ST CLAIRSVILLE – Seniors and local community leaders gathered Wednesday at the Belmont County Department of Senior Services on National Road west of St. Clairsville to commemorate the deaths of all seniors who died during the coronavirus pandemic.
Signs with names and pictures lined the sidewalk and lawn around the building.
Dwayne Pielech, senior services director, said about 200 people are expected to congregate on the site. He said the event was a step towards dealing with losses that have not been marked with ceremonies in the past 15 months.
“We recognize over 275 deceased” he said. “Not all deaths are related to COVID-19. The people have passed. Family members, parishioners, friends, neighbors, churches couldn’t have church services because they couldn’t meet socially. Funerals could not have any service. “
His staff reached out to local centers and funeral directors to collect the names of everyone they thought. Pielech said the pandemic had been difficult for everyone, but especially seniors. He mentioned a woman who was using senior services transportation for medical reasons.
“She died last fall. Her husband recently died. Heartbreaking, “ he said. “It wasn’t pandemic-related.”
Joel Traylor, pastor of the New Life Fellowship, gave an opening prayer, referring to Psalm 1:16, verse 15, and John 11:35 Heaven.
Belmont County Commissioners Jerry Echemann, JP Dutton and Josh Meyer attended the event after their weekly meeting.
Echemann emphasized that the value of several local senior centers across the county is now clearer in providing socialization opportunities.
“Most Ohio counties … are in a central location that everyone needs to go, and they need to go. We want to keep it local so that everyone has a senior center nearby. “ said Echemann. He praised the senior center administrators.
“They really, really care about the seniors who are at their center.” said Echemann. “Socialization is very important at any age … so please keep coming to our centers and joining us. Have your meals there and please come for those who are not in the centers every day. Once you’ve broken the ice and made some friends, it’s a wonderful thing. “
“It’s just amazing to see so many faces and names. It is unbelievable that we can lose so many valuable people in one year. “ said Nancy Campbell of Key Ridge. “It’s just a very nice event for all of these people.”
Campbell added that her father, Charles Maloney of Jacobsburg, died in March at the age of 90.
“I think this is a great way to honor our seniors”, said Arlean Selvy of Powhatan Point. She pointed to a sign in honor of Pete Thomas at Powhatan Point. Her husband, John Selvy, also died. “They were friends and they were both locked up in the same nursing home in Shadyside at some point in their illness.”
“It was a tough year. It was very challenging to say the least. “ Martins Ferry’s Richard Hord said his father Calvin Hord died recently. “This is a wonderful event. It is wonderful to recognize the deceased. “
“The senior centers are a great thing” Doug Potts of Bellaire, a frequent visitor to the village’s senior citizen center, said, adding that he is keen to resume activities there. “We are just so blessed with our leadership and our activities.
Community partners such as Care Funeral Services and Amedisys Hospice were also thanked. For those seniors who were unable to attend, Care Funeral and Cremation Specialists will be sponsoring a televised broadcast of the ceremony on client.tribucast.com for the next 90 days.
Senior Service staff and Amedisys Hospice staff spoke or recited poetry.
The ceremony ended with the release of biodegradable balloons. During the closing prayer, David Bigley, chaplain of Amedisys Hospice, compared the balloons with rising hopes.
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