• 52°

More than a COVID-19 statistic: Ammons remembered as crafty, creative, friendly

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SPENCER — Rita Ammons was someone who always made people feel like they were her top priority. She would drop anything she was doing to help someone else.

Part of that likely came from her career, split between Rowan County and Florida, working with children who had special needs. She was known for having the most unique room in the school, says son Rick Ammons. In the 1980s, when Michael Jackson was the biggest name in music, she made a life-size cutout and put records made out of paper across her bulletin board. For another one of her creations, Rita made a giant Pac-Man mural.

Rita’s close friend and Spencer Mayor Pro Tem Patti Secreast remembers Rita as always being talented at everything she tried, whether it was arts and crafts or baking cakes and decorating. She had been named Ms. Spencer and had a twinkle in her eye until the day that she died, Secreast said.

At the age of 71 and after a battle with COVID-19, Ammons died Nov. 8.

Her battle with COVID-19 started in October, a few days after going to Blowing Rock with some friends. But she always took typical coronavirus precautions.

“She was meticulous about social distancing, fake hugs from 6 feet away,” said Rick. “Obviously, they’re tragic looking back on them now.”

She went home after she tested positive and was there for a couple days before she went back for a follow up appointment. Less than two days after testing positive, she started experiencing her first symptoms, thinking they were allergies until she began running a fever. Rick says his mother was told she needed to go to the hospital, but she was released that night. Her son said he is not sure if she checked out because of her fear of being put on a ventilator.

Rick said his mother was convinced the ventilator would be the end. She had chronic breathing issues and used an inhaler. She was also a cancer survivor.

Hospital stay

Rick recalls receiving a 4 a.m. call shortly after she was discharged from the hospital the first time. Staff from Rowan Medical Center told him that his mother was being placed in intensive care.

“She stayed in the ICU probably five days,” Rick said. “Things just weren’t getting any better. They talked to me about needing permission to put her on a ventilator if need be.”

Throughout the course of her hospital stay, there were blood pressure concerns. On Halloween, the family received a call that her blood pressure had “bottomed out” and Rick said the family was unsure if she would make it through the night.

The family was faced with a decision about a do-not-resuscitate order and had to contend with the reality of rescue efforts that could be a violent process and one that would come with a low likelihood of survival.

Submitted photo Rita Ammons was a teacher who worked with special-needs children.

“If it was one in 20, that would have been too-high odds,” Rick said. “They would have had to break ribs.”

Multiple organs were failing, Rick said. She was on dialysis, her heart could not keep her blood pressure up and air was passing through the tissues of her lungs. On Nov. 6, Rick got a call his mother would need to be put on a paralytic medicine to keep her from fighting a ventilator, which allowed her to breathe easier.

It wouldn’t be long before doctors delivered a message he was dreading. It was increasingly unlikely that his mother would make it. Rick and family members made the tough decision to take her off of life support.

She died minutes after the machines were turned off on Nov. 8 with family in the room holding her hand.

“She went away peacefully after, I can only imagine, a very scary, lonely, discomforting nightmare for a couple weeks in the hospital,” Rick said.

The last thing he recalls telling his mother was over FaceTime. They were going to Boca Grande, Florida, when she got out of the hospital.

As an adult, Rick used to take his mother to the beach at Boca Grande. There, they would compete to find the most interesting shells, and Rita built up an elaborate collection along with some jewelry. She always wore a ring and melted down gold to make jewelry for other people. Rick said she had some allergies that prevented her from wearing certain things.

Memories from Spencer

Rita moved back to Spencer from Florida in 2018, and her family followed a year later. She was a lifelong member of Spencer Presbyterian and became an elder at the church recently. She volunteered for Meals on Wheels through the church and was a caregiver for her own parents when they reached the end of their lives.

Rita liked Barbra Streisand and the experience of going to hear music, especially Carolina beach shag music. She also liked to dance when she was younger. And she loved her grandson, Rick’s son.

Spencer Mayor Jonathan Williams took a moment to recognize Rita during the town Board of Aldermen’s meeting on Tuesday.

