‘HOOSIERS WE’VE LOST’: Father didn’t get to meet his newborn daughter

Editor’s note: This is one of a continuing online series of profiles of the more than 12,000 Hoosiers who have died from COVID-19. The stories are from 12 Indiana newspapers, including The Republic, who collaborated to create the collection to highlight the tremendous loss that the pandemic has created. The series appears daily at therepublic.com.

Name: Brian Lee

Town: Evansville

Age: 44

Died: Jan. 9, 2021

Those who loved Brian Lee are struggling with uncomprehending pain at his death just 24 hours after his baby’s birth.

The 44-year-old Evansville resident was never able to meet the daughter he had eagerly awaited for nine months, slipping away from his family on Jan. 9 in Deaconess Gateway Hospital’s ICU. Diagnosed with COVID pneumonia, he was on a ventilator. The baby, the second child of Brian and wife Jennifer, had arrived a day earlier at Gateway’s Women’s Hospital.

Jennifer’s sister, Janelle Waters, struggled to describe how vast is the chasm left by Brian’s abrupt and inexplicable exit from their lives.

“She had to come home from the hospital with a new baby to share with her 4-year-old (son), and without his daddy,” Waters said, weeping softly as she spoke. “This is supposed to be the happiest time of their lives.”

Janelle told the story of how Brian and Jennifer met in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in 2004, he a student at Southeast Missouri State University and her a high school student. They worked together at Kmart. Though Jennifer’s family relocated several times before she enrolled at the University of Southern Indiana, Brian courted her wherever she lived.

“He was so devoted to my sister,” Janelle said of Brian, who was a native of Pinckneyville, Illinois. “He moved here to be with her.”

The couple married in 2006, Janelle said. They celebrated their 14th anniversary just a month ago.

Moments later, Jennifer began speaking. The family has no idea how Brian could have acquired COVID-19, she said. He was a bit overweight, and he had sleep apnea, but that was about it as far as health issues.

“He was working from home. He was wearing his mask. He was doing the hand sanitizer. I don’t know what else could have been done,” Jennifer said.

“He wasn’t stupid. He didn’t get COVID by going to a bar or, you know….”

Her voice trailed off.

Brian’s symptoms began too soon after Christmas to have been caused by that small family get-together, Jennifer said.

“It’s tragically altered our lives,” she said through her tears.

— By the Evansville Courier Press