'We just miss him': York Countians remember those lost to COVID

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

As she sat in the bleachers at PeoplesBank Park, Stacie James remembered her husband.

"It just took us so by surprise," she said, as she fought back tears. "He was 70 years old and probably more active than people half his age." 

Stacie James came out to PeoplesBank Park to remember her husband, Mike "Sticks" James. He is one of 1,485 York Countians who lost their lives to COVID.

Her husband, Mike "Sticks" James, is one of 1,485 York County residents who lost their lives to COVID. Stacie was one of dozens of family members who came to the baseball park for a vigil Thursday to remember their loved ones.

"He was so loved by so many people," she said. "I just figured I had to come."

Mike loved Harley-Davidson motorcycles and taught his wife to ride. His nickname "Sticks" came from a motorcycle club he rode with and was a reference to his love of shooting pool.

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Stacie James, of Hanover, said her husband had retired from his job as a project manager in construction but continued to help people. He had been on a roof working, came back down and said he wasn't feeling well.

Organized by Healthy York Coalition, the event included remarks from community members, musical performances from members of the York Youth Symphony Orchestra and an opportunity for those left behind to grieve those they had lost.

"The important thing of the evening is that families know that the community hasn't forgotten them, that the loss of their family member, their neighbor or friend is important," said Natalie Williams, the coalition's executive director, on Thursday.

Among those at the memorial event were representatives of the York County History Center, which has been encouraging people to share their stories of dealing with COVID.

"What we'd like to be able to do is collect their stories so people 100 years from now will know how we dealt with it," said Terri Altland, the history center's vice president of visitor engagement.

About 120 people braved Thursday's threatening weather to attend a Healthy York Coalition's COVID-19 memorial at PeoplesBank Park. More than 1,452 York County residents have died during the pandemic. Paper bags with battery-operated candles represented everyone who died of COVID-19. Bil Bowden photo

Cliff Moye came to remember his father, Charles, who died just months shy of his 100th birthday in April 2021.

"He was a gardener up in York. He used to go to the South a lot but he made his home in York," Moye said.

After working for Medusa Cement Plant for over 45 years, Charles spent his time tending to his garden.

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Moye said he came out to give honor to those who died of COVID.

"We were hoping to see him make the big century mark," the younger Moye said. "I still feel him, and I still go by to see where he lives at. He helped a lot of people and he did a lot in his neighborhood and his community, as much as you possibly could." 

Local artist Rosa Luz Catterall set up a table where families could write messages to their loved ones on paper hearts.

About 120 people braved Thursday's threatening weather to attend a Healthy York Coalition's COVID-19 memorial at PeoplesBank Park. More than 1,452 York County residents have died during the pandemic. Before the memorial, attendees printed out messages on paper hearts for lost loved ones. Bil Bowden photo

"Each heart is a way that our community can honor those lost, and the idea is not to judge whether it's beautiful or not but rather that it is their own expression of what this loss means to them," she said. 

The hearts will be displayed as a collage on a canvas, which will be exhibited at locations throughout York County.

Alexxa Svoboda remembered her father, Terry Welsh, who died earlier this year at 55.

"He was probably the most amazing person I've ever known. He loved his family hard, he loved his grandkids, his sister, his mom, his nephew," she said. "He was totally into sports, he came to everybody's everything." 

Welsh liked to hike, fish and grill. He was healthy with no underlying conditions, but woke up one morning and started coughing up blood. 

"We just miss him," Svoboda said.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.