Wisconsin Coronavirus Deaths: Remembering the Victims

Wisconsin coronavirus deaths victims

Facebook/obituary photos Wisconsin coronavirus deaths are starting to be reported. Among the victims, from L, clockwise, Lenard Wells, Dale Witkowski, Roderick Crape, and Robert Blackbird.

A beloved former police commander who helped the African-American community. Three senior citizens at a Grafton, Wisconsin senior care facility, including a World War II veteran who was an airplane mechanic during the Berlin Airlift. A man who worked at Mercury Marine and had a “heart of gold.” A former Milwaukee firefighter remembered by his son as a hero. A West Allis woman remembered as a “woman of God.” A Milwaukee County man described as a person who saw “happiness in the worst situations.” A Vietnam War veteran who recently underwent treatment for cancer. A beloved high school basketball coach.

“He enjoyed spending time with his family…Tommie always had a kind word to say to everyone,” Christopher Loving told Heavy.com of his uncle, Tommie Lee Loving. “Remember Dale as you knew him. Larger than life, a big teddy bear of a man with a gift for laughter and hugging and a caring heart that knew no limits,” the obituary for Dale Witkowski reads. “Much of the progress in law enforcement by people of color and women can be attributed to the sheer force of his personality,” the Milwaukee County Sheriff said of Lenard Wells.

Wendy Cunningham offered tribute to Ralph Davis, Washington High School coach, on Facebook.

Ralph Davis believed in EVERYONE. It didn’t matter if you were the ‘star on the team’ or the water boy/girl, he firmly believed that EVERYONE had a purpose on his team. (Can’t say this about many). Though they took his coaching position a few years bk, he still found a way to mentor and coach some of the BEST BOYS AND GIRLS. He was a father figure for many of my high school peers, he was a great friend to my pops, and over all A GREAT DUDE. From the hallways, lunch room, room 252, downstairs gym, and upstairs gym YOU HEARD his voice. If you ever wonder what ‘giving back’ looked like, well, Coach Davis himself defines it totally. Most Importantly: His leadership/ coaching skills went beyond THE WASHINGTON FAMILY! He believed IN every child that crossed his path??❤️❤️ *He never gave up on Washington** R.I.P. “ old man”?

Three people have died at Village Pointe Commons, the Ozaukee County senior care facility. The National Guard is assisting there.

They are among the faces of coronavirus deaths in Wisconsin. These are the victims who have lost their lives to COVID-19. We should remember their lives, not just their deaths. They are people with legacies, with loved ones, and who were lost too soon. You can see a bio for each named victim below in this article. This post is being updated as more names are released.

Not all of the victims’ names have been released. They will be added to this post when they are. As of March 26, 2020, the state of Wisconsin was reporting eight coronavirus deaths on its website. However, the Associated Press says the death toll in Wisconsin rose to 14 by March 27.

Ralph Davis

Ralph Davis

You can see the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services page for coronavirus information here. Here is a chart of Wisconsin coronavirus cases as of March 26, 2020. Most people who get coronavirus will recover from it, but it can take a heavy toll on people with compromised health or the elderly in particular.

Wisconsin coronavirus cases as of March 26, 2020

Here’s a roundup of all of the deaths so far with tributes and photos when available.

Lenard Wells

Although he had moved out of Milwaukee (but passed away there while visiting), Lenard Wells was a beloved figure in the community.

According to his LinkedIn page, he was an instructor at the University of Memphis for the past six years, specializing in criminal justice policy, corrections, and crime deterrence. He was a book author. He wrote a novel about a single mother raising three African-American boys in Milwaukee.

He was CEO of a consulting firm and had worked as an adjunct instructor and faculty facilitator for other universities. He was the former Chair of the State of Wisconsin Parole Commission and was the former director of Adult Education for the Miller Park Way Center at Concordia University in Wisconsin.

Many Milwaukeeans knew Wells from his time on the Milwaukee Police Department. He was a police lieutenant and patrol officer who served 28 years on the force in a variety of capacities.

Wells had a PhD in Leadership, Learning and Service from Cardinal Stritch University and a master’s in public administration from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as a well as a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UWM.

The tributes flooded in for Wells on social media. He touched many people. Max Helms, a research assistant at the Public Safety institute, wrote on Facebook, “The past few days I’ve been trying to find the words to say, and the feelings to feel. For anyone who didn’t get a chance to meet or talk to this guy, let me say this. Dr. Wells was, hands down, the most genuine, caring, nurturing person I’ve ever met. He would have done anything for anyone, and would always go up and over any request ever given to him. I am honored to have not only worked beside him, but to get to know him over the past few years. There is no one in this world that I’m more grateful to have had be my mentor, and my friend. I’ll miss running into him at work and just talking about anything and everything for hours, especially our conspiracy theories and friendly politics talk. Until we meet again dear friend.”

