Couple with COVID-19 pass just days apart


Bob Moore, 77, died from COVID-19 on April 24 in a hospital bed inches away from his wife, Barb.

She would follow on April 29.

They spent 53 years growing old together.

In honor of their lives, here is a part of their story reconstructed from those who knew them best.

A giving life

They say Barb Moore made the best peanut butter fudge.

According to her sister Bonnie Shelley, Barb would make a big batch every Christmas and send it out in lieu of gifts. The Moores never had much more to give.

Bob lived most of his life on disability. A stroke suffered in his 30s cut off his career as a welder, and subsequent health problems over the years delegated him to a wheelchair with limited ability to communicate. Barb had worked as a nurse’s aide — a career with a median income of roughly $14 per hour.

They made up the rest with kindness.

“They always wanted to give,” Pastor Ed Jarrell said. “Maybe they didn’t have as much to give, but they would share what they had.”

Jarrell said the Moores would always be front and center when the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church needed volunteers. Before health problems limited their mobility, Barb had taught Junior Sunday School, and when smaller duties — like cleaning the church or stocking the food pantry — needed to be done, she had always stepped up to do so.

“If you asked for someone to volunteer, Barb was always there to respond. (Bob) would agree. He’d say, ‘Praise the Lord.’ It delighted him.” Jarrell said. “I don’t know what went through his mind, but what he projected to me, it didn’t matter what it was: ‘Praise the Lord.’ In all things, give praise and thanks to the Lord.”

From what he remembers, Jarrell said he met the two back when he first began his work at Full Gospel Tabernacle in 1980, and they were fixtures at Sunday and Wednesday services up until the two entered the nursing home in 2009.

By that time, mobility just became too much of an issue for the couple. Jarrell said he remembered when Barb took her last trip with him to church. She struggled to get in the vehicle, and he knew how hard it must have been for her to cut off that portion of their lives, especially when it meant so much to her.

Meanwhile, Barb started leading a Bible study group at CareCore Lima, where she lived for the last 11 years.

“They always prayed together. They always were putting God first in all they’ve done. They even were actively doing a Bible study at the (former) Golden Living Center,” granddaughter Lynn Swartz said. “Grandma led it. Grandpa went with her.”

Swartz lived with her grandparents until she was 12. They opened up their home for her and her family when she was a child, and her grandparents became a sort of second set of parents for her and her siblings.

“They loved their grandkids,” Swartz, now 30, said. “They were very, very involved with their grandkids, and basically everything revolved around their great-grandkids.”

Swartz said she remembers Barb loved playing board games with them — Uno, Skipbo and Yahtzee were her favorites. Other days, the family would watch episodes of “The Addams Family” and “Gilligan’s Island” together as Barb crocheted.

When Bob could choose what to watch, he stuck primarily to old westerns. John Wayne was his favorite, and the family knew not to touch his carefully organized collection.

On the weekends, they’d go to church together.

“(Grandma) always taught us kids. Basically, when life gets hard, you keep listening to God and never walk away from him,” Swartz said.

Like any family, there were challenges. By the time they died, the Moores had four sons, 14 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren, but not everyone got along all the time.

They made the best of it.

“She helped raise me and my brothers. They taught us the spiritual part of life,” she said.

When Swartz got older, she kept close by visiting the couple at the nursing home. She remembered Barb would do a lot of crocheting, and she’d give out blankets and afghans as gifts made during the crocheting class she led. Swartz still has the large blanket she received as a wedding gift.

Eventually, the ability to crochet was taken away from her due to health problems. Barb would later get into coloring books, and she’d give pictures to visitors as gifts instead.

“They put other people before themselves. They were the type of people, you know the old cliché ‘They’d give you the shirt off their backs.’ That was the type of people they were,” Jarrell said.

Since the couple lived at CareCore for more than a decade, family members say Barb was well-known among residents. Swartz said those passing by the Moores’s room might hear her calling out “hello” from inside. It was common for her to try to make people feel welcome.

And then they got sick.

The fight

Barb Moore came down with COVID-19 on April 15, according to Barb’s sister Bonnie Shelley. The disease hit rapidly. Her breathing became shallow almost immediately, and she was sent to Lima Memorial Health System.

Days earlier, the two celebrated their 53rd anniversary. CareCore staff brought them a cake.

“She was so happy that day,” Shelley recalled.

Bob joined her in the hospital on April 21.

Doctors kept them in the same room and pushed their beds next to each other. Shelley said both refused ventilators.

For Bob, the disease was quick. Years of deteriorating health problems combined with his earlier strokes meant that his body couldn’t fight it as effectively. He died in three days.

Barb held on for two weeks.

During their hospital stay, Shelley said the hardest part was not being able to visit. The doctors and nurses at Lima Memorial had been especially helpful in setting up contact with her sister as she fought the disease — but for family members, they often had to wait for daily updates because they couldn’t be by their sides.

Shelley would FaceTime when possible, with medical staff at Lima Memorial taking the extra steps so she could see her sister. Throughout most of the battle, Barb was unresponsive.

“It was terrible,” Shelley said. “The worst thing was I couldn’t be there. The nurse and the doctors, they would FaceTime me. I could see her there with all the tubes and everything. But not being able to be there, that was the hardest thing. She was hard of hearing anyway. They said she knew I was talking to her.”

While the couple had not been hooked up to ventilators, they did receive help in the form of feeding tubes and an apparatus that fed the lungs oxygen.

“The doctors and nurses at the hospital — each time I talked to them, I told them they were angels. They were doing my work,” Shelley said.

After days of waiting, Barb woke up the Friday her husband died. Swartz said she was calling Bob’s name, who had been wheeled out earlier.

For a time, they hoped she could pull through. At one point, Shelley said her sister was lucid and chomping at the bit to leave the hospital, but eventually, the disease and grief had been too much. She died on April 29 listening to church music when she passed.

The two had been born nine days apart, and they died five days apart.

“It was so difficult,” Shelley said. “The nurses told me at the end, she had a 104 temperature. The hospice nurse said, ‘She’s hanging on to something.’ I said, ‘She knows it wasn’t me there, and she wants to know that I’ll be able to see her again someday.’

“And she was gone.”

The end

Pastor Ed Jarrell officiated at their joint funeral. It was a somber occasion. Only 10 people were allowed to attend.

Shelley made peanut butter fudge.

“I found it and typed it up and made it for the funeral. So I made it for the kids. Each one has the recipe,” Shelley said.

“It was hard for me to do the funeral, as a pastor you try to be consoling. At same time, you’re hurting inside,” Jarrell said. “Barb, she’d say, ‘We love you and Sister Jarrell,’ and Bob’d say ‘Praise the Lord.’ It was his way of agreeing.”

“It’s a horrible way that we lost them, but it was a relief that they went together,” Swartz said. “If one would have went without the other, they would have been miserable.”

“Now Bob is able to walk and talk. That’s the beautiful part about it. They already made the trip, and I’m still here, ” Jarrell said. “I hope and pray that I was a good pastor and a good friend. They deserve every bit of the accolades and kind words.”

Barb Moore’s sister Bonnie Shelley estimates this photo of the couple had been taken roughly 25 years ago. Moore’s sister Bonnie Shelley estimates this photo of the couple had been taken roughly 25 years ago. Submitted photo
Beds were placed inches apart in hospital

By Josh Ellerbrock

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President Donald Trump ordered flags to fly at half-staff at federal buildings and national monuments over the weekend to honor those that died of COVID-19 since it began to spread in the United States three months ago.

Bob and Barb Moore number among the almost 100,000 Americans who have died of the disease. Public health officials expect that number to grow.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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