‘HOOSIERS WE’VE LOST’: A teenager is remembered for his kindness


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: Isaiah Mays

Age: 19

Town: Evansville

Died: Jan. 26

Isaiah Mays was only a few credits shy of graduating from Harwood Career Preparatory High School when he got sick.

It was the second week of December, Machelle Mays said, when her son told her, “I just don’t feel well, mom.”

Machelle works at St. Vincent Hospital, where she screens visitors for symptoms of COVID-19. She knew all the right questions to ask, which signs to watch for.

Isaiah tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 14. On Dec. 15, he was flown to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where he fought COVID for more than a month before his death from complications of the virus on Jan. 26.

“This was just really shocking and devastating,” Isaiah’s cousin Brayan Mayberry said.

Isaiah was 19, on the verge of getting his diploma, and starting to consider the future and all its possibilities. He was excited to explore a career in real estate, his family said, or maybe go to culinary school, an idea fueled by his love of the Food Network.

Isaiah’s family, friends and classmates are joyous in their remembrance of his life; the smile in their voice is obvious when they recall his love of basketball or his antics while working in the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

“He took life by the horns and said, ‘I’m going to live it the best way I can while I’m here,'” his aunt Tiffany Mays-McGuire said.

“He had this warmness about him,” Isaiah’s former teacher R.C. Lehman said. “I think it’s a disservice to the world that he’s not here.”

An elementary and middle school classmate, Zayne Hayes, said Isaiah always had a smile on his face in the hallways. “He was always just one of the sweetest kids in the school,” Hayes said.

Many saw a special presence in Isaiah.

“We all believe in our circle of life that God sends angels sometimes,” family friend Kelye Davis said. “And Isaiah had a presence about him that was remarkable.”

In his short lifetime, Isaiah faced a number of medical challenges, overcoming many of them along the way. He was was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and underwent several surgeries.

Lehman, who taught Isaiah at Harwood Prep during the 2019-20 school year, said Isaiah was always the first to offer to pass out materials or stop to help a classmate in the hallway.

“He makes you want to be more kind,” Lehman said. When he is stressed, frustrated or has a short fuse, Lehman said, he thinks of Isaiah’s rare kindness.

— By the Evansville Courier Press