Vigil honoring Holyoke Soldiers’ Home veterans who died to COVID-19

Hampden County

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s been more than a year since the start of that deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home – and the sense of loss is still very fresh.

It was a night of reflection. A vigil to remember the lives lost to COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. Laurie Beaudette came to remember her father, James Mandeville.

“I mean this tragedy could have been avoided,” said Beaudette.He was a spit fire. I hope I can find peace in my soul for my dad. I wear his ashes arond my neck in this pendant. I just want to focus on my memories with him and the good times we had.”

Family and friends were joined by local nurses’ unions and staff of the Soldiers Home. One by one they placed flowers, candles, and American flags by a plaque, honoring the 77 veterans and using this moment to support each other.

“You know it’s tough,” said Susan Kenney. “But we all have to move forward. I just want this to be a time that me and the other daughters of veterans to be together and remember.”

A moment of silence was shared, lasting 77 seconds. Each second representing and remembering each veteran lost to COVID-19.

Family members told me they chose March 30 for the vigil because it was a year ago on that date that Bennet Walsh was relieved of his duties as superintendent of the facility being placed on paid administrative leave.

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