Chad Sean Alexander wrote on Facebook, “The last conversation we had was not planned…was trying to call Uncle Walter. Now I see why my phone dialed your number instead. The legacy you left behind will never die. It’ll be amplified.” Bert Burraston wrote, “It has been a honor and pleasure to have Dr. Lenard Wells as a friend and colleague! Lenard and I often talked grandchildren (great grandchildren) and he would always say ‘that’s what it’s all about,’ and smile his big beautiful smile.”

State Rep. David Bowen (who has coronavirus) wrote, “One of my mentors and awesome community Brother Lenard Wells former MPD Leadership and Community Radio Host visited Milwaukee, contracted the virus and did not survive. Please pray for his family during this difficult time!” Katina Dozier wrote, “A great man, a true leader, and a real hero of the Milwaukee Police Department & a fearless warrior for the League of Martin.” The League of Martin is an organization of African-American police officers that Wells once led.

Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas was also one of the many people offering tribute to Wells. “I am saddened by the passing of Dr. Lenard Wells, or Lenny as he was affectionately known,” he wrote.

“Lenny is one of those people who many, if they had the opportunity, would say, ‘there’s no me, without you.’ Much of the progress in law enforcement by people of color and women can be attributed to the sheer force of his personality. Lenny spoke truth to power in ways only few people could, and he even showed compassion for those who displayed little or no concern for others. He was a force to be reckoned with who kindled the fire in me and others to continue to persevere through the struggle and the storm. He made lasting contributions to the law enforcement community in Milwaukee that will forever be remembered by generations to come. I send my deepest condolences to his loving wife, Corene and his family and all those who treasure his memory. May a star guide him home safely to his heavenly reward.”

Family members also offered tribute. “Uncle Lenny, Lenard Wells, was one of a kind and filled with so much love and knowledge! He had one of the BIGGEST hearts I’ve ever seen,” wrote his niece.

WISN-TV reported that Wells died of coronavirus.

Tommie Lee Loving

tommie lee loving

Tommie Lee Loving

According to WISN-TV, Loving was 69 years old, from Milwaukee, and died of coronavirus complications.

Christopher Loving offered tribute to his uncle on Facebook, writing, “R.I.P. Uncle Tommie Loving. He is one of the latest to pass away from complications of this COVID-19 pandemic. He died in a Milwaukee Hospital at the age of 69. The Vietnam War veteran also recently went through radiation for Prostate Cancer. This pandemic is real. Stay home!!!!”

In an interview with Heavy.com on March 27, 2020, Christopher shared, “He died this morning. He recently finished radiation for Prostate Cancer a few months ago. From what I understand, he started feeling symptoms 2 weeks ago and was diagnosed with pneumonia. His conditions started getting worse. He went to the hospital last Friday and tested positive for Coronavirus. Over the last week his conditions got worse and his organs started failing yesterday. He passed away this morning. He is survived by his wife Anna. Tommie Loving was 69 years old and would have made 70 in April. He was a Vietnam War veteran.”

Christopher described his uncle’s personality, telling Heavy.com, “Tommie was a resident of Milwaukee, WI for 30 years. Raised on the Southside of Chicago, Tommie was 1 of 6 boys. He loved his family, R&B records from the 60’s and 70’s. Coming from a large family, he enjoyed spending time with his family. Parties in the basement were legendary. Tommie always had a kind word to say to everyone.” He said that Tommie was retired.

Dale Witkowski

Dale Witkowski

In his obituary, Dale Witkowski’s family described him as having a “tremendous heart of gold” and asked the public to take COVID-19 seriously. He was from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

“On March 19, 2020, we lost our dear brother, friend, neighbor, cousin, uncle, nephew and co-worker. Dale was born on February 25, 1965 in Fond du Lac, WI. He grew up in Eden and North Fond du lac and graduated from Marian College. He celebrated his 55th birthday in Egypt on a trip with one of his sisters. While in Egypt, he contracted COVID-19 and succumbed to this ugly virus at St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac, WI,” his obituary says.

“Dale was a giant shining light in our lives and in this world. Those who knew him appreciated his tremendous heart of gold and terrific sense of humor. His house was always open (and tidy) and his fridge full (and organized) for friends and family. Dale was constantly helping those in need and was a treasure to elders who could always count on him. He was the ‘go to guy’ for so many people. Dale sure had a generous spirit,” the obit reads. “Dale looked after his parents with the deepest of care and love.”

