, about the same time as her mother. The others recovered. "The symptoms weren't bad for the rest of us," her daughter said.

Elizabeth Hendricks, 68, of El Dorado, Sept. 13. She majored in French at Northeast Louisiana University, studied in Paris in 1972, graduated a year later and began spreading her love for the French language and culture to public school students in El Dorado.

Elizabeth Hendricks (Special to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

For years, Hendricks was the only French teacher in Union County's public schools.

The birth of her eldest daughter, Ashley Windham, in 1977 was marked by a gift from students of a baby book in the language Hendricks taught. "I found it the other day," said Windham, who remembered speaking French at home while growing up. "She wrote a pretty good bit of it in French."

Hendricks suffered a stroke one year after her 2005 retirement, her daughter said. The ordeal left the right side of her body paralyzed. She moved to Hudson Memorial Nursing Home in El Dorado in 2011. Her husband Dennis died in 2013 from cancer, Windham said.

After a coronavirus test came back positive on Aug. 20, Hendricks was placed in the nursing home's covid-19 wing, Windham said. Family members believe it was a false positive because she showed no symptoms and tested negative twice afterward. Hendricks nonetheless remained in the covid-19 wing, Windham said, until she showed symptoms on Sept. 5.

She was admitted to Baptist Health-Little Rock the next day, according to a coroner's report, where she tested positive for the virus. She went on a ventilator until Windham made the decision Sept. 13 to take her off life support.

"I felt like it was 'Steel Magnolias,' where he signed a clipboard and they took her off life support," Windham said. "I stayed with her. It was peaceful. It was very sad, but peaceful."

A 75-year-old Sherwood man, Sept. 17. He was an Air Force and Arkansas Army National Guard veteran who retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to his obituary.

His obituary also noted he "was a member of the NRA."

A father of three, he tested positive for covid-19 on Aug. 25 and was admitted to Baptist Health-North Little Rock on Sept. 1 with pneumonia, according to a Pulaski County coroner's report.

Linda Joyce Pledger, 77, of Lonoke, Sept. 17. After retiring in 2013 after losing her husband, Pledger decided she "couldn't sit still," according to daughter Renee Haynes.

Linda Joyce Pledger

So she signed on for classes to become a certified nursing assistant and went to work at a nursing home.

"My mamma was healthy. She was 77, but could outwork all of us," her daughter said.

In August, Pledger felt ill and tested positive for covid-19. She went to CHI St. Vincent North in Sherwood with breathing problems and was transferred to CHI St. Vincent in Little Rock. She improved and was sent home, but had to return to the hospital Sept. 3 with internal bleeding. As her condition worsened, doctors put her on a ventilator.

By mid-September, a doctor told Haynes that her mother was too weak to fight covid-19 and the pneumonia. Like many family members during the pandemic, the daughter wasn't allowed to visit.

"I held my daddy's hand when he died," she said. "I held my sister's. But I didn't get to hold hers."

A 90-year-old West Memphis man, Sept. 17. He "never met a stranger," according to his obituary.

When he was younger, the father of four "loved to ride around and listen to country music as well as southern gospel, and joke with his family and friends. He also enjoyed going to church and watching westerns," the obituary continued.

A resident of West Memphis Health and Rehab, his cause of death was listed as Alzheimer's with complications of covid-19, according to a Crittenden County coroner's report.

A 64-year-old Benton man, Sept. 20. The husband and father of three worked as a sales executive, according to his obituary, and "adored his family and friends."

"He was always reaching out to ensure they knew they were loved...He enjoyed boating, skiing, hunting, cards, dominoes, and anything that brought his family together," the obituary continued.

He was quarantined at home after testing positive for the covid infection, according to a Saline County coroner's report, but had a heart attack. He died in the emergency room at Saline Memorial Hospital. Cause of death was heart attack and respiratory failure from covid-19, according to the coroner.

A 77-year-old Springdale woman, Sept. 22. She worked for almost 40 years at Baldwin Piano Co. and 11 years for Walmart Optical Lab, according to her obituary.

A widow and mother of two stepchildren, her greatest joys were helping others and "enjoying all the little ones as they grew up. All of her nieces and nephews thought they were her favorite," the obituary continued.

For fun, she enjoyed gardening, cooking, and decorating cakes. Those cakes went to Maine, California, Washington, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri and to friends and family in Arkansas.

She died at Northwest Medical Center in Springdale with suspected "bilateral pneumonia secondary to covid-19," according to a Washington County coroner's report.

An 86-year-old Helena-West Helena woman, Sept. 22. She was a mother of 14 children who worked at Helena Chemical Co. until retirement, according to her obituary.

Described as a devoted parent, she "loved listening to music, traveling, shopping and attending church."

