EVERETT — They were a pilot, a nurse and a former state trooper. A singer, a square dancer and a breast cancer survivor.
A bus driver, a factory worker and a dairy farmer.
Retirees, veterans and nursing home residents.
As young as 41, as old as 97.
Many with underlying health conditions, some without.
They lived in Shoreline and Snohomish, Edmonds and Everett, Marysville and Tulalip. They share one thing in common. All died after contracting COVID-19, the highly contagious virus that has spread worldwide, overloading hospitals, shutting down economies, infecting roughly 4 million people and killing at least 270,000.
Karen Cutting, 83, and Victor Painter, 86, were nursing home sweethearts at the Sunrise View care home in Everett, acting “like they were 16 and in love again, kissing and giggling and holding hands,” said Painter’s daughter, Laurie Cashen.
Cutting was a nurse, a loyal fan of the UW Huskies and Seattle Seahawks and a host of elaborate parties. “It was like you’re going to Salty’s on Alki, but it was our house,” said her daughter, Michelle Schulz.
“She always dressed pretty,” Schulz said. “She always had the pretty earrings. You think most Washingtonians are kind of laid back, not my mom. … Every day she made herself look special.”
Painter spent a quarter-century as a state trooper, and trained a cadet by the name of John Batiste, who is now chief of the Washington State Patrol.
Cashen followed in her father’s footsteps, and worked for the state patrol for 30 years. With 55 years between the two of them, the father and daughter spent just 2½ months working together on the force.
Even so, she would be known from then on as “Vic’s Kid.”
She remembers how, when she was a child, Painter was assigned to protect visiting governors at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. She didn’t care who he was guarding, though. She was just mad at him for coming home so late.
The last time Cashen saw her father was at the hospital, after he became infected with coronavirus. She wore a gown, a mask and goggles. By then, Painter was dying. The experimental drugs that the doctors gave him didn’t take.
“The only thing he could say clearly was ‘Have you called my daughter?’ Meaning me,” Cashen said. “I said, ‘Daddy, this is me.’”
He died March 28. Cutting passed the next day.
Another couple, Fay and Royce Harris, 68 and 69, died within four hours of each other. Fay moved to Washington from Canada and was a bank teller for much of her life. Royce was a U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in the Vietnam War. They met on Match.com, eventually got married and settled in the Marysville area. They knew how to press each other’s buttons, said Fay’s son, Keith Swett.
“I’ll miss everything about them,” Swett said. “I miss my mom’s cooking, her witty jokes. Royce’s grumpiness that matches with my grumpiness, so we could go do things and be grumpy together.”
“I’ll miss her smile,” he added. “I’ll miss her stories.”
Public and private loss
In Snohomish County, 115 people have succumbed to COVID-19 in the three months since the first known patient in the United States was treated at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. Overall, the Snohomish Health District reported 2,666 confirmed and 252 probable cases of the new coronavirus as of Friday.
The Daily Herald reached out to families of 30 people with ties to Snohomish County who were lost in March, amid the initial outbreak in Washington. The Herald gathered information about the deceased through the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Snohomish Health District, as well as obituaries, social media posts and interviews with loved ones. These deaths do not represent a comprehensive list, but they do give a glimpse of the personal toll.
“Each one of those losses is not a number, it is not a statistic, it is a tragedy in our families,” Gov. Jay Inslee said at a recent press conference, as a growing number of largely conservative residents and elected officials protested the state’s response to the pandemic.
Some of those who died drew headlines across the country.
The death of Elton Washington, a flight line inspector at Boeing’s Everett plant, came at the tipping point of the company’s decision to temporarily suspend operations for 35,000 workers in Snohomish County and many more around the state.
Unionized coach operators across the country shared the story of Community Transit bus driver Scott Ryan as they called for safer working conditions. He worried about the virus early, calling buses “germ tubes on wheels,” but he kept driving.
After Costco corporate employee Regina Lee died on March 16, the company quickly moved to allow those who could to work from home, and implemented other social distancing measures.
