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Family grieves for Fairfield sisters who died a month apart after contracting coronavirus

Pictured in this 2006 photo are Brenda Harmon, left, and Donna Newton, right, sisters who contributed to various Fairfield civic organizations over the years. They died a month apart due to complications of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, as well as underlying health issues. PROVIDED/HARMON FAMILY
Pictured in this 2006 photo are Brenda Harmon, left, and Donna Newton, right, sisters who contributed to various Fairfield civic organizations over the years. They died a month apart due to complications of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, as well as underlying health issues. PROVIDED/HARMON FAMILY

Credit: Provided

Credit: Provided

FAIRFIELD ― Christmases in the Harmon household will never be the same — both in December and July.

Brenda Harmon, of Fairfield, died on June 23, two weeks after her 61st birthday. Her sister, Donna Newton of Fairfield, died on July 21. She was 58. The sisters had other health concerns but also contracted the novel coronavirus.

Christmas in July has been a long-standing tradition in the Harmon household, which included Donna, who moved in with her sister’s family years ago after losing a job. They would fill their home with Christmas cheer twice a year, complete with a small gift exchange with family and friends, said Brenda’s husband, Dale.

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Part of their July celebration included a donation to the Fairfield Food Pantry, said their friend, Judy Dirksen.

“Any excuse to celebrate, they did,” said Dirksen, co-founder of the Fairfield Food Pantry and member with the sisters in the Fairfield Women’s Club. “They enjoyed family, they enjoyed friends, and they enjoyed celebrating and having a good time. That was their way.”

Brenda Harmon’s daughters — Laura Harmon, Rebekah Nether and Elizabeth Harmon — kept the tradition going this year, holding the annual gift exchange last Monday because “Brenda loved Christmas,” Dale said.

Brenda and Donna were born and raised in New Miami in a large family. They were two of 16 children.

Dale remembers that the sisters fought a lot when they were younger and he was dating Brenda, but “they grew really close.”

Brenda, born on June 10, 1959, married Dale on April 25, 1981. Together they had their three daughters and a son, Tristan Harmon.

“She was my best friend for 39 years,” Dale said. “She was a wonderful mother to her children, best friend to her three daughters, and we have an autistic son, who (Brenda) was a wonderful advocate for – fighting doctors and county workers and program workers to get the best for him.”

He said Brenda refused to place Tristan in a care facility, even though it was suggested by many, instead choosing family first.

Family was first as well when it came to Brenda’s sister.

After Donna lost her job, Brenda invited her to live in her home until she was back on her feet, Dale said. That temporary arrangement turned permanent as Donna became more involved in the family’s dynamic, including helping to care for Tristan, as well as Brenda.

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Donna, born on March 11, 1962 and was never married with no children.

The sisters were members of multiple Fairfield civic organizations, holding leadership positions at one time with the Fairfield Women’s Club, Four Seasons Garden Club and the Fairfield Historical Society. Both women served as co-president with the Fairfield Women’s Club, Brenda last year with Jane Gegner, and Donna this year with Debbie Pennington.

“We are going to miss the love that we saw between those two sisters,” said Pennington. “Anytime you asked them to do anything, they were there.”

Dirksen said the sisters never hid their love for each other.

“I know that they were just very devoted to one another,” she said. “We’re really going to miss them.”

The sisters are survived by several family members, including their siblings Jean Thomas, David Newton, Wanda McDonald, Martha Gregor, Charles Newton, Melva Price, Herman Newton, Ralph Newton, and Yolanda Weeden. They were proceeded in death by siblings Henderson Newton, Jr., Paul Newton, Gerald Newton, Richard Newton and Elizabeth Newton.

Pictured are Donna Newton, left, and Brenda Harmon, sisters who contributed to various Fairfield civic organizations over the years. They died a month apart due to complications of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, as well as underlying health issues. PROVIDED/FAIRFIELD WOMEN'S CLUB
Pictured are Donna Newton, left, and Brenda Harmon, sisters who contributed to various Fairfield civic organizations over the years. They died a month apart due to complications of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, as well as underlying health issues. PROVIDED/FAIRFIELD WOMEN'S CLUB

Credit: Provided

Credit: Provided