It was so sudden and terrifying. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, people we knew suddenly couldn’t breathe, suddenly were rushed to the hospital or not and suddenly died – sometimes in a matter of days.
In the first month, March 2020 — 65 people died in Florida.
In the second month, nearly 1,300.
At the end of 2020 — nearly 22,000.
Palm Beach County suffered nearly 2,000 deaths by the end of the first year.
By the first week in June 2022, it was nearly 75,000 in the state and about 5,000 in the county.
The United States hit the mark of 1 million deaths by mid-May, two years and two months since the pandemic began.
The Palm Beach Post in the early days of the pandemic set off to write an obituary for everyone who died in Palm Beach County, but we were quickly overwhelmed.
The grim toll went way beyond the numbers:
There was Mark Greenberg, 88. The first person to die in Palm Beach County was an ad man for a major New York publisher, rubbing elbows with the likes of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and fitness guru Richard Simmons.
There was Reno Boffice, 61, upper school principal of a local charter school whose sister was pleading to the community in order to get him plasma treatment … but it was too late.
There was the inseparable Boynton Beach couple, Vincent and Edna Daddario, 87, and 84, respectively, who were married for 60 years and died two days apart.
There was Michael Garone, 91, the former nurse, police officer and ballplayer who was once mistaken for a mob hitman.
And so many, many more …
Christine Armour, 88, West Palm Beach
When retired postal worker Christine Delores Armour went to the Good Samaritan Medical Center emergency room in mid-March, a doctor asked the 88-year-old how she was, and she said, “I’m not used to sitting still.”
She had worked in the U.S. Postal Service for three decades and been active in her church and community right up until early March, when she came down with what turned out to be pneumonia.
“They called her the Eveready bunny,” daughter Patricia Armour said.
Lost to coronavirus:Retired postal worker ‘not used to sitting still’
Julian ‘Dick’ Bernstein, 88, Boca Raton
The virus came for Dorothy Bernstein’s husband first, then it stole her solace.
With children out of state, wary of travel, and friends in self-isolation, Bernstein was left to grieve in solitary confinement the loss of her husband of 60 years. Julian “Dick” Bernstein died March 28 at Boca Raton Regional Hospital from pneumonia and COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Lost to coronavirus:Becoming a widow in quarantine
Norman Mintz, 85, Boca Raton
A retired Columbia University administrator traveled several weeks ago to a memorial service in New York.
Then, his son said, 85-year-old Norman Mintz “came back home. And died.”
Norman Mintz was an academic who, decades earlier, scaled the ranks at Columbia to serve as its executive vice president for academic affairs; he was an intellectual, a reader and social mingler who curated a wealth of knowledge, said his sons Douglas and Geoffrey.
Lost to coronavirus:Columbia administrator loved academia, the arts
Peter Szabo, 67, Hypoluxo
Peter Szabo fled the Soviet Union with his wife. And the electrical engineering professor endured a legal battle with his employers at Florida Atlantic University. But he was killed by something he couldn’t see.
Szabo died March 27 from the coronavirus at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis. He was 67.
“He was very smart. Extremely intelligent. Outgoing,“ his wife, Raisa, said. ”A very good human being.“
Lost to coronavirus:Ex-FAU professor survived Soviets, but not virus
Azade, ‘Azzie’ Kilic, 69, Delray Beach
In teal gloves, a blue surgical mask and a black dress, Deniz Kilic stood with a handful of friends at a safe distance on April 5 to bury her mother.
Though they were not allowed to sit in seats at Palm Beach Memorial Park, likely a restriction to reduce the potential spread of coronavirus, she knelt before a single folding chair to face her open laptop.
There, on the screen, nearly 50 friends and family members sat in a video conference to say goodbye to Azade “Azzie” Kilic.
Lost to coronavirus:A visitor from New York dies in Delray
Norman Feinberg, 89, Palm Beach Gardens
Norman Feinberg built a men’s apparel company in an age where deals were made face-to-face, on a handshake and based on relationships cultivated by road-worn salesmen.
The 89-year-old, who founded the firm Mannor Corp. in 1972, died of complications from pneumonia and the coronavirus on March 28 at JFK Medical Center.
Lost to coronavirus:Old school salesman, designer, apparel king
Meryl Salkin, 84, Lantana
Meryl Salkin didn’t think she would fall in love again after her husband of 30 years, George, passed away.
The romantic in Ken Lassiter changed that.
“I’ve never been with anybody so beautiful that was so easy to love,” Lassiter, 85, said. “We felt like teenagers.