At least one death drew international attention — Sundee Rutter, a single mother of six kids who had survived a previous bout with cancer. A fundraiser to support her children, who previously lost their father and now have to live on their own, has raised more than $500,000.
The disease also took George R. Stocker, 97, the patriarch of a well known Snohomish farming family. He lived at Sunrise View in Everett. Stocker’s widow continues to live in the long-term care facility.
Other deaths remained out of the public spotlight. Their names appeared in abbreviated obituaries or scattered public posts on social media.
Family and friends posted on a Facebook page to memorialize an Everett grandfather, 78, seen in pictures teasingly preventing his grandson from blowing out birthday candles, or dressing up as a scarecrow.
Talking to his congregation via YouTube in late March, an Everett pastor shared two of the church’s members — the 78-year-old grandpa and another Everett man, 70 — had died from COVID-19 that week. In his sermon, the pastor talked about the afterlife. He prayed for the families. “Lord, may you heal the woundedness of their spirit,” he said. “ … And Lord, may you show us how we can care for them in the coming days and weeks.”
One Facebook post told of two brothers, of Everett and Marysville, who died 12 days apart, at the ages of 62 and 73.
And a Seattle illustrator shared a comic she drew for a friend whose father, 82, of Lynnwood, passed away March 22. “He had a kind face. A vibrant face,” the artist wrote. “So full of life.”
Older and younger
The dead had been born between the presidencies of Warren G. Harding and Jimmy Carter.
Of the names compiled by the Herald, the average age was 74½.
The youngest, Ryan, was a Snohomish County bus driver and a union shop steward who lived in Everett. He left behind a wife and three teenage children.
The oldest, Stocker, was born Sept. 19, 1922, at a home near Blackman’s Lake in Snohomish. In 1933, he and his parents moved to a family farm on Springhetti Road. The Stockers have owned the farm, Hidden Meadows, for more than 100 years.
Decades ago, he lost all of his toes on his left foot in a farming accident. He used it to play pranks on his 15 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren.
“He loved to have the grandkids take his socks off when they were just very young,” said his son, Tim Stocker, who now runs the family farm. “That was one of his favorite things to do.”
George Stocker would have the children remove the right sock first, to reveal a normal-looking foot. Then the left sock. He would revel in the shock and awe.
George Stocker and his wife, Marion Stocker, lived at Sunrise View for years. She turned 91 in April. They shared nearly 70 wedding anniversaries.
The family believes Marion Stocker also contracted the disease, but had mild symptoms. By the time she was tested, the results came back negative.
“She came through this with flying colors,” Tim Stocker said. “Considering they never left each other, it’s just amazing.”
George Stocker was taken to the hospital. He returned to the Everett care center to be close to his wife in his final days. He died March 31.
Arthuro “Art” Bori, 65, of Snohomish, was one of eight patients listed by the medical examiner with no known underlying health conditions. Born on a U.S. Army base in Okinawa, he was a passionate skydiver, travel enthusiast, wildlife photographer, woodworker and food bank volunteer.
His widow, Wendy Bori, 63, planned to join Art in retirement in June. The couple had talked about going to Costa Rica and Iceland. They dreamed of visiting every national park in the United States.
Wendy has since changed her mind.
“I’m going to continue working for a couple more years,” she said. “I just — I can’t face the retirement without him.”
Art died March 31.
“Please be at peace my dear, funny, kind, gentle Art,” read his obituary. “I pray there is endless Pepsi in heaven.”
Men and women
Of the 30 names compiled for this story, 21 were men.
A retired Marine, 43, who loved to square dance, was the county’s first reported death, passing on March 2. He also was the first reported case of community transmission, linked directly to the nation’s first reported case on Jan. 19, another Snohomish County resident who had traveled to Wuhan, China.
An Everett grandmother, 81, was the first woman in the county to die from the virus on March 10. She and her late husband of 60 years loved spending time with their grandkids at sporting events, taking them on trips or hanging out at the beach.
Two more women, Rutter and Lee, died March 16.
