Who we lost in Northwest Georgia’s year-long COVID battle. Most are identified by age, gender and county; others by their names and contributions to our communities.

Who we lost in Northwest Georgia’s year-long COVID battle. Most are identified by age, gender and county; others by their names and contributions to our communities.

It was a year ago when our nation began to stop everything. A deadly threat known mostly as “coronavirus” was spreading rapidly. It wasn’t just a West Coast nursing home or a troubling case in New York City. A Floyd Medical Center patient with COVID 19 officially was diagnosed on March 5 and suddenly we knew it was here.

The fact hit hard on March 18, 2020, as Beth Wells lost her battle with the virus. She had been in a crowded choir loft at The Church at Liberty Square in Cartersville on March 1 of that year. While others were sick, she was the first to die. Not just from the church. Not just from Rome. But the first in our five counties and today, a year later, that tally is 582 people. And climbing.

Of all those victims, maybe a couple of dozen have been publicly identified as dying from COVID. We’ve lost well-known public figures in each of our counties. We’ve read obituaries that identify the virus as the factor in their love one’s loss. We’ve watched their funerals on computers in order to socially distance and protect others. Over and over and over again.

Today, we look not only at a few of the “public” cases but at every COVID death in Floyd, Bartow, Gordon, Polk and Chattooga counties. Each victim is identified only by age, gender and whether he or she had other health issues that contributed to their deaths — “comorbidities.” To be sure, each has been identified as a COVID victim by coroners, healthcare officials or state experts. Late in the first year of COVID, the state added a second category, “probable deaths,” which means COVID was a contributor if not a cause.

The state count there was 2,330 on Wednesday, including 74 in Northwest Georgia. That’s on top of another 15,706 people who have died from St. Marys to Dade County.

So on this one-year mark — too painful to call an “anniversary” — we list each of those deaths, county-by-county, age group-by-age group. Again, their are few names. What’s important is to note each line represents one of the 582 we’ve lost here in one year.

The first in Northwest Georgia was Elizabeth Eugenia “Beth” Wells, age 65, of Rome, who passed away on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, at a local hospital.

She worked for 18 years for Wellstar Health Systems and later worked at Walmart.  She was a member of the Church at Liberty Square where she sang in the choir and was active in many activities. She loved writing and had published a book entitled “Garden Variety Wisdom.”  Her greatest enjoyment was spending time with her grandchildren.

One year later, her pastor, Dr. Jacob King at The Church at Liberty Square, says of her: “Beth was a wonderful person and a proud member of this spiritual family.  She loved to sing and worship the Lord with all of us, and just like so many others, it does not feel the same without seeing her smiling face in the house of the Lord.  We miss her, as we do all of those who are no longer with us, but their lives inspire us to continue in the faith knowing how short life can be and how truly important it is to serve Christ together, today.”

Capt. Michael Garigan of the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office.


Michael D’Angelgo Garigan, a captain and jail division commander for the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office, died on Jan. 24 after battling COVID for several weeks. He was 56. A 31-year veteran with the sheriff’s office, he also was a deacon at First Corinth Christian Church and very active in youth sports. Said Gordon County Sheriff Mitch Ralston: “For several years in the 1990s, Mike was the Sheriff’s Office DARE coordinator, and is fondly remembered by the hundreds of children he met, taught and to whom he provided a positive influence. He was extraordinarily popular in the community.

“Mike battled tenaciously and bravely for several weeks with the the illness. He was a fighter. He was known for his love of sports, and he dedicated countless hours to coaching young people’s teams. Mike loved children. He loved people. He was a dedicated peace officer, a devoted Christian, and a loving family man.”

Sgt. Jeff Smith with Berry College Police Department.


Jeffery Robert Smith, a sergeant with the Berry College Police Department, died Jan. 29 from COVID. He was 58, and a resident of Silver Creek. He began his career in law enforcement in 1988 working at the Rockmart Police Department and Floyd County Sheriff’s Office. In 1996, he started as a campus police officer with the Berry College Police Department. In 2020, he earned the Oris W. Bryant Officer of The Year award from the Georgia Association of Campus Law Enforcement. He was a deacon at DeSoto Park Baptist Church.
He was a fixture on the Berry campus and likewise was well liked by fellow law enforcement officers in the community.


 Jeffery L. (Jeff) Ellis, 67, was Rockmart’s city manager and passed away Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in a Rome medical center from complications of the COVID 19 virus. He was a former employee of Marquette Cement Co. and later worked for the Aragon Police Department. In 1980, he was hired to be the Chief of the Rockmart Fire Department and served in that capacity for 15 years. He then served as the Public Safety Director before becoming the city manager in 1996. Ellis has served for 25 and was in his 40th year of service to the city.

He was a member of the Georgia Municipal Association and had served on the public safety policy committee, was a member of the Georgia Rural Water Association and had served as its President, was a graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development, was a graduate of Polk Leadership, served on the Steering Committee Polk 2020, and was a 2018 graduate of the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing. One of the accomplishments he was most proud of was the development of the City Municipal Complex located on the old Rockmart High School campus.

In 2019 he was nominated by the Mayor and City Council to the Georgia Municipal Association Hall of Fame for his steadfast commitment and a lifetime of service to the City of Rockmart.


The Honorable Judge Jon M. Payne, age 71, of Martin Street, Summerville, passed away Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in a Rome hospital. Judge Payne was an Eagle Scout, a graduate of Chattooga High School, a veteran of the U. S. Marines, for several years was a Chattooga County Sheriff’s Deputy, and was elected Chattooga County Probate Judge in 1975 at the age 25 and was the only Probate Judge Chattooga County had known.  He was a member of the Church of Christ. He died just days before  his 72nd birthday and was to retire at year’s end. Judge Payne was praised by colleagues across the state.

Polk County Sheriff’s Sgt. Barry Henderson died Tuesday, March 9, 2021, after more than a two-month battle with COVID. Just 50 years old, he served for many years with the sheriff’s office and was well liked by officers with other area agencies as well. During his hospital stay, the communities of Polk County rallied around Barry’s wife Chrisy and their family, holding prayer services and fund raisers in a remarkable show of support and love.

Barry was the third local law officer to die from the virus in two months. Funeral services are scheduled for this Saturday.

OTHERS WE’VE LOST since March 18, 2020:
Below please find a list of those who have died from coronvirus in our communities. The youngest victims were 31, a male and a female; a majority of the others were 70 or over but also included were those in the 40s, 50s and 60s. More men than women have been claimed by the virus in Northwest Georgia and a majority also had very common existing health issues before contracting COVID. Whites by far outnumbered other races with African-Americans identified next to 49 spots listed below. Very few Hispanics or Asians were identified by those races alone. All information is courtesy of the Georgia Department of Public Health (please click here for the expanded list).

166 deaths, not counting 33 ‘probable’ deaths. Many of the victims were 70 and over; the  youngest was a 31-year-old identified as a white male with no known comorbidities. The list is by age, race and whether there were comorbidities.



187 deaths, not counting 14 ‘probable’ deaths. Again, most were over 70; the youngest was a 34-year-old identified as a white male with no known comorbidities. The list is by age, race and whether there were comorbidities.












































94 deaths, not including 10 “probable” deaths. The youngest was a 31-year-old identified as a white female with no known comorbidities. The list is by age, race and whether there were comorbidities.









































73 deaths not including 10 “probable” deaths. The youngest victim was a 49-year-old white male with existing medical issues. The list is by age, race and whether there were comorbidities.































60 deaths not including seven “probable” deaths. The youngest were two 49-year-olds identified as white males with existing health issues. The list is by age, race and whether there were comorbidities.

































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