CORONAVIRUS

Coralville honors lives lost to COVID-19

Event part of nationwide moment of remembrance

Diana Lundell of Coralville writes her father's name on a luminaria bag during a public COVID-19 memorial at Xtream Aren
Diana Lundell of Coralville writes her father’s name on a luminaria bag during a public COVID-19 memorial at Xtream Arena in Coralville on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Lundell is wife of Coralville Mayor John Lundell, and her father PT Arman died at his memory care facility in Carsn City, Nev., in November. Residents could write the names of loved ones who died from Covid-19 on bags, which were them installed as part of a luminaria display throughout Iowa River Landing. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CORALVILLE — On Tuesday, as the United States reached a grim milestone in the pandemic, the City of Coralville hosted a public memorial to honor lives lost to the novel coronavirus over the past year.

The event was part of a nationwide memorial for those lives lost to COVID-19, hosted by President-elect Joe Biden on the eve of his inauguration Wednesday. Coralville was among the hundreds of cities and towns across the country to participate “in a national moment of unity and remembrance,” according to the Presidential Inauguration Committee.

City officials opened the doors to the new Xtream Arena in Coralville’s Iowa River Landing, where residents decorated luminaria bags with the name of a loved one who died as a result of COVID-19.

Coralville resident Angie Cookman and her daughter Maddy Cookman honored Larry “Cookie” Cookman, their husband and father respectively. The two pinned pictures of Larry Cookman onto a luminaria, including one photo that depicted him on a Harley motorcycle. They also wrote his favorite catchphrase — “luv u brat” — underneath his name on the white paper bags.

Cookman, a Vietnam veteran who was a longtime equipment manager at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at the University of Iowa, died on Aug. 11 at the age of 71 after being diagnosed with the virus. Complications from Agent Orange was also listed as a contributing factor to his death

“It’s nice, because everything has been negative about COVID, it’s been such a bad thing,” said Maddy Cookman, 22. “But (this event) is more of a positive thing.”

Luminarias were placed throughout the Iowa River Landing Tuesday evening, trailing down E. Ninth Street and other surrounding avenues. At one point in the evening, 49 luminarias representing the 49 Johnson County residents who died during the pandemic were placed outside the arena.

Sherri Proud, Coralville director of parks and recreation, said all buildings and homes in Coralville were invited to turn on their lights at 5 p.m. to honor lives lost.

The United States reached a grim milestone in the pandemic on Tuesday after more than 400,000 people have died as a result of the novel coronavirus, almost one year to the date that the first COVID-19 case was reported in the country.

That’s nearly equal to the number of American military deaths during World War II, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Though they’ve been in locked down since this past March, long-term care facilities, which house some of the most vulnerable populations, have also been among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

The memory care center in Nevada where Coralville resident Diana Lundell’s father was housed managed to avoid an outbreak until October. P.T. Arman, Lundell’s father, died in November at the age of 89. Lundell said he died before any of his family could travel to see him.

As of Tuesday morning, Iowa has reported more than 4,300 deaths, according to The Gazette analysis of state coronavirus data. 275 deaths have occurred in Linn County.

“I think we’ve all been touched,” Proud said. “I’ve lost two friends, and one was the same age as me. It really hits home when you start losing friends that are your age.”

Coralville officials said they planned to keep the luminarias up overnight Tuesday.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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