The family of one of the first residents who died of coronavirus at a Fort Lauderdale assisted living facility said they couldn't give him the service they thought he deserved.
Richard Curren, 77, was a resident at Atria Willow Senior Center and was one of the six confirmed people who died at the center due to COVID-19.
Curren's family just got his ashes back and initially planned to put his remains in the ground along with a tree they were going to plant.
"Now that mom has seen and touched the ashes, I don’t know, it may be comforting to her to have something more concrete," said his daughter, Tracy Wieder.
The senior facility has been criticized by inspectors and Gov. Ron DeSantis for not taking steps to contain the virus. As the family prepared to say goodbye, Curren’s daughter got the call that her mother, Shelia, who lived with her husband at the facility, is also positive for COVID-19.
"I can’t trust right that they are following protocol and can keep her safe," Wieder said.
That is adding to the family’s pain. The couple had been together more than 50 years. They got married when he was 20 and she was 19 after meeting at the University of Illinois. Their adventures even included Richard convincing his wife to be is sidekick in his magic act.
Another family who still has a loved staying at Atria Willow is calling for more testing so those running the senior center can stop the virus from spreading.
“Our chief concern is that we feel we need some testing done with all the residents and remove those who are sick and get the residents back to being a little more social with each other," said Jolynn Ryckman, whose mother Joan DeFelice is staying at the facility.
“It doesn’t make sense to me. Stop pointing fingers. Pointing fingers does not help anything. Why — we are beyond that. We are way beyond that,” Ryckman said from her Colorado home.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty says this shows special attention needs to be made to seniors. She inspected the facility and reported deficiencies to the governor.
“It’s truly tragic when we got to the facility, it still wasn’t sealed tight. People were still coming in and out,” Marty said.
Atria Willow Wood said in a statement, "Our primary concern right now is supporting our residents and staff and doing everything in our power to keep them safe. We will also continue to work with the Department of Health and Agency for Health Care Administration as we monitor and respond to this ever-changing situation."