Families mark 1,000 COVID deaths by remembering lives lost

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — More than 1,000 Rhode Islanders have died from COVID-19. The State House marked the grim milestone with lights.

But some are marking it by remembering the lives behind the numbers.

That includes Bill and Jill Caldarone, known as Bill and Jill of Federal Hill, who were together 82 years.

For decades, Bill served in the Marines, sending Jill letters from abroad to express his love.

“Romantic and proper,” said their son, Ron. “It wouldn’t be like today’s letter. They were just a different generation.”

In addition to helping raise their children, Jill was known for running a square-dance club and founding a garden club.

They had moved into a nursing home just a few months before they both contracted COVID-19.

Family was only able to see them over Zoom.

“Be careful what you ask for,” Ron said. “It was awful. I hope no one sees their parents like I saw them.”

Bill was the state’s oldest Marine when he died, two weeks before Jill — both at age 100.

The family experiencing that rare kind of pain so emblematic of our times — the pain of not being able to say goodbye in person.

“I’d been with them so many years, almost on a daily basis,” Ron said. “And not to be there in the end — it just tore my heart out.”

But Ron is thankful to the staff, particularly a nurse who told him this about those final moments:

“I was holding your mom’s hand, and I kept telling her that, ‘Your Marine, Bill, is waiting for you. He wants you to be with him. And she said, ‘within a minute of my saying that, she passed.’”

Ron says it gives him some solace, and is a moment he remembers when he hears the numbers.

“Everybody has a story,” he said. “Every number represents a life lived.”

Ron adds that his parents’ lives of service to others inspired him to work in social services.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Regional News, Rhode Island