Community Memorial Service Held for Eastern Shore Residents Who Died of COVID-19

Attendees bow their heads as Father Rick Willis prays during a memorial service for Eastern Shore residents who died of COVID-19 Saturday, June 27, 2020, in Exmore Town Park. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

By Carol Vaughn —

Family and friends of Eastern Shore residents who died of COVID-19 gathered Saturday at a community memorial service at Exmore Town Park.
Names of those who died were read aloud during the service, which included prayers, scripture readings, and a song performed by Elizabeth Wolfe of St. James Episcopal Church.
Signs with each person’s name were scattered around the lawn, with family and friends sitting near the sign bearing their loved one’s name.
Family members had an opportunity to speak about their loved ones during the service.
Among those who spoke was Robin Lynne Heath, who read a letter she wrote expressing her love for her mother, Ida Ellen Culver Costin, 82, of Capeville, a resident of Heritage Hall nursing home who died May 11.

Robin Lynne Heath, center, reads a letter she wrote to memorialize her mother, Ida Ellen Culver Costin, who died of COVID-19, during a memorial service Saturday, June 27, 2020 in Exmore Town Park. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

Minister Karen Downing read a letter from Gov. Ralph Northam to attendees, who received copies of the letter.
“Pam and I continue to keep all residents of the Eastern Shore in prayer and in thought as our community goes through this period of grief,” Northam wrote.
“…You are not alone in your grief and I know that we will get through this together. Our community is strong, caring, and hopeful. We know the importance of extending one’s hand to those in need of help and the significance of lifting each other up,” the letter went on to say.
A diverse coalition of clergy from several area churches participated in the service, which also was translated into Spanish.
As of Monday, 1,740 Virginians have died of COVID-19.
On the Eastern Shore, 14 Accomack County residents and 28 Northampton County residents have died.

Elizabeth Wolfe sings during a memorial service for COVID-19 victims Saturday, June 27, 2020, in Exmore Town Park. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

“As of today…42 souls have been snatched from their families, friends, and neighbors,” said the Rev. Rick Willis during the service.
“One of the main reasons we are gathering here is these beloved folks are so much more than numbers,” he said.
Willis also recognized and thanked essential workers for their work during the pandemic.
There have been 1,039 cases and 71 hospitalizations reported in Accomack County and 269 cases and 39 hospitalizations reported in Northampton due to the pandemic.
Of the total, 849 cases, and 103 among healthcare workers, are associated with 10 outbreaks on the Eastern Shore.

Bishop David A. Sabatino Sr. reads a Bible passage during a memorial service for COVID-19 victims Saturday, June 27, 2020, in Exmore Town Park. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

Each family at the service received an azalea plant donated by David’s Nursery to plant in memory of their loved one.
The opening welcome was given by the Rev. Willie Justis. Scriptures were read by Pastor Jo-Ann McCrary and Bishop David Sabatino. Translation and the reading of the names of the deceased was by Marisa Sanchez.
Sarah Morgan designed the logo for the service — a map of the Eastern Shore flanked by two white lilies.
Members of the planning committee were: Betty Mariner, Karen Downing, Maegan Smith, Marisa Sanchez, Pedro Agostini, and Rick Willis.
A video of the service can be viewed on the Eastern Shore Community Memorial Service Facebook page, at