Dale worked for MercNET and at Mercury Marine.

“Dale’s current role was as Manager of MercNET, Product Protection and Warranty but he filled many positions during his long career at Mercury Marine. His work at Merc was very important to him and he was passionate about the company, its product and its history. Dale saw it as his duty creating a high quality workplace and finding solutions for colleague and customer issues. He was a powerful ambassador for the organization,” the obit reads. “Dale deeply respected and appreciated those who serve our country in the military, protective services and as first responders. Like his father, he was an enthusiastic supporter and attendee at EAA. Dale was an avid airplane buff and hosted many aviators from around the country and world.”

The family stated: “We ask you to be serious about COVID-19. Please do not panic, rather educate yourself and your family. Please do not blame or shun, rather be supportive and compassionate, especially with the people who have tested positive for this virus. We responded too slowly as a country and now we are seeing devastating effects in our country, state and community and for us, our family. Knowledge and mindful, safe practices are what is needed now.”

People offered tributes on Facebook. Donna Moore wrote, “OMG. I knew Dale both from working at Merc and from from my younger day at his and his brother’s parties at their pad in North Fond du Lac. So sorry for his family. He was a really nice and fun loving guy. So sad.” Penny Braatz wrote, “RIP Dale, you will always be remembered, as an amazing Human being.” Kevin Clark wrote, “Dale was a friend and colleague when I worked in Mercury Marine Plant 3 in Fond du Lac, WI. He was a good man and will be missed. This virus is a big deal and we all need to take it seriously.”

Mercury Marine released a statement that called Dale “humble, selfless, and a great listener. Family and friends were his priority. With a heart of gold, Dale would always encourage others to improve themselves; he was inviting and thoughtful, and always looked out for others.”

Robert Blackbird

robert blackbird

Robert Blackbird

Robert Blackbird was age 91 when he passed away. He was formerly of Eden, WI and Green Bay, WI, and he passed away on March 19, 2020 in Grafton, Wisconsin, according to his obituary.

“Bob was born in Eden, WI, the fifth of seven children born to Guy and Katherine (Nee Norton) Blackbird. In 1949 Bob enlisted in the Air Force where he went to Basic Training in Mississippi. His tour of duty took Bob to Germany where he was stationed in Celle and he worked as an airplane mechanic in the Berlin Airlift,” the obituary reads.

“It was at the ‘Union’ in Celle that he met the love of his life, Stefanie (nee Simka). Bob and Stefanie married on September 1, 1951. After returning to the United States, Bob took an apprenticeship and became a master machinist. After working in Salt Lake City, Bob and Stefanie moved to Green Bay where he had long career at Paper Converting Machine Company. They raised their family in Hobart but retired in Green Bay.”

The obituary explains that Bob “was a passionate man who loved the Packers, sailing, fishing. He loved living out in the country where he drove his Ford tractor around his homestead. The animals loved Bob where he had not only pet dogs and hundreds of cats, but a beautiful dove that followed him everywhere. Bob loved the people around him. He took great pride in his coworkers at Paper Converting and cherished their friendships. He was a friend to everyone who knew him and took time to chat with everyone he met. As dementia took over, he became even more loving to those around them telling everyone how wonderful they are. Bob was a man of strong faith. He read his bible daily and shared his beliefs with everyone.”

Bob was one of the people who died at Village Point Commons. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Blackbird tested positive for COVID-19.

Lawrence Riley

Lawrence Riley was 66 years old. According to Fox 6 Milwaukee, he was the first Milwaukee County death from coronavirus. On Facebook, his son, Elvaughn Riley had a message for the world: “Corona Virus is extremely serious this disease took the life of my father. I urged everyone to be aware of others and take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and others safe.”

Riley’s son, Elvaughn Riley, told Fox 6 that his father was a beloved family man. The Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin revealed that Riley was one of them, writing, “A former Milwaukee Firefighter and Navy veteran lost his battle with the coronavirus, after falling ill last week.” Heavy.com has reached out to Elvaughn.

According to WTMJ-TV, Lawrence left behind a wife, six kids and eight grandchildren. His son told WTMJ that Riley served in the Navy during Vietnam and was a Milwaukee firefighter from 1978 to 1990. He called him a “hero and an icon.” Leola Whitley wrote on Facebook, “Hey everyone, it’s me again. It’s with great sadness that I announce that my brother in law Lawrence Riley passed last night. He was the best man, father, brother in law friend, anyone could ask for.”