Rutter, 42, of Marysville, had been working and going to school for a nursing certificate while raising her children by herself.
Despite being so busy, she always was present in her kids’ lives, said Bryce Levin, who coached her son Elijah.
“She was giving Eli and her kids rides to games,” he said. “She was at summer-league games. She was at all of our basketball games. She was extremely supportive.”
She was the youngest woman in the county to die from the virus.
Friends and co-workers at Costco Travel used words like “shy” and “quiet” to describe Lee, 58, of Everett. But they also mentioned her quick wit, her one-liners and her willingness to dig into a garbage can to make sure an aluminum can was properly recycled.
“She cared about people and our planet, and the world will suffer a little bit more without her here,” one co-worker wrote.
They also called her caring and thoughtful, whether it was welcoming new hires, surprising people with cookies or candy, or giving a small toy angel to a co-worker with an ailing spouse.
Linda Hansis, 72, graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in botany and a master’s degree in classics, but later chose to become a nurse caring for the terminally ill at a Kirkland hospice facility, according to her obituary. An artistic and creative animal lover, her home was filled with miniature houses she’d built.
Remigio “Romy” Garcia, 71, was born in the Philippines, and worked for the U.S. Embassy in Manila from 1969 to 1991, before immigrating with his family to Washington. An avid gardener, he spent many spring and summer days maintaining his vegetable and flower gardens at his Shoreline home, according to an online fundraiser in his name. He enjoyed taking his dog Cooper out on long walks around the neighborhood.
Clair Dunlap, better known as Toby, fell in love with flight at 5 years old, after a $5 trip out of Whatcom County. He bought his first plane, a Piper Super Cruiser, at age 16 and flew with United Airlines for 36 years, retiring as a captain in 1991. Some of his earliest flights for United were for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1960. The future president came up to the cockpit for a long chat, a conversation Toby treasured for the rest of his life. The Edmonds resident, 89, died March 31.
Those left behind
David Rude and Eloise Kagarice were among 15 residents of Sunrise View who have died, as of this week.
Rude, 87, lived a life punctuated by hobbies, the outdoors and family. Growing up he worked at farms and as a film projectionist, before joining the U.S. Army to drive trucks and operate radios. He eventually landed a job as an electrical engineer at Boeing’s Everett plant, a position he held until he retired. He often went hiking and backpacking with his daughter, Kristin Boyd, in the Cascade Range — mainly along Mountain Loop Highway and U.S. 2.
He spent his last few years at Sunrise View, where he grew an appreciation for diet root beer and black licorice, and spent his time watching train videos and listening to polka.
After Rude’s death, Boyd spent the better part of three days writing an obituary.
“In David’s later years,” she wrote, “he took flying, snow skiing, and Estonian language lessons, traveled to Utah for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and twice to the Baltic country of Estonia, owned a 24 ft. motor boat, started to build a darkroom, had plans to start a printing business, and joined a bowling league.”
While she lived at Sunrise View, the socialite Kagarice, 78, often sat perched at her window, where she could watch the birds and wave to people coming in and out of the building. She had such a sweet tooth that family would hide candy from her, to keep her from eating it all. And she constantly played games with a group of other women, including Bingo about 30 times a week, said her daughter JoAnne Love.
“My mom never missed a game,” Love said. “She never missed anything.”
Even as she entered hospice care, Kagarice kept her humor.
“She was talking and cracking jokes with my daughters,” Love said. “We thought she was going to be fine.”
The family wasn’t ready for Kagarice’s death, said Love, who called it devastating.
“I had no doubt she’d outlive me,” she said.
When travel restrictions are eased, Love said her brother will fly out from Alabama. They’ll drive to Gig Harbor, where Kagarice lived with her late husband. Love and her brother will walk down to the inlet at Tacoma Narrows Bridge, as requested, to spread their parents’ ashes.
Reporters Phillip O’Connor and Zac Hereth contributed to this story.
If you have a loved one who passed away due to complications from COVID-19 and would like to share their stories, contact Herald reporters Zachariah Bryan and Stephanie Davey at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.