Remembering Ohio’s first COVID-19 death

Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 6:30 AM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - One year ago, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine offered a somber and sober announcement, offering condolences to the family of the first person in Ohio to die from COVID-19.

Toledo’s Mark Waggoner Sr., 76, was the first of nearly 18,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the state.

“It’s a surreal experience,” Mark Waggoner Jr. said, “a first nobody wants to have. Through happenstance, we happen to be the first family who had a loss in Ohio.”

In the days and weeks before his father died, Waggoner Jr. said his father had been traveling and working. When the longtime lawyer and prominent figure in Ohio politics got sick, family members didn’t first think of COVID-19.

“He had pneumonia a couple of weeks before,” Waggoner Jr. said. “When he first went into the hospital, we assumed it was (pneumonia). It just so happened the day he went into the hospital was the first day hospitals were shut down and you couldn’t have visitors.”

Waggoner Sr. died on March 18, 2020, but with everything involving COVID being worked out, the family wouldn’t get the results of his positive COVID test until two days later.

“At the time, people didn’t really know what the impact was,” Waggoner said. “It was a really strange time, and it’s been a long year in many ways.”

A year no one saw coming, leaving a lot of time for reflection.

“I Think of him more than all the time,” Waggoner said. “One of the great things that my dad left us with is a very close family.”

Through the last year and everything that it’s brought, Waggoner said there have been times for a laugh or two.

“My dad would have absolutely complained about wearing a mask,” Waggoner said. “He would have absolutely worn one. He would have had a couple of funny jokes about the masks. He would have complained that he couldn’t get to his favorite restaurant and that he wasn’t able to watch the Indians and Browns the way he wanted to, but at the end of the day, he would have recognized that those decisions were made to keep us all safe.”

Waggoner said it’s not lost on the family the gift their father left behind.

“You realize that we’re heart for a short while,” Waggoner said. “What can we do to make things a little better? What’s our legacy, right? One of the tricky things when you lose a parent, you wonder what their impact was. What you really realize as kids and grandkids is how they live on through all of us.”

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