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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

"A grim milestone" | A look at the lives lost as Shelby County surpasses 1000 COVID-19 related deaths

The virus claimed the lives of Mid-South pastors, artists, and law enforcement.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — On the 10-month anniversary of Shelby County's first confirmed COVID-19 case, the county also passed a grim milestone: 1,000 COVID-19 related deaths.

The virus didn't discriminate in cutting lives short of those of all ages, backgrounds, and races.

It's a number area health experts dreaded - but is now a reality, as Friday, Shelby County surpassed that number of COVID-19 related deaths.

Last March, friends of one of the virus' first local victims - artist Dan Spector - described the 68-year-old's passion for creativity and his neighborhood.

"He clearly cared about the community, about Cooper Young itself," Cooper-Young Community Association President Mark Morrison said.

COVID-19 also claimed the life last spring of Second Presbyterian Church Assistant Pastor Timothy Russell. Friends said he inspired many in his congregation and beyond.

"His life, it demonstrated incredible potential for further leadership. So he will be missed and it will be a loss to all of us," Memphis College of Urban and Theological Studies Dean Dr. Joseph Caldwell said.

In the summer, COVID-19 also claimed the lives of those who spent their careers solving crimes and arresting criminals. That included former Memphis Police Detective W.D. Merritt and longtime patrolman, Officer Bobby Montgomery.

Co-workers said Montgomery left a mark on MPD and the community he served. 

"He was really the first officer that I knew of that trained me not be an enforcement offer all the time, but that we have many different hats that we have to wear - and one of them is that hat of empathy," Edward Cash said.

Friday, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said: "Today marks a grim milestone in Shelby County’s battle with COVID. 1003 individuals in our county have been lost to this virus. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and beloved community members. Today, we continue the course of safer at home and try to find hope in the year ahead."

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland added: "Most of us by this point know someone or more than one person that has died. Some of them have been our family, our friends, our co-workers - but they were all our neighbors. Today, I’m asking once more to 'love thy neighbor' and (wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands)."