A pillar of a Catholic church who helped start its school. A soccer coach and referee. A devoted mother and grandmother who home-schooled her children. A well-known member of a bell choir who touched many lives. A popular school treasurer.
Those are just five of the more than 50 people in the 11-county region who have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
As the number of deaths continues to climb, it’s important to not lose sight of the lives behind those statistics.
Taken from obituaries, news stories and interviews with family and friends, these stories offer a glimpse of the human side of that loss.
Vera Gudorf never learned to drive and only learned to use a payphone from a police officer after being stranded in downtown Dayton.
She took the bus from St. Rose in Mercer County to Dayton to work for NCR in its special parts division and wound up making bomb sites during World War II, according to family legend.
For the rest of her life, Gudorf relied on this form of public transportation to get into Dayton where she loved to shop at “Rike’s, Elder Beerman, Donenfeld’s, the Metropolitan, Thal’s and the Dime stores,” according to her obituary.
“She loved the bus,” recalled daughter Mary Sutton, of Tipp City.
After the war, Gudorf married Merlin D.B. “Pete” Gudorf and they helped found St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Riverside in 1953. Vera Gudorf was the first president of the Altar Rosary Society and a force behind decades of church festivals and celebrations.
“She was very, very religious. That was very important to her,” granddaughter Kate Sutton said.
First they helped raise the money for a school, then a sanctuary.
“There were about 500 kids that needed a school, so they built the school,” Mary Sutton said.
The family lived in Dayton at “1913 Brownell Road, the year of the Dayton Flood,” as Pete Gudorf used to say. The home was a block away from where a B-25 crashed in the 1950s.
Vera Gudorf also was a serious cook, particularly when it came to her grandchildren.
“She was always trying to make us eat our vegetables,” said Kate Sutton, one of 16 grandchildren. “Everyone of us, we all talked about it after she passed away.”
Vera Gudorf would cut out and highlight newspaper articles encouraging good habits.
“She was very adamant,” she said, recalling her “scary” grandmother. “It just makes me laugh now.”
Vera Gudorf died died April, 8, 2020, at SpringMeade Health Center in Tipp City after a battle with COVID-19, according to her obituary. She was 96.
Earl Bolinger was well-known in Northridge, a youth soccer coach, referee and lover of youth sports, particularly those involving his family.
“He never missed anything,” granddaughter Andrea Lee recalled.
Bolinger grew up in a house on Fer Don Road and Wampler Avenue in North Dayton. He worked for 30 years in transportation for the Dayton Daily News. He also worked for Coca-Cola and Best Products, and in the parking lot across from the Montgomery County Courthouse.
“He always worked,” Lee said. “I remember him telling a lot of stories about the lawyers who worked at the courthouse, people yelling down from the jail.”
Earl Bolinger died on March 20, apparently the first resident of Koester Pavilion in Troy, a retirement community where one of the area’s earliest clusters formed, to have died from the virus.
His son, Steven Bolinger, also a resident, was infected by the virus and last week remained at Miami Valley Hospital, according to Lee. Steven Bolinger’s wife, Linda, also tested positive for coronavirus but has recovered.
Earl Bolinger was 93.
Ed Kauffman performed for 25 years with the bell choir at Riverside School.
“I am so surprised at all of the people who’s life he touched,” his mother, Rosemary Saunders, said. “Ed is such a famous person in Miami County.”
Among those to have recognized Ed Kauffman’s memory is longtime WHIO-TV reporter Steve Baker.
“I’m sure Ed has already organized a bell choir organized in heaven,’” Baker posted on Facebook.
Ed Kauffman, who had Down syndrome, had a longtime girlfriend, GeNell Jay, whom he met at their day program.
Although she now lives at the Dorothy Love nursing home in Shelby County, “he would go visit her twice a week,” Saunders said.
Ed Kauffman also sat on the board of directors for Champaign Residential Services Inc., according to his obituary from the Jackson-Sarver Family Funeral Home of Pleasant Hill.
For 20 years, he bowled in the area Strike and Spare league. He also loved playing Uno and listening to Christian country gospel music.
Saunders said she has received condolences from classmates 52 years ago now living in Indiana and a blanket prayed upon in Salmon, Idaho.
“Some days, I cry. Some days, I’m just thankful he reached so many lives,” his mother said, adding she is in quarantine although asymptomatic after testing positive for the virus.
Ed Kauffman died from complications of COVID-19 on April 3. He was 50.
Angela White died just days short of her 34th wedding anniversary.
Her three daughters, Annemarie Bradford and Sara, Amie and Leah White, were around her at Springfield Regional Medical Center.
“Her husband, daughters, and granddaughter meant everything to her,” her obituary says.
Angela White was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, and moved to the United States as a teen. She home-schooled her daughters in their home in Cable, an unincorporated community in Champaign County.
RELATED: Podcast with Angela White’s daughter
“She was kind of a homebody,” Sara White, of Miami Twp,. said. “Unless it had something to do with her kids and her husband, she just really didn’t leave the house very often.”
Angela White also enjoyed interior design and supported Champaign County charities, according to her obituary.
She also had a competitive side and loved volleyball and softball.
Angela White was one of the sweetest and most-kindhearted women, Dana Troutwine of Urbana wrote on a memorial page.
“I have such fond memories of her and the girls when we home schooled,” Troutwine said. “I remember going to your beautiful home with a dress I had cut out to sew. She was so sweet and helped me finish it. She could transform anything into a thing of beauty.”
Angela White died on April 8. She was 56.
A parade of more than 100 cars was held to honor Mike Davis, the well-known treasurer for the Talawanda school district and Oxford resident.
Davis, a graduate of Talawanda High School and Miami University, was hired as the district’s treasurer in June 2007.
“I’m absolutely elated,” Davis said at the time of his hiring, calling it a dream come true. “It’s a homecoming for us to come to Oxford.”
Davis came back to the district after working as finance director for the Edgewood School District in Butler County and for Lord & Taylor, a division of May Department Stores Inc.
He also had two children in the Talawanda district.
The anticipated turn-out for his honor parade on Thursday, April 16, was so large the cars were split into two shifts.
His money management has been credited for seeing the district through financial hard times, at least once at personal expense.
RELATED: Family, friends remember Mike Davis
In 2012, a news report had questioned the expense of coffee at a meeting.
“Turns out the coffee was purchased not with taxpayer dollars but by Talawanda Treasurer Mike Davis out of his own pocket,” the follow-up Oxford Press article says.
Davis worked on three major building projects — a new high school, a new Kramer Elementary and the just-begun Marshall Elementary.
“ It was a great team. The sad part is in meetings with me about Marshall, he was starting to talk about retirement, calling this his last hurrah,” said architect Charlie Jahnigen, of SHP Leading Design.
Davis’ wife of 38 years, Crystal Davis, said she was in shock that the man she met when they were sophomores at Talawanda High School had died.
“It has not sunk in. I keep thinking he will come in the door,” Crystal Davis said. “He never said a bad thing about anybody.”
Mike Davis died on April 11. He was 65.
Staff Writers Cornelius Frolik and Amelia Robinson and Contributing Writers Bob Ratterman and Nancy Bowman contributed to this report.
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