Family members of those who have died at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home speak out

BOSTON — Boston 25 News reporter Scott McDonnell spoke with five families who have lost loved ones at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, the hardest hit facility in the country for COVID-19 deaths.

For many it’s been over a month since their parents perished and still no funeral services and no military honors that they deserve.

“We’re just picking up my father’s ashes tomorrow, matter of fact,” said Susan Kenney, daughter of Charles Lowell, who died at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

As Massachusetts moves into Phase 1 of reopening, those families have moved no closer to closure.

“I saw my dad fade away via FaceTime, it’s just so sad to me that those were his last moments,” said Laurie Beaudette, the daughter of James Mandeville of the U.S Navy.

A door that may open a path to healing would be one that leads them to answers. They hope results from federal and state investigations will shine a light on the conditions that created such decimation.

>>>MORE: Family of Holyoke Soldiers’ Home COVID-19 victim forms group for those seeking support, answers

Sheryl Blais wants to know who made the decisions that will explain what she and her father Robert Blais experienced.

“I go over and over it and all I see is what looked like a barn full of animals and I’m shocked to this day,” Blais said.

Steven Dudley lost his mother Margaret, who was also in the Navy.

“My mother, a vibrant woman who was 86, who walk[ed] around the soldier’s home,” Dudley said. “On a day like this, she would go out and walk around two or three times.”

His family was able to get her out of the soldier’s home, and she even tested negative, but it was too late.

“She basically was saying goodbye to us. She pointed to herself and [said,] ‘Steven, I’m done, it’s in here and I have to go,’ and by April 23 she was gone,” Dudley said.

Kenney lost her dad, Charles Lowell.

“You could just hear his roommates coughing and know there is nothing in there protecting them, they didn’t have masks, my father didn’t have masks on,” Kenny said.

>>>MORE: Nursing, retirement homes continue to be hit hard by COVID-19 despite increased safety protocols

“They are all playing the blame game. I just want the truth, I want to know why my dad had to die,” Beaudette said.

They all hope that, as many set sights on moving forward, the world will not forget what’s been seen.

“It is important that these families didn’t die in vain, that these families didn’t suffer in vain,” said Cheryl Malandrinos, the daughter-in-law of Navy veteran Harry Malandrinos. “Going forward these investigations are useless unless they bring about change.”

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