CEDAR RAPIDS — Terriana Harris didn’t call Rosie and Jerry Morrow grandma and grandpa. She called them mom and dad. And she wasn’t alone.
“Nobody called her grandma — everybody called her mom,” said their daughter, Freida Harris Hobbs, of Lafayette, Ind.
The Morrows had a big family — 15 children between them, 39 grandchildren and 53 great-grandchildren.
Now that big family is trying to cope with losing both of them less than a day apart due to complications of COVID-19. Both had strokes; Jerry, 63, died at 1:05 p.m. Nov. 21, and Rosie, 81, died less than 12 hours later on Nov. 22.
The Cedar Rapids couple is part of a grim trend of families losing multiple members to the novel coronavirus as the death toll has climbed. The Gazette this week has profiled three families facing that loss.
The couple were married for 35 years. Rosie was retired after a career as a caretaker in nursing homes. Jerry worked in roofing and had hoped to retire this year.
They were devoted to each other, said their son, Toronald Dounte Harris-Morrow, of Cedar Rapids, who goes by Dounte.
“They both just would always ride with each other, thick and thin, no matter what the situation was, they’d be there for each other. Over a mountain, over a cliff, through thick and thin,” he said. “They were just the most loving people you could probably meet.”
He said his parents had some tough times in their lives, but always kept a welcoming spirit.
“My parents, they were one of a kind. They took in others that weren’t even friends or blood-related — if there was just someone random that needed help, they’d take them in and do their best to accommodate them,” he said.
Rosie loved quilting and gardening, and was a storyteller — she could imitate anyone else in the family. Jerry loved to take his grandkids and great grandkids fishing and was a jokester, said Freida — “the life of the party.”
They instilled the importance of family in their children and grandchildren.
When the pandemic hit the United States last spring, Terriana brought her children and two nephews from Avondale, Ariz., to stay in Iowa for a few months.
“I said, if we’re going to be on lockdown, I want to be with my family,” she said.
The couple loved to cook, sometimes competing with each other to see who could make the best dish.
“They loved making people happy, and food was one of the resources they used to bring gatherings of people,” Dounte said. “They just liked to have a good time, they didn’t really care for the drama and negativity. They wanted to bring people together to share their good food.”
Deviled eggs, caramel cake, peach cobbler and homemade ice cream were some of their specialties.
They knew their food was so good, in fact, they would use it to cajole their extended family to come back together if they felt they’d been absent too long, said Terriana.
“We all got together through food, through music, through card games. If we were apart too long, they cooked, and we’d come back together,” she said.
Dounte said he doesn’t want other families to go through a tragedy like this.
“Some people still aren’t taking this pandemic seriously. It’s definitely real,” he said.
He thinks his mother’s death was, at least in part, due to a broken heart.
“Their love was the true definition of ‘until death do us part,’” the family wrote in the obituary and on a GoFund Me they started to help cover funeral costs.
The family isn’t sure how the couple contracted the virus, but Dounte said it’s hard, even now, to get people to not stop by to express their grief and offer support.
“We couldn’t even have the whole family there (at the funeral),” said Terriana. ‘We were only able to have 35 people, and nine of them were their children. It hurt my heart to say, ‘How can we pick 35 people?’”
One older family member asked if everyone could step outside of the funeral home so she could go in alone to say goodbye.
“That’s how serious she took it, and that’s how serious people need to start taking it,” Freida said. “I didn’t take it as seriously until it hit home.”
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