Relatives Mourn The First COVID-19 Death in Illinois | WBEZ
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Family Members Mourn The First To Die From COVID-19 In Illinois

Patricia Frieson loved to sing with her sisters at Progressive Beulah Pentecostal church not far from her home in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.

“I remember hearing her sing, and it was like her voice would send chills up my back. Everywhere I went I would hear someone say ‘Pat, sing a song, sing a song.’ They would love to hear her sing,” said her nephew Tarah Frieson.

Patricia Frieson died Monday night, on Tarah’s birthday, at the University of Chicago Medical Center where she had tested positive for COVID-19. She was the first person to die in Illinois from the coronavirus, and a woman who didn’t fear death.

“The thing about my auntie, is the more people that knew her, her love grew. She believed we were all sisters and brothers. She was a positive-energy person. She was very spiritual,” Tarah said.

Patricia Frieson was 61 years old and a retired nurse. She came from a tight-knit family that spends a lot of time together. She had eight siblings and a host of nieces and nephews to count.

Tarah says his family is sad and confused by Frieson’s death. His mother — Frieson’s sister — is being tested for coronavirus. The rest of the family is trying to get tested, too, he said. They are worried.

“We’re dealing with it. It’s unexpected so everybody’s in an uproar,” said Tarah, who lives in Texas.

“My aunt was always the rock, [would] always hold me down and give me positive advice and let me know everything’s going to be okay,” he said. His aunt provided him reassurance when he needed advice raising his daughter.

Between tears, Tarah says his aunt would want the family to keep going. She used to say “we’re supposed to cry when a baby is born but we’re supposed to rejoice when someone dies because no more pain, then they’re at peace.”

Two days before her death, Frieson posted a message on her Facebook page.

It reads: “Until the good Lord calls Me away from this world to the next, I want to make it clear that I believe in Jesus Christ as the True Lord and Savior. Despite the fact that I am human, and I fail a lot of times, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who was sacrificed on the cross, and died for our sins.”

Natalie Moore is a reporter on WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. You can follow her on Twitter at @natalieymoore.

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