Lost to coronavirus:A love for the ages cut short by COVID-19
Tom Cracium, 77, South Palm Beach
It started off as a happy spring break vacation. There was pool time at grandpa’s oceanside South Palm Beach condo, walks along the beach and a trip to Lion Country Safari where Tom Craciun and his twin granddaughters fed the giraffes.
Less than two weeks later, Craciun was dying from coronavirus. His daughter, Nancy Jean Pierce, and her family were back home in Austin, Texas, suffering from fevers and chills.
Lost to coronavirus: Daughter feels ‘so lied to’ after vacation ends with infections, dad’s death
Adrian Baker, 72 and Stuart Baker, 74, Boynton Beach
To those who knew them, Stuart and Adrian Baker were the kind of people “who did things unconditionally,” said their son-in-law, Antonio De Corral.
“They were wonderful people, who had a lot of friends and family, always willing to help out, and were very loved by their neighbors here and in New York and other areas.”
But then they got sick from coronavirus.
Lost to coronavirus:Boynton area couple die within six minutes of one another
Susan Gottsegen, 74, Palm Beach
She was surprised by how much she and her husband, Peter, liked Palm Beach, one friend wrote on a deaths tribute page, about Susan McPherson Gottsegen after she died of complications from COVID-19.
“More time for each other and involvement with the music she loved,” said Cynthia De Carlo.
Lost to coronavirus:Palm Beach music lover, patron
Carole Brookins, 76, Palm Beach
A Town of Palm Beach resident who tested positive for the coronavirus has died, and town officials said Thursday that the number of cases has grown to six.
Carole Brookins, according to a tweet by Joe Glauber, a senior fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, was a former U.S. executive director at the World Bank.
Lost to coronavirus:Former World Bank exec is first Palm Beach fatality
Leona Thorner, 85 and Selwyn Thorner, 89, Delray Beach
Leona Thorner never forgot to write a card for a birthday or anniversary.
Selwyn Thorner was always someone a person could rely on.
The “matriarch and patriarch of the Thorner clan” and “the glue that held the family together,” as his 79-year-old brother, Robert, said, had been married for 65 years.
They died three days apart. Both tested positive for the coronavirus.
Lost to coronavirus:Together 65 years, Delray-area couple die three days apart
Ron Ross, 87, Boca Raton
Ron Ross’ hospital nurses promised his daughters they would call when he started to die.
In the same moment that call came, so, too, did a call from his wife’s nurse. She was in the same hospital as her husband also infected with the virus, and told her daughters she wanted to leave.
Lost to coronavirus: Florida Boxing Hall of Fame inductee dies
Irish Mensh, 79, Palm Beach Gardens
One of the best things about getting older is the freedom to do whatever you darn well please. But Iris Mensh always did that anyway.
“She would cook a very well-rounded meal for everyone, but she never touched a vegetable,” said Iris’ daughter Kimberly Weinberg, laughing. “She would make us eat Brussel sprouts, but she would never eat them.”
Lost to coronavirus:Beauty queen took a bite out of life, but never veggies
Howard Garlin, 89, Boynton Beach
Korean War veteran Howard Garlin fell ill on his 89th birthday.
His companion of 15 years, Iris Greenberg, knew something wasn’t right, so she called 911 and the Bronx native was taken to JFK Medical Center.
“That was it, I never spoke to him again,” said Greenberg, who met Garlin at bereavement counseling after both had lost their spouses.
Lost to coronavirus:Korean War vet honored fellow soldiers
Larry Kushner, 68, Boynton Beach
Larry Kushner spent a decade trying to clear his name from a fraud conviction, but fell victim to the coronavirus.
The father of 13, a resident of suburban Boynton Beach and New Jersey, died April 11 at age 68 in Palm Beach County. The place and circumstances could not be learned.
Lost to coronavirus:Father of 13 was ‘a family man full of life’
James Picciano, 88, Boca Raton
James “Jim“ Picciano and his wife, Elise, checked into Boca Raton Regional Hospital on March 25. For 10 days, they had felt sick. She was coughing; he had chest pain.
The retired Boca Raton couple tested positive for the coronavirus, just as family and doctors had suspected.
Lost to coronavirus:Former iron worker with soft spot for baseball, funny stories
Ralph Monahan, 77, Boynton Beach
Ralph J. Monahan, a snowbird from Arcade, N.Y., was a talented woodworker who taught industrial arts for 34 years.
He remodeled a 100-year-old farmhouse in western New York. He built cabinets, tables and chairs.
Lost to coronavirus:Master woodworker, scout leader, tried to see doctor, ‘got weaker and weaker’
Richard ‘Rick’ Ross, 66, Boynton Beach
Rick Ross gathered with old pals for a reunion of retired city police officers.