Rita’s friendship with Secreast, who became mayor pro tem in 2019, would flourish later in life because Rita moved into the house right across the street. But Rita and Secreast grew up together. They graduated from high school and went on to be roommates at Western Carolina University. They stayed in touch and visited each other over the years even after Rita moved to Florida. Their friendship was so strong that, even though Rita was a Duke fan and Secreast rooted for UNC, they watched sports together.

Rita also convinced Secreast to run for the board and was her campaign manager.

Secreast said she contracted COVID-19 shortly after Rita, but she recovered.

“I feel like I have a hole in my heart as big as the Grand Canyon,” Secreast said.

Lives lost to COVID-19

Rick said he does not think the pandemic is something people should forget about, but the public can become desensitized to COVID-19 until it directly affects them. He has other friends whose parents have died because of the coronavirus as well.

“I think almost everyone knows people who have had it,” Rick said.

Rick said he wanted to thank the staff at the hospital. He said the nurses who worked with Rita were fantastic.

“I called every morning, afternoon and evening,” Rick said. “They walked me through all the blood work, all the X-rays, what they’re doing and what their game plan was.”

This following is a list of some of the people who have died after testing positive for COVID-19 based on death certificates on file at the county Register of Deeds. This list is not complete. Death certificates do not immediately find their way to the clerk’s office and are filed as they come in. One suspected case was later confirmed negative by the Post. The location listed on the death certificate is not necessarily the location the person was living at the time of their death.

As of Saturday, 124 people have died after testing positive for COVID-19 in Rowan County.

Hazel Estes: Age 90. Died March 27. She was born in Davie County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a seamstress.

Evelyn Coggins: Age 86. She died April 7. She was born in Buncombe County and lived in Salisbury. She was a registered nurse.

Van Thomas Kluttz: Age 95. He died April 10. He was born in Cabarrus County and previously lived in Mt. Pleasant. He worked in maintenance.

Jackqulyn Mae Benfield: Age 80. She died April 11. She was born in Iredell County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a seamstress.

Johnnie O. Adams: Age 69. He died April 12. He was born in York County, South Carolina, and previously lived in Salisbury. He worked in maintenance.

Hellen Lucille Waid: Age 103. She died April 13. She was born in Mahoney, Oregon, and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a homemaker.

Juan Maurice Barber: Age 59. He died April 13. He was born in Philadelphia and previously lived in Charlotte.

Dorothy Mildred Cleveland: Age 98. She died April 14. She was born in Mecklenburg County and lived in Salisbury. She was a textile spinner.

Kenneth Aaron Cook: Age 77. He died April 14. He was born in Stanly County and previously lived in Salisbury. He worked in law enforcement.

Carolyn Elizabeth Corl: Age 82. She died April 14. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a secretary.

Ray Seamon Bost: Age 87. He died April 15. He was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Mt. Ulla. He was a master carpenter.

Eddie Watkins Jr.: Age 85. He died April 15. He was born in Fairfield, South Carolina, and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a laborer.

Beryl Marlene Wilson: Age 84. She died April 16. She was born in Oakland County, Michigan, and previously lived in Concord. She was an attorney.

Ann DiSanto: Age 88. She died April 17. She was born in Pennsylvania and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a housekeeper.

Mae Aileen Gunther: Age 94. She died April 19. She was born in Cabarrus County and previously lived in China Grove. She was a homemaker.

William Junior Carter: Age 73. He died April 21. He was born in Rockingham County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a machine operator.

Kenneth Claude Moody: Age 78. He died April 21. He was born in Haywood County and previously lived in Thomasville. He was an owner and operator of a service station.

Carolyn Stiffel: Age 76. She died April 24. She was born in Hamilton County, Tennessee and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a teacher.

Yvonne Emanuel: Age 82. She died April 26. She was born in Robeson County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a screen printer.

Marjorie Garvin: Age 96. She died April 27. She was born in Warren County, Georgia and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a secretary.

Connie C. Adams: aged 85. She died April 29. She was born in Portageville, Maryland and previously lived in Greensboro. She served in the Army and earned the rank of sergeant first class.

James Robert Steelman: Age 80. He died April 29. He was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was an owner and operator of a pawn shop.

Lewis Mitchell Rodgers Sr.: Age 92. He died May 9. He was born in Cabarrus County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a welding inspector.

