FRANKFORT, Ky. — Today, Gov. Andy Beshear held a memorial ceremony for the 10,214 Kentuckians lost to COVID-19. First Lady Britainy Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, religious leaders, health care heroes, the Lindsey Wilson College Singers and the Kentucky State Police Honor Guard also took part in the service.
“The number of Kentuckians lost to COVID is approaching the total number of our people we lost in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined,” said Gov. Beshear. “Right now, more than 10,000 of our neighbors are gone, and their loved ones are hurting, missing them, preparing for their first or second Thanksgiving with an empty seat at the table.”
He continued: “Our war against COVID is different in many ways from the wars fought by our brave soldiers. But to achieve our ultimate victory, we must have the same urgency, unity and dedication to one another.”
This week, the Governor and Lt. Governor encouraged all eligible vaccinated Kentucky adults to get one of the three COVID-19 vaccination boosters – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – to increase their immunity and help bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end.
Others who spoke at the memorial included Dr. Philip Overall from St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead; Jamar Wattley, PRN, RN, at Baptist Health La Grange; and Jacqueline Woodward, who lost her husband, Gary Woodward, to COVID-19.
“Together we gave everything that we had for the men, women and children of the commonwealth. Together we held their hands, prayed with them, gave them hope and worked tirelessly to give them the best care possible. Even during the darkest days of this pandemic, even during the peak of the surges – we stayed together,” said Dr. Overall. “Let us remember that it is that unity that will see this through and find us united as we work to put this battle behind us.”
“We are here to remember the 10,000 Kentuckians that have succumbed to COVID. As a nurse, these numbers have meaning to me. These numbers represent the people I have cared for and the memories I have with them,” said Wattley. “Let this memorial symbolize a time when we had fear and uncertainty we all faced together – but better yet – let this memorial honor the bravery displayed by the fallen.”
“Today is a bittersweet day as we come together to honor the memory of all of those who lost their loved one to COVID-19. Ten thousand. How overwhelming a number and how devastating a time it has been for so many. I have endured the greatest tragedy of my lifetime because my husband of 45 years, Gary, is no longer at my side,” said Jacqueline Woodward. “The heartache, pain and the grief is beyond what words can explain. I am here today not only for my family and me but also for all the families that have lost loved ones across the state of Kentucky. Those loved ones and I will forever have a bond that will connect us, as we move on the new journey of life together – remembering the loved ones that meant so much to us and gave so much to Kentucky.”
Deacon James Weathers, parish life director at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Lexington; Rabbi David Wirtschafter of Temple Adath Israel in Lexington; and Dr. Chuck Queen, senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort, offered prayers and blessings.
During today’s ceremony, the Governor announced that Kentucky-native Amanda Matthews, artist and chief executive officer of Lexington-based Prometheus Foundry, has been commissioned to create the permanent Team Kentucky COVID-19 Memorial, which will be located in Monument Park on the Kentucky State Capitol grounds.
A COVID-19 Memorial Advisory Panel, which included health care heroes, family members and loved ones of those lost and COVID-19 survivors, selected the final design for the memorial.
“As a Kentucky native, Amanda’s pride and compassion for the people of the commonwealth and for the struggles so many have faced during the pandemic shine brightly from her personally and through this work,” said Gov. Beshear. “This piece will be expertly crafted, illustrating Kentuckians’ willingness to come together for each other during this pandemic.”
The memorial artwork – titled “United We Stand. Divided We Fall.” – will commemorate Team Kentucky’s losses and sacrifices since March 2020 and remind future generations of the challenges Kentuckians overcame – together.
The memorial will feature ADA accessibility design, including visual, audible and tactile as well as symbolic images on bronze discs. It will also be encircled by lights that will first glow green when the sun sets, to symbolize empathy and compassion for the Kentuckians we have lost throughout the pandemic.
The Governor said health care partners including Norton Healthcare, Baptist Health, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, King’s Daughters Health System, UofL Health, UK Healthcare and Pikeville Medical Center are sponsoring the new monument, which also is supported by donations to the Team Kentucky COVID-19 Memorial Fund. All donations are tax-deductible. To learn more, click here.
“All of us – whether or not we’ve lost someone close to COVID – have been forever changed by these times,” said Gov. Beshear. “I believe that, in order to fully move forward and embrace the opportunities we see opening up across this commonwealth, we must give full respect to this moment in history that has tried us in ways few could have imagined just two years ago.”