“We shared stories and enjoyed each other’s company,” Chris Yannuzzi, a former Boynton Beach detective, posted April 19 on a tributes page. Yannuzzi, who also served as Ocean Ridge police chief, remembered his friend as a “lifelong public servant taken way too soon.”
Lost to coronavirus:Former Boynton police officer, ‘lifelong public servant,’ Rick Ross
Perry Buchalter, 63, Jupiter
Perry Buchalter went in a matter of weeks from welcoming his second grandchild and retiring after four decades in the health care business to dying of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Many co-workers and friends reached out after Buchalter, of Jupiter, died April 7 at 63 at Jupiter Medical Center, his wife, Lisa Gendal, said.
Lost to coronavirus:Recent retiree, new grandfather taken by virus
Nelson Nelms, 89, Belle Glade
Nelson Nelms, a retired farmer and proud Korean War veteran, had plenty of people to talk to. He lived with his daughter and her family in a spacious two-story house, white with red trim, where he insisted on helping with chores, even though he had lost his eyesight nearly 15 years ago to macular degeneration.
Lost to coronavirus::After eight years, weekly prayer sessions end with preacher’s illness, uncle’s death
Alexander Andujar, 41 and Glorivi Andujar, 39, West Palm Beach
Glorivi and Alexander Andujar were more than brother and sister — they were best friends.
Of five siblings, Glorivi, 39, and Alex, 41 were the closest. They did everything together, from backyard barbecues, big family dinners and holiday parties to supporting each other through life’s challenges.
But they never thought they would die together.
Lost to coronavirus:‘It’s not easy,’ says mother of son, daughter who died days apart
Sandra Aprilah, 64, West Palm Beach
When Sandra Aprilah met John Cole Jr. on a dating app three or four years ago, she had no idea he would be her caregiver in the final weeks of her life.
She was looking for companionship — and maybe a little more.
Lost to coronavirus:‘Loving woman’ had premonition of death
Jean-Claude Henrion, 72, France
Jean-Claude Henrion rode motorcycles all over the world. When the French national came to Florida to bike the countryside, he fell victim to the coronavirus, his family said.
Henrion, 72, died March 30 at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, as well as cardiovascular disease.
Lost to coronavirus: French adventurer catches virus, dies in Florida
Steven Nolan, 73, West Palm Beach
Retired Army intelligence specialist Steven Nolan and his wife took a cruise down the Nile in late February. Adelina “Nina” Camacho said she believes by the time the couple flew home, both she and her husband had the coronavirus that would result in his death.
“We were on the plane already sick,” Camacho said.
Lost to coronavirus:Birthday cruise along the Nile became a death sentence
Patti Wagner, 66, Greenacres
Patti Wagner wasn’t the life of the party. Patti Wagner was the party.
The spunky, creative, generous woman known as Nana or Nan to her sprawling family had a creative streak and a sense of humor that made her a magnet for those around her.
Lost to coronavirus:Creative, loving ‘Nana:’ Magnet for friends, bedrock for family
Richard Retblatt, 74, Boca Raton
Richard Retblatt had a request for his family before doctors put him on a ventilator, days before he died of the coronavirus.
“He told us that he loved us, that he had no regrets and that we should all get a drink to celebrate him and his life,” said Cori, his youngest daughter.
Lost to coronavirus:A ‘go for it’ life with no regrets
Melissa Boyce, 87, Boca Raton
Melissa Boyce held her far-flung family close, hopscotching the country to visit her growing brood that includes eight great-grandchildren.
Boyce, who moved permanently to Boca Raton from Rhode Island a few years ago, died March 24 of congestive heart failure and COVID-19 infection. She was 87.
Lost to coronavirus:Retired teacher who came to career later in life
Carlos Morales, 62, Greenacres
When 62-year-old Carlos Morales fell ill, he chalked up the symptoms to a kidney infection, possibly related to his diabetes.
But the Nicaraguan-born Greenacres resident and longtime face on the equestrian circuit in Wellington didn’t have a kidney infection. He had the novel coronavirus — for which he went to the hospital “just one day too late,” his son Jose Morales said.
Lost to coronavirus:Wellington equestrian scene staple sought help ‘just one day too late’
Gilberto Diazgranados, 62, and Petra Diazgranados, 61, Palm Springs
The Diazgrandados did everything they were supposed to. They wore masks and gloves when they ventured outside the house. They disinfected everything in the household repeatedly, including packages that arrived at their Palm Springs home.
Still COVID-19 found them, infecting four family members, both parents and two adult siblings. All four ended up hospitalized.
Lost to coronavirus:Both parents die four minutes apart; 2 of their children in hospital
Martin Brownstein, 79, Wellington
David Riche, 68, Belle Glade
Franklin Schaeman, 80, Delray Beach