Bobbie Jean Watkins: Age 78. She died May 11. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a cook.

Maizy Elizabeth Barber: Age 71. She died May 12. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a nurse’s assistant.

Charles William Walker: Age 82. He died May 13. He was born in Forsyth County and previously lived in Mocksville. He was a music minister.

James Arthur Smith: Age 81. He died May 16. He was born in Sampson County and previously lived in Durham. He was a manager in the lighting manufacturing industry.

Charlie Will Jackson: Age 50. He died May 17. He was born in Onondaga County, New York, and previously lived in Charlotte. He was a military officer.

Clifford Paul Shuping: Age 89. He died May 19. He was born in Cabarrus County and previously lived in Rockwell. He was an owner and operator of a truck parts business.

Kim Doster Harper: Age 77. She died May 21. She was born in Davidson County and previously lived in Thomasville. She was a packer in the furniture industry.

Lindsey Earl Spruill: Age 91. He died May 27. He was born in Washington County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was served in the U.S. Navy.

George Lee Benfield: Age 96. He died May 24. He was born in Lincoln County and previously lived in Gastonia. He was a truck driver.

John Frank Gibilaro: Age 91. He died May 30. He was born in the Bronx, New York, and previously lived in Jacksonville. He was an electrician.

Gertrude Belk: Age 94. She died on June 7. She was born in Chesterfield, South Carolina, and previously lived in Kannapolis. She was a weaver.

Harold Simpson Cain: Age 73. He died on June 16. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and previously lived in Statesville. He was a truck driver.

Arthur Earl Clippard: Age 92. He was born in Gaffney, South Carolina, and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a retail manager.

Jeffrey Mark Brady: Age 53. He died on June 21. He was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a truck driver.

Faye Downum: Age 82. She died on June 24. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a nutritionist.

Lucille Dawn Yancey: Age 77. She died on June 25. She was born in Cherokee County and previously lived in Kannapolis. She was a textile production worker.

Mildred Lucille Kepley: Age 85. She died on June 26. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was an assistant orthodontist.

Helen Maxine Overman: Age 84. She died on June 27. She was born in Guilford County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a legal secretary.

Ronald Eugene Tucker: Age 71. He died on July 21. He was born in Cabarrus County and previously lived in Kannapolis. He was an evangelist.

Herley Lee Hopkins: Age 84. He died on July 23. He was born in Cabarrus County and previously lived in Rockwell. He was an aircraft assembler.

David Allen Eckenrode: Age 82. He died on July 26. He was born in Cresson, Pennsylvania and previously lived in Mocksville. He worked in video repair.

Mary Louise Granberry: Age 92. She died on July 28. She was born in Jones County, Mississippi and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a homemaker.

Douglas Ernesto Osorio Fuentes: Age 52. He died on July 29. He was born in El Salvador and previously lived in Salisbury. He was grocery warehouse loader.

Stanley Wayne Campbell: Age 64. He died on Aug. 1. He was born in Queens and previously lived in Mocksville. He was a tobacco case packer.

Ronald Darrell File: Age 71. He died on Aug. 7. He was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Rockwell. He owned a trucking company.

Shirley Austin: Age 85. She died on Aug. 11. She was born in South Carolina and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a caregiver.

Martha Jo Meismer: Age 82. She died on Aug. 13. She was born in Madison, Georgia, and previously lived in Rockwell. She was a weaver.

Ronald Lee Niederman: Age 84. He died on Aug. 19. He was born in Butler, Ohio and previously lived in Ocean Isle. He owned a landscaping company.

Elise Evelyn Morris: Age. 81. She died on Aug. 21. She was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a homemaker.

Margaret Ann Brown: Age 85. She died on Aug. 21. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. she was a secretary.

Thomas Ray Choat: Age 70. He died on Aug. 16. He was born in Trenton, New Jersey, and previously lived in Gold Hill. He was a contractor.

Tony Eugene Trexler: Age 62. He died on Aug. 16. He was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Gold Hill. He was a heavy equipment operator.

Katie Louise Artz: Age 92. She died on Aug. 23. She was born in Greenville County, South Carolina, and previously lived in Salisbury. She was homemaker.

