The News & Record
South Boston News & Record
and Mecklenburg Sun
Home   •   News   •   Sports   •   Classifieds   •   Community   •   Health   •   Entertainment   •   Obituaries   •   Opinions   •   Weather
Advertising | Contact | Register
Advanced Search

Upgrades sought at three Mecklenburg elementary schools

Architects present options for overhaul of Chase City, Clarksville and La Crosse schools

Truck rolls off, nearly plunges into lot below

Clarksville’s lakefront motels come under new ownership

Major change ahead for Lake Motel, Magnuson


Waller places second in VHSL state meet in high jump, long jump





Grieving mother issues plea: ‘Take covid seriously’

South Boston News
Sherry and Gary Collier, who died of COVID-19 within two days of each other. (Courtesy photo) / February 17, 2021

Juanita Crute, who lost a daughter and son-in law to COVID-19 in the fall, is still grieving.

Beloved Chase City first grade teacher Sherry Collier and her husband Gary died within two days of each other in October, less than a month after contracting the virus.

“I don’t want to see anyone go through what we did,” Crute said, referring to the sadness and emptiness she says will never be filled because of their untimely deaths.

As she tries to come to terms with the family’s loss, Crute is making it her mission to encourage others “to do the right thing to prevent the spread of the virus.” Her mantra is the same as that repeated by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: Wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing and get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“It’s too late for Sherry and Gary, but if I can keep one more person from getting sick, then I will know that they did not die needlessly,” she said.

Crute said she’s also speaking out to “set the record straight. I’m not here to blame or criticize,” but she is hurt by some of the talk that spread after Sherry and Gary were stricken by the disease.

She wants people to remember Sherry and Gary as the patient, kind and loving people they were. “Two people who would give you their last dime if you had a need, and who believed that giving was more important than receiving,” said Crute.

The saga of their COVID-related deaths began a few days before Sherry’s niece was to be married in late September 2020. Gary attended a revival meeting at his church in Charlotte County. There was no sign that anyone at that meeting was sick, but on the day of the niece’s wedding, September 26, Gary received a call from his minister telling him that the minister had tested positive for COVID-19.

Gary had no symptoms, but Crute said he immediately distanced himself from everyone at the ceremony and reception.

Crute said she is unsure if it was the next day or within a couple of days that Gary tried to get a COVID-19 test, but was told that since he had no symptoms, he did not qualify to be tested. Within a few days of being denied the test, he developed symptoms. He was then tested, and the results were positive for the virus.

Crute said while everyone immediately assumed that he was infected by someone at the revival, that may not be accurate. She acknowledges that more than 20 people who attended the revival meeting in Charlotte County were stricken with the virus shortly thereafter. Collier also worked in the kitchen at a local detention facility where an outbreak took place around the same time.

For that reason, Crute says, “We don’t know for sure how or where he got the virus.” Her view, she says, is reinforced because she is not aware of any contact tracing performed by the local health departments. She also understands the insidious nature of the illness.

She points out that no one who attended the wedding contracted the virus in the days following the event.

Once Sherry learned of her husband’s exposure, Crute says she told the appropriate people at Chase City Elementary where she worked and quarantined herself at home.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols confirmed that the students in Collier’s class were sent home to quarantine for two weeks, and that none of the kids who could have been exposed to the virus from Collier were infected.

“They both tried to do the right thing,” Crute says, of how her daughter and son-in-law reacted once they learned of their exposure.

Like her husband before her, it took several days for Sherry Collier to begin showing signs of infection. Her condition deteriorated rapidly. Both Sherry and Gary were admitted to Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital within a week of each other. Because Sherry was also living with an auto-immune disorder, she was soon moved to the hospital Intensive Care Unit.

Less than a month after being diagnosed, the two died. Gary passed on October 18 and Sherry two days later on October 20. “They just went so fast right in front of us. It’s just the hardest thing is to watch your loved one decline without comforting them,” Crute said.

For much of the time the two Colliers were in the hospital, they were not allowed to have visitors. At least the family was able to be there for “the last hours,” Crute recalled.

Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit a regrettable milestone. More than 485,000 Americans have now died from the virus — 7,016 of them in Virginia, and 11 in Charlotte County where Gary and Sherry Collier lived.

Crute counts the Colliers among those gone too soon. As a woman of strong faith, she accepts that the death of her daughter and son-in-law was the will of God. She also says it is unfair that so many families have been touched by this pandemic.

Crute says she hopes that sharing their story will help with the tremendous grief other families feel. To all those suffering and those who are blessed to have escaped the virus, she offers these words:

“Remember, there is no rulebook for what we are experiencing. Make no mistake, this virus is real. It is nothing to joke about. Be kind to yourself, try to be patient with others, but please wear a mask in public, wash your hands, social distance and get vaccinated if you can.”

Tell-a-Friend | Submit a Comment


Sports Coverage

See complete sports coverage for Halifax and Mecklenburg counties.