The stories behind the lives lost to COVID-19

Coronavirus

This story has been updated to include more people.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – In the year 2020, South Dakota lost more than 1,400 people to the COVID-19 virus. With only eleven days into 2021, more than 80 additional lives have been taken.

KELOLAND News has been telling the stories of those lives since March. These are just some of the faces behind COVID-19, each one more than a number.

If you have a loved one you’d like us to add to this list or share their story, please email lsoulek@KELOLAND.com.

Faces of COVID19


Barb Meyers documented her COVID-19 journey on Facebook – a “Diary of the Dying.” The 69-year-old woman from Crooks, South Dakota, contracted COVID-19 in the middle of October 2020. Roger Meyers said his wife “was passionate about a lot of things. She loved life.” After just over seven weeks in the hospital, Barb passed away on December 10, 2020.

Betty and Harold Dean were married for 76 years. They were living in the Weskota Manor Nursing home in Wessington Springs when the pandemic hit. Their son, Dr. Tom Dean, explains his 97-year-old mother’s health was failing already, but she tested positive for COVID-19 and died September 26, 2020. Dr. Dean lost his dad just four days later saying, “My dad on the other hand had just passed his 100th birthday and was clinically quite stable. He was confused and frail at age 100, but he was stable until the virus hit and when it did he went downhill in a hurry.”

Bob Glanzer was one of the first victims of COVID-19 in South Dakota. The 75-year-old man had a background in teaching, coaching, banking, politics and more. He was a father of two and a grandpa to five. His son, Tom Glanzer, describes him as “a quintessential South Dakota guy.” The South Dakota State Representative died on April 3, 2020.

Buck Timmins was a long-time South Dakota high school sports official. He spent decades officiating and teaching, recently serving as Officials Coordinator for the South Dakota High School Activities Association. At the age of 72, Timmins contracted COVID-19. “It was a lot like Buck. It was quiet. You know, didn’t really hear anything about it and all of a sudden we get the word that he had passed,” a friend of Timmins said. Timmins passed away on November 16, 2020.

Charlotte Hoverstadt’s daughter says her battle with COVID-19 was fast. “She was in the hospital down here about a week, a week and a day, before she passed. So, from the time we believe she was exposed to the day she died was about 19 days,” her daughter said. Hoverstadt died from the virus at the age of 70 on October 6, 2020. She grew up in Lennox, graduated from SDSU and taught Home Economics for 32 years in Webster. She was a mother of two, grandma to five and an author of two cookbooks.


Craig Franken died from complications of the COVID-19 virus on April 19, 2020. Franken worked at the Smithfield meat packaging plant. He was the second death associated with the COVID-19 outbreak at the Smithfield Foods plant. According to his obituary from George Boom Funeral Home, Franken “looked hard on the outside but he was a big softie on the inside.”

Darleen Smart passed away on April 29, 2020, at the age of 79. A photo of her daughter, Robin Christensen, crying beside her coffin caught a lot of attention on Facebook. “It was heart wrenching. It was like we didn’t help her cross over properly. You know it’s a hole left in your heart,” Christensen said. Smart was a resident at Touchmark All Saints.

Doug Raysby was known for being polite, kind and welcoming to all. His mother-in-law described him as a hard worker and said no one could find a negative thing to say about him. Raysby died on October 21, 2020, after only being diagnosed with COVID-19 for ten days. “There’s this idea that because he had preexisting conditions or because he was older than 50. Well, those are not the reasons he’s gone. There’s nothing in his medical history that he would’ve died this year, other than COVID,” Kathy James, Raysby’s mother-in-law said.

Ethel Left Hand Bull was on life support for more than a month at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls. The 57-year-old Crow Creek Tribal member died of complications from COVID-19 on August 22. She was a long-time fifth-grade teacher at St. Francis Indian School on the Rosebud Reservation. Two other members of the Tribe also died of COVID-19: 38-year-old Welsey Fire Cloud Jr. and 34-year-old Randy His Law. 56-year-old Ken Jewitt was a father of another member and died on June 27th after catching the virus from his son.