Rowland Rutherford King: Age 85. He died on Aug. 23. He was born in California and previously lived in Rockwell. He was an education administrator.

Mark C. Vandivier: Age 73. He died on Aug. 24. He was born in Fairborn, Ohio, and previously lived in Mooresville. He was an accountant.

Mattie Lee Sloop: Age 100. She died on Aug. 24. She was born in Forsyth County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a homemaker.

Gerald Wayne Boatman: Age 84. He died on Aug. 28. He was born in Cherokee, Texas, and previously lived in Albemarle. He was a construction worker.

Hallie Marie Spruill: Age 90. She died on Aug. 29. She was born in Gates County and previously lived in Mocksville. She was a postmaster.

Margaret Pauline Lyerly: Age 98. She died on Aug. 29. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a secretary.

James Arthur Chambers: Age 72. He died on Aug. 31. He was born in Fayette County, West Virginia, and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a cab driver.

Rosa Julia Albino Rivera: Age 70. She died on Aug. 31. She died on Aug. 31. She was born in Puerto Rico and lived in Rowan County. She was a homemaker.

Charles Henry Honeycutt: Age 76. He died on Sept. 1. He was born in Iredell County and previously lived in Mount Ulla. He was a shift supervisor.

Donald Eugene Mays: Age 79. He died on Sept. 1. He was born in Guilford County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was an auto dealer.

Frances McGarity: Age 90. She died on Sept. 1. She was born in Davie County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was an office manager.

Cathy Darlene Peoples: Age 65. She died on Sept. 2. She was born in Yadkin County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a medical technician.

Johnny Lee Peoples: Age 67. He died on Sept. 2. He was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was an infantryman.

Patricia Pipes: Age 79. She died on Sept. 2. She was born in Guilford County and previously lived in Asheboro. She was a teacher.

Esther Wagner: Age 77. She died on Sept. 3. She was born in Columbus County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a homemaker.

Stephen Bruce Reznick: Age 77. He died on Sept. 5. He was born in Philadelphia and previously lived in Charlotte. He owned a woodworking company.

William Meredith Ward: Age 89. He died on Sept. 6. He was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a truck driver.

Mary Sercy: Age 88. She died on Sept. 7. She was born in Mecklenburg County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a homemaker.

Judith Ann Riley: Age 78. She died on Sept. 12. She was born in Tippecanoe, Indiana, and previously lived in Cleveland. She was a sales worker.

Arlene Cook: Age 88. She died on Sept. 14. She was born in Cabarrus County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a clerk.

Carol Anne Cauble: Age 81. She died on Sept. 14. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury.

Howard Andre Warren: Age 76. She died on Sept. 14. He was born in Guilford County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a diesel mechanic.

Steven Leslie Summers: Age: 69. He died on Sept. 14. He was born in Marin County, California, and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a telecommunication technician.

William Cecil Cline: Age 85. He died on Sept. 14. He was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Cleveland. He was a railroad engineer.

Donald Gobble: Age 67. He died on Sept. 16. He was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was an auto sales service manager.

Kathryn Inez Graham: Age 95. She died on Sept. 16. She was born in Burke County and previously lived in Cleveland. She was a homemaker.

Mary Frances Russell: Age 84. She died on Sept. 16. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Kannapolis. She worked in textile production.

Clarence Eugene Caldwell: Age 86. He died on Sept. 18. He was born in Iredell County and previously lived in Kannapolis. He was a forklift operator.

Thomas Octave Jones: Age 79. He died on Sept. 18. He was born in Nash County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a manufacturing supervisor.

William Edmund Calloway: Age 81. He died on Sept. 18. He was born in Stanly County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a taxidermist.

Barbara Katherine Rabdeau: Age 83. She died on Sept 19. She was born in Geneva, New York, and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a machinist.

Edgar Franklin Friday: Age 76. He died on Sept. 19. He was born in Albany, Georgia, and previously lived in Dallas. He was a police officer.

Reather Jane Patterson: Age 86. She Died on Sept. 19. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. She worked in manufacturing.

Calvin Overstreet: Age 66. He died on Sept. 23. He was born in Brunswick County, Georgia, and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a sanitation worker.

