INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – It’s a heartbreaking reality all too many families can relate to — a loved one lost to COVID-19.
As of Wednesday evening, 203 Hoosiers have died from coronavirus. But as those families know, the people they lost are more than just a number.
The faces of this pandemic are your mother, a dad, or a brother. The people you love.
Affectionately known as ‘Uncle Al,’ Austin Evans, 67, was everyone’s right hand man. He was one of the first Hoosiers to die from COVID-19.
Loved ones called him a family man who knew no stranger and made everyone feel seen.
His niece Kelli knew that better than anyone.
“He had a special name for me every time I seen him since I was a little girl he would say ‘Kellerson, Kellerson and…’ and I would have to say the last Kellerson. He picked me up until…And that was our greeting for each other,” said Kelli Evans.
But it’s when he got sick that smiling face began to fade.
His family says he first started feeling sick about a month ago.
His brother, Ronnie, said he was at church when he started not to feel well.
His family said he spiked a 103 fever and had body aches.
“He would get sick about three or four times. Especially during this time of year. And plus he was asthmatic. So I didn’t think it was COVID virus until he told me what his temperature was running,” said his brother, Ronnie Evans.
Austin was admitted to St. Francis Hospital just south of Indy. He required intensive care and was put on a ventilator. His condition rapidly deteriorated.
He died just days later on March 26.
“This is not a joke, my brother just a month ago was sitting down talking to, laughing with me and now he’s gone,” said Ronnie.
Austin was a Purdue grad who had hopes his smile would land him on television.
Now he’s on TV, for a very different reason.
“He’s the face of this (pandemic) because we can’t go to the hospitals. We can’t have proper funerals. We can’t sit next to them and hold their hand as they are going through this.They have to go through this by themselves,” said Kelli Evans.
If there’s anything his family wants others to know, it’s this: “We’ve never seen anything like this. We need to take it seriously and you don’t want it to hit home. You don’t want it to hit home to where you have to be talking about it like I am. Stay at home.”
Since the Evans family didn’t get to have a funeral, they plan to hold a public YouTube memorial for Austin in the coming weeks.