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Onondaga family struggles after losing both parents to COVID-19

Posted at 8:54 PM, Jan 25, 2021

ONONDAGA, MI — Shawn Sorrow lost both his parents Ruth and Charles "Charlie" Frank to COVID-19. They died in December, two days apart.

“It’s hard enough to grieve the sudden loss of one parent," Sorrow said. "But how do you do it with both?”

The couple lived in Onondaga and were together for more than 30 years. Ruth was 66 years old and Charlie was 74.

“He loved to fish, and he loved to play country music and sing," Sorrow said. "She loved to crochet and anything to do with flowers and roses. She loved her cats and they loved each other very much.

Onondaga family

His wife, Darci Sorrow, said Ruth welcomed her into the family with open arms. Darci said she never saw them argue or get mad at each other.

"Jabbing at each other and being sweet to each other. It was a great thing to see and something for us to look forward to," Darci said. "To know that when we get that age, we can look forward to that too."

Charlie was Shawn's stepfather, and Shawn said he looked up to Charlie his entire life.

Onondaga family

“He raised me from the 5th grade or less," Shawn said. "He’s the only dad I’ve ever known.”

Both Shawn and Darci say they had taken precautions last year to try to keep their parents safe from COVID-19, including delaying a camping trip.

“We postponed it to 2021. It had been quite a long time since we’ve seen them," Darci said. "We’ve talked to them on the phone and texted them. But we did not want to risk them getting COVID at all, so we stayed away.”

But their lives changed with just one phone call.

“I got a phone call in early November I believe it was. It may have been late October that my father had fallen, couldn’t get up, and couldn’t breathe," Shawn said, "so, the ambulance had to come and get him.”

Onondaga family

Charlie was released from the hospital but it happened again. He had COVID-19.

“He fought for a little over three weeks. Two of those weeks he was on a ventilator," Shawn said, "medically unconscious and paralyzed to preserve oxygen and energy.”

A week and a half after Charlie was taken to the hospital, Ruth got sick. She had COVID-19, as well.

She didn't want a ventilator, Shawn said, because she had seen Charlie on his.

"We thought she was going to make it and then suddenly I got a phone call that she had passed away on Dec. 2," Shawn says. "Two days later I got a phone call that Charlie had passed away on Dec. 4."

Shawn says it was the most unreal thing he's ever been through. Darci says it's been hard.

"You want to be able to call and say hey how long do you put a pie crust in the oven for and you can't," she said. "Just simple little things that you know you can text and ask or ask and they're not there to ask. Never in a million years were we prepared to lose both of them so close together."

Now the family says they are struggling to save what their parents left behind.

They started a fundraiserto try to stop their parent's home and land from being foreclosed on. The fundraiser will also help the family take care of Ruth's cats, pay the funeral home and allow them to have a memorial.

The family says one of the brothers who has lived with their parents for years still lives at the house and cannot work because of COVID-19.

"We're kind of doing what we can to stick together and make sure we don't lose what was left for us," Shawn said.

He is hoping that when people see this story they will do their part to help keep everyone safe.

"I hope people will realize that COVID is real. It is not a joke. People are dying everyday unexpectedly because of this. It's ripping families apart," Shawn said. "If you go to the store wear a mask. You could be saving someone's parent's life."

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Mason, Leslie

Neighborhood Reporter

Hannah McIlree