Ricky Linn Darr: Age 73. He died on Sept. 25. He was born in Forsyth County and previously lived in Thomasville. He worked in emergency logistics.

David Dennis Kafitz: Age 78. He died on Sept. 27. He was born in Allen County, Ohio,  and previously lived in Salisbury. He was an IT manager.

Rebecca Barger: Age 80. She died on Sept. 27. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a Christian counselor.

Tony Ray Cornatzer: Age 57. He died on Sept. 28. He was born in Forsyth County and previously lived in Mocksville. He was a truck driver.

Louise Spry: Age 86. She died on Sept. 29. She was born in Buncombe County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a nurse.

Patricia Elaine Eller: Age 70. She died on Oct. 1. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Concord. She was a nurse.

Audrey Mae Bradshaw: Age 88. She died on Oct. 7. She was born in Bulloch County, Georgia and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a caretaker.

Patty Jean Welch: Age 72. She died on Oct. 7. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Rockwell. She was a cotton mill inspector.

Ruth Landis: Age 91. She died on Oct. 7. She was born in Manhattan and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a social worker.

Doris Kerr: Age 83. She died on Oct. 8. She was born in Wilkes County and previously lived in Woodleaf. She was an accountant.

Janice Evans: Age 93. She died on Oct. 8. She was born in Cabarrus County and previously lived in Landis. She was a homemaker.

Helen Jeanette Walton: Age 77. She died on Oct. 10. She was born in Davie County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a homemaker.

Thelma Juanita Mercer: Age 95. She died on Oct. 14. She was born in Richland, South Carolina, and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a government purchasing contractor.

Phyllis Ann Stratton: Age 62. She died on Oct. 19. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury.

Elizabeth Frances Dowell: Age 90. She died on Oct. 20. She was born in Anson County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a hemmer.

Howard Wayne Dobbs: Age 78. He died on Oct. 20. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. He was a USDA manager.

Kathy Sue Yost: Age 68. She died on Oct. 20. She was born in Iredell County and previously lived in Rockwell. She was a medical assistant.

Migdalia Soto: Age 59. She died on Oct. 21. She was born in Puerto Rico and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a factory worker.

Marion Delores Addison: Age 73. She died on Oct. 25. She was born in Cabarrus County and previously lived in Salisbury. She was a sewer.

Nancy Louise Thompson: Age 84. She died on Oct. 27. She was born in Rowan County and previously lived in Salisbury. She worked in quality control.

If a loved one has died from COVID-19 and you’d like to share a story about their life and personality, email carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com. Please also email if we’ve missed your loved one.

Comments

Local

Rowan’s Sen. Ford ‘honored’ to be chosen as joint caucus leader

Local

City council approves six road repaving projects, encourages input on development priorities

Business

State names Rowan among most economically distressed counties

High School

High school volleyball: South Rowan wins another CCC match

Education

Catawba College’s Service of Lessons and Carols moves virtual

Local

Spencer’s Park Plaza financing gets OK from state’s Local Government Commission

Education

Kannapolis City Schools to hold public hearing on construction equity policy

Local

Drivers identified in I-85 double vehicle crash, fire

Local

Driver cited in two-vehicle Mooresville Road collision

Crime

Tractor stolen from Ritchie Road

Coronavirus

North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd tests positive for COVID-19

Crime

Blotter: Vehicles broken into overnight at Marriott, Comfort Suites hotels

Coronavirus

County reports two new COVID-19 deaths, two weeks of 50-case daily increases

Local

Red wolves have been busy growing up at Dan Nicholas Park

Local

Salisbury City Council to consider contract for street paving

Education

Catawba College honors employees for length of service

High School

High school football: Clay hopes for big senior season

Local

Helen, Ralph Brown contribute to Christmas Happiness to help people in need

Cleveland

Cleveland Police charge woman with attempted murder after Sunday night shooting

Coronavirus

COVID-19 cases in Rowan continue to surge after 50 new cases added; 19% of total cases active

Local

Salisbury Police investigating accidental shooting at apartment building

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man arrested on felony counts of trafficking

Local

Motorcyclist airlifted following wreck on Jake Alexander Boulevard Sunday

Elections

Political Notebook: Senate Republicans disagree with Cooper administration halting CARES Act spending