Hazel Schaunaman had a big role in the lives of her grandchildren. Her granddaughter, Kelcy Schaunaman, says she learned to sew, cook and bake from her grandma. Hazel Schaunaman may have been 91 and living with dementia, but losing her to COVID-19 was still hard for the family.


Jesse and Cheryl Taken Alive would’ve celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary on January 2, 2021. However, they both tested positive for COVID-19 in late October 2020 and were hospitalized. They died just weeks apart from one another. Jesse Taken Alive was a former tribal chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Jesse was 65-years-old and Cheryl was 64-years-old.

John Bjorkman’s wife says she’ll remember him for his love of life. Bjorkman passed away due to COVID-19 complications in October 2020. Both his wife and his daughter believe he’d still be alive today if more people took the virus more seriously. “I don’t know how to say it better, but just if you were to stay home and stay safe, wear a mask and stay socially distanced, we’re going to save more lives that way,” his daughter said.

John Rittmann‘s son describes him as a deliberate person who loved to look at multiple sides of things. On November 22, 2020, he passed away from COVID-19 at the ate of 83. He had been a small-town doctor in Watertown. So I keep hearing things, running into people that have had their own little interactions and stories with them. So he touched quite a few people in the community,” his son said.

Mari Hofer was a beloved wife, mother and teacher. On March 27th, 2020, she suddenly began to feel ill, went to the hospital and was then airlifted to Sioux Falls. At 3 a.m. the next day, her family learned she was gone. “She was very loving, caring. She had a servant’s heart. She loved her kids. She loved her community,” her husband said.

Martha Evans’ family members say they will remember her as someone who made people feel welcome. In early July 2020, she was first diagnosed with COVID-19 while living at a nursing home in Pipestone. After not recovering completely, she went to the hospital. She still tested positive for the virus three weeks after the first diagnosis. Her family is grateful for the nurse who helped them say goodbye. “We took our turns saying our ‘I love yous’ and ‘goodbyes;’ it was really special,” her granddaughter said.

Mary Ann and Frank Fransen‘s daughter, Mary Schmidt, never expected to lose them so soon after the other. But that’s what happened when they both got COVID-19. They had been living with Schmidt since 2015. “This has been very hard and having had them in my home for five years, it’s very quiet here. So, we’re trying to figure out what our new normal is,” Schmidt said.

Mary Jane Brown had a full life with five children and a large extended family. At 82-years-old, she didn’t have any other pre-existing conditions, but COVID-19 attacked her lungs. She died from the virus on May 2, 2020. Her family got to say goodbye through personal protective equipment. “So we were able to touch her–with gloved hands, things like that. Not quite the same,” her daughter said.

Tom Winter had a passion for race car driving and was inducted into the Huset’s Hall of Fame in 2005. At 79-years-old, he passed away just six days after being diagnosed with COVID-19. His children say they were lucky to have him as a father. “Right up to the end too. If he could’ve, he would’ve done anything to help any one of us,” his son said.

Troy Nelson was just days away from getting a new kidney when he died of COVID-19 in April 2020. Two decades ago, Nelson had undergone a kidney transplant, but the kidney had a congenital defect, which put him back on the transplant list. “He was always worried people would see him as weak. And no, he wasn’t weak at all. He was very strong. The strongest person I knew. He never once complained about his lot in life, or his physical pain, or anything. He just took it all with dignity,” his wife said.

William Prince was young, energetic and fit, but it wasn’t enough to fight off COVID-19, according to his family. The virus caused Prince to go into cardiac arrest, and he never made it out of the hospital. He was in the Monument Health hospital for 18 days before passing away in May 2020. “It’s going to be a big hole in their lives, all of our lives. It doesn’t just affect him or us. It affects his children, his girlfriend, his friends,” his step-father said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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