INDIANAPOLIS – More than 400,000 people in the United States have now died of COVID-19. That includes an Indianapolis couple married for three decades. Ernest Ronald Wilkins, 66, and his wife Ann Grissom-Wilkins, 59, died one day apart this month after catching COVID-19.
Since March, they tried to do everything right to not get sick. Their family said the couple was very careful because Ronald was diabetic and Ann recently finished radiation treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Relatives and the couple even decided to have Thanksgiving over a video chat this year to stay safe.
“We didn’t want to be that family where they talk about the empty chair,” said Ruth Grissom, sister of Ann.
Even with all of the precautions, Ruth said the couple contracted COVID-19 in early December. It was not long after that when Ann went to the hospital for severe symptoms.
“It was a real rollercoaster the entire time,” said Ruth. “But Ann had four good days and then the floor fell out from under us.”
A few days after Ann went to the hospital, Ronald was also admitted at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. Ronald’s long-time friend, Bryan Bradford, encouraged him to go.
“This was the last conversation me and Ron had,” said Bradford. “And that conversation was, he was really scared of losing his wife.”
Ann went into the ICU on Christmas Eve and she was on a ventilator the day after Christmas. Ronald was also placed on a ventilator.
“It was a total shock to me because I know how cautious both of them are,” said Lyz Wilkins, second cousin of Ronald.
Not being able to visit them was the hardest part for the family, especially when it was time to say goodbye. Ronald passed away on January 8. His loving wife Ann never knew about his death before she died one day later. The couple had three children.
“It is nothing like saying goodbye to your sister who you haven’t been able to talk to in a week when they have removed her from the ventilator and she can’t speak, she can’t talk, she is unconscious,” said Ruth.
Ronald retired after working 12 years for Allstate Insurance. He had also held jobs at Indianapolis Public Schools and RCA. Ann, a Butler University graduate, was a former longtime Indianapolis Public Schools teacher and she also worked for many years at the Indiana State Teachers Association
Ronald and Ann were planning to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it became available to them. Family hopes others will take advantage of the opportunity the couple never got.
“We hope that it helps someone else, another family,” said Ruth. “So that they don’t have to do what we did.”