Riley’s niece wrote in a tribute on Facebook, “This is a message for people that is not taking it serious, to start now. This was my uncle and he lost his life to this. Uncle Larry Lawrence Riley…as tears wells in my eyes typing this, words can not express how much I will miss you. You were my favorite, and the best uncle a girl cld have. You gave me some of the best advice from a ‘dads’ perspective because u knew I still needed it after my dad’s death. I’m sorry I didnt get over there to see you as many times as I said I would, but that will NEVER take the love that I have for u away…You are resting now, and in no more pain, so for that I’m grateful. You’re in the best hands of them all. I hate that death is so permanent. Love while you can, hug while there’s still breath because when you’re gone, you’re gone. I will always always always love you big guy.”

Roderick Crape

According to Fox 6, Roderick Crape was 54 years old and died only 8 hours after being admitted to the hospital for coronavirus.

“He was funny, easygoing. He cracks you up. Just a big, lovable teddy bear. He brought sunshine to the room. He saw happiness in the worst situations,” his friend, John Harris, told Fox 6 of Roderick Crape.

Crape’s twin brother released a statement to the television station that read, “These are trying times and adding to the difficulties was the passing of my twin brother Roderick Crape. He was a fun loving person that loved his family and friends. In his passing and knowing my brother he would want to say I love you, goodbye to everyone and I will be alright. Roderick said on various occasions if I am not afraid to live, I am not afraid to die. I love you RIH my brother you will be missed.”

A friend wrote on Facebook, “Real talk!! R.i.H Roderick Crape wow good people gone to soon, love in the air my condolences to his family.”

Sheila Staten

Sheila Staten was 57 years old and from West Allis, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s office reported that she died of complications from coronavirus and had been hospitalized since March 19. “The storm is over Now ????? R.I.P. My beautiful Mam,” wrote Almeka Staten on Facebook. Heavy.com has reached out to Almeka.

According to WISN-TV, Staten’s daughter said she had recently traveled to Texas and Arkansas. In a tribute posted to Facebook, Latisha Days wrote, “I just think about the last time I saw you Sheila Staten… you were smiling with joy at my mom’s 60th birthday party. I cherish every moment I had you in my life. You always had an ear and you were always smiling. I love you dearly for the beautiful love you brought…”

A friend wrote, “Lord you are now with God and his other Angel’s. We just crossed paths and you had that same amazing smile and inspiring personality with a bit of spice. You are a soldier for the army of the Lord. I know you’re still with us. You probably asked God to let you stay and watch over your Tribe. Love you sister Sheila. Super Dope Woman of God and inspiration.”

Ralph Davis

It was through the Washington High School Mentor program that many people got to know Ralph Davis. He was a basketball and track coach.

Darin Ware wrote on Facebook, “We just lost a real one. Coach Ralph Davis Washington has passed away. Rest In Peace.” Maurice Madison added, “Damn it has became real. Didn’t want to believe this. No words can or will describe how Coach Davis meant to alot of us.” Wrote another, “Ralph Davis is a oldschool legend.”

Carlos Hubbard wrote on Facebook, “Great man going to miss making him laugh when he comes in my office.” Said Raymond Banks on Facebook, “Ralph will be missed and also needs to be in the conversations about Milwaukee legends.” Wrote Kevin Durham, “Coach Davis was a great guy he will be missed.”

Norwood Dray wrote: “I’m at a loss for words Heart heavy! Lord, we don’t understand why our loved ones should suddenly be removed from us through a sudden, unexpected death – but Lord we trust You to soothe away the hurt in time – for shall not the God of all the earth do right…. In Jesus name, we pray, Amen. Rest well Coach,Uncle,Brother,Mentor one of the Great men that convinced me to Coach Ralph Davis we will honor your legacy!!!”

Lauren Berlin wrote, “Coach Davis will be missed- Washington High School Coaches will strive to carry on your legacy ??”

Jamaar Taylor wrote, “My Dawg! Man this so crazy wtf ??‍♂️ , This man Ralph Davis & Ewell Clinton the ones that made me want to come to Washington in the first place & introduced me to high school basketball! My first high school basketball coaches that instilled that dog in me! I’m hurt fam , I’m glad I got to play for u coming in as a freshman because playing for you on JV was truly a blessing and still till this day your coaching has a major affect on my game and it will forever, Love you coach rest up ?❤️.”

Carolyn Johnson

According to WISN-TV, Johnson was 65 years old, from Milwaukee, and died of coronavirus complications.

Johnson’s sister told the television station that she was “a loving and caring person who would do anything to help her friends and family.”

Callie Roundtree

According to WISN-TV, Roundtree was 79 years old, from Milwaukee, and died of coronavirus complications.

This post will be updated when more information is learned about Roundtree’s life.

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