She was admitted to Baptist Health-North Little Rock on Sept. 17 with "respiratory distress secondary to covid-19," according to a Pulaski County coroner's report.

Rev. Robert Floyd Jr., 67, of Little Rock, Sept. 25. A longtime Baptist preacher, Floyd served in churches throughout Central Arkansas, according to his wife, Jewell Floyd. For 25 years, he was pastor at Greater Unity Missionary Baptist Church in North Little Rock.

Robert Floyd, Jr.

Away from church work, "he liked fishing, but we didn't do it often," his wife said. "He liked basketball. He coached and he played when he was young."

The Little Rock native and father of six suffered a stroke in about 2013 that affected one arm. "He was still in pretty good shape," his wife said. A second stroke in 2017 left him disabled; by 2019 he required nursing home care.

Still, his family took him home for frequent visits until March, when the pandemic barred visitors from nursing homes.

"I don't know who came in" to the nursing home with the virus, his wife said, "but he caught it."

The family was notified Aug. 24 that Floyd had tested positive but was asymptomatic, she said. Later he ran a fever and eventually experienced difficulty breathing. He was rushed to Baptist Health-Little Rock on Sept. 20.

An 89-year-old Barling woman, Sept. 26. The widow and mother of three daughters grew up in a large family.

She was "the last survivor of 22 children," her obituary noted.

A resident at Ashton Place Health and Rehab, she tested positive on Sept. 18, according to a Sebastian County coroner's report. Cause of death was listed as "acute respiratory failure [and] covid-19."

A 93-year-old Fort Smith woman, Sept. 27. A lifetime Alma resident who moved to a Fort Smith nursing home, she was a wife and mother of three who loved teaching preschool children through Head Start and other schools, according to her obituary.

She also enjoyed sporting events. She was "an avid Alma Airedales and Arkansas Razorbacks fan. Whether watching in person or listening to games on the radio, she would be one of the loudest and most loyal fans," her obituary said. She also liked gardening, traveling, sewing and collecting dolls.

She died of Alzheimer's and covid-19, according to a Sebastian County coroner's report.

An 84-year-old Stuttgart man, Sept. 28. Less than 24 hours after his death that was connected with covid-19, his 81-year-old wife also died, according to their obituary. Records don't indicate her cause of death.

His career included work as a truck driver and machinist. His wife was employed by Riceland Foods until retirement. Together they had two sons, according to the obituary, and were married 63 years.

He was admitted to Baptist Health-Little Rock on Sept. 25 with shortness of breath and tested positive for covid-19, according to a Pulaski County coroner's report.

Atkins School Superintendent Jody Jenkins, 57, of Atkins, Sept. 29. A longtime educator, Jenkins was a coach and teacher at Magnet Cove and Russellville Public Schools, a principal at Ozark High School and Johnson County Westside and director of the Alma Opportunity School at Alma, according to his obituary.

A graduate of Atkins High School in 1981, he returned to his alma mater as superintendent in July, 2019. His colleagues said working for the Atkins School District had always been his dream.

"He loved this school," said Darrell Webb, interim superintendent, who has known Jenkins since the 1970s when they were classmates at Atkins. "He loved the community. When that happens, teachers and kids can sense that."

Jenkins could be seen daily standing at the carpool line greeting students as they arrived, Webb said. He rarely missed a sporting event. He visited with kids during lunch. Outside work, he was an active member of Atkins First Baptist Church.

The husband and father of two announced Sept. 13 on the school district's Facebook page that he had contracted the coronavirus, saying his symptoms were mild. But his illness worsened, with blood clots forming in his legs and aorta. He was placed on a ventilator.

Jenkins' funeral service was held at the Atkins School District's Sorrels Stadium to accommodate crowds of mourners.

Information for this article was contributed by Jeannie Roberts of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Finding the victims

There's no central source of public information that lists covid-19 victims in Arkansas by name.

State health officials supply general information about cumulative numbers of victims, ages and counties.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette contacts county coroners for the state's 75 counties to obtain death reports, which are the only public records that contain more detailed information, including names, addresses and causes of death.

Sometimes coroners delay supplying death records, and coroners don't receive information for some deaths that happen in hospitals. The newspaper has been able to identify about 43% of Arkansas' covid-19 victims.

In addition to investigating coroners' death reports, reporters examine obituaries and contact victims' families.

In some cases, family members speak about their loved ones' illnesses and give permission to publish names and photographs. When the family declines or can't be reached, names are generally withheld for this article.

If you have lost a loved one to the coronavirus and want to share that story, contact:

Eric Besson

email: [email protected]

phone: (985) 791-5375

Kat Stromquist

email: [email protected]

phone: (504) 512-0726

Ginny Monk

email: [email protected]

phone: (501) 960-0945

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