PHILADELPHIA – As Mildred Perry’s casket was lowered into the snowy ground of Greenmount Cemetery on Tuesday, her family sang “I’ll Fly,” a traditional selection to close a funeral service.
Ms Perry, 94, believed she had beaten the coronavirus after contracting it last spring. But eight months later, his lungs had not recovered. She died on February 15 at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, of prolonged medical complications from Covid-19, as the country neared another painful stage in the pandemic.
Ms Perry grew up in Emanuel County, Georgia, then moved to Philadelphia shortly after her first marriage. She worked in a factory that made covers for seven years before leaving to raise her family. She loved gospel music, Sam Cooke, and welcoming families from out of town.
“Our sofa was always open,” said Sam Perry-Cross, 61, her youngest son, who described her as “the ultimate supplier”.
“She was right there for everyone.
Ms. Perry had nine children and 16 grandchildren, as well as numerous great and great-great-grandchildren.
About 25 family members were in attendance for the visit to the Alfonso Cannon funeral chapels in North Philadelphia on Tuesday. More family and friends wanted to pay their respects, but the chapel had to limit the size of the gathering due to the pandemic restrictions.
Family members had to pre-register on a guest list at the chapel. All visitors were greeted with a hand sanitizer pump when they entered the chapel for the visit.
“If Covid wasn’t there, we would have had it in a big church with a few hundred people,” Mr Perry-Cross said. “So today has been a very smooth and reduced day compared to what we are used to.”
The event was broadcast live for loved ones who were unable to attend in person. Ms Perry’s granddaughter, Aisha Jones, has connected with her family through FaceTime and Facebook Live. Family members have come from Delaware, Georgia, Washington, DC, and other areas of Philadelphia.
According to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, as of February 23, there were 117,022 coronavirus cases and 3,085 deaths in the city. Data released by the city showed black Philadelphians made up the city’s largest cluster of coronavirus cases, at 32%; the second largest cohort was classified as “unknown”. White Philadelphians made up 22%. Black residents also had the highest overall cases when broken down by age group.
Ms Perry died a week before the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus exceeded 500,000 cases.
Ms. Perry’s other son, Larry Perry, had fabric shirts and masks made that proclaimed in bold print “The Best Mom Ever.”
The pandemic has dramatically reduced in-person interactions with family and friends. Ms Perry’s return home services provided an opportunity for the family to come together – some members have met for the first time, according to Mr Perry-Cross.
“It’s a shame it’s only for one day,” said Perry-Cross. “But it’s great to come home.”