A care home boss and her retired doctor husband died with coronavirus in the same hospital just 10 days apart.
Retired radiologist James Oniah, 79, and his wife Mary, 61, who worked for the Maria Mallaband Care Group, both lost their lives at King George Hospital in Redbridge.
The couple moved to the UK from Africa and lived in Ilford, with Mrs Oniah having trained in Zambia before coming to London to work as a midwife and then moving into care home management. Her husband chaired a foundation to support other ex-pats from his home city of Onitsha in Nigeria.
The Zambians Together initiative, set up to help the community through the pandemic, has started a fundraising campaign for the couple’s family, so far raising more than £16,000.
A GoFundMe appeal said: “They ended the fight for their lives against Covid-19 at King George Hospital in London 10 days apart, leaving behind children and a wider network of family and friends who all considered them their mum and dad.”
A spokesman for MMCG, which runs more than 80 care homes across the UK, said: “Mary was a valued colleague and friend to many people in our company. She will be sorely missed. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to her family at this difficult time.”
Kier Arvin, a colleague, described her as “passionate, determined and dedicated”, saying: “A truly wonderful lady who with her infectious smile, deeply held compassion for others and a twinkle in her eye, touched the lives of everyone lucky enough to have called her a colleague and a friend.”
Patricia Okechukwu, secretary of the Onitsha Progressive Foundation, described Mr Oniah as “a very funny man, very jovial, who enjoyed life and was proud of his heritage”.
Meanwhile, tributes have been paid to retired nurse Veronica Joy Curnell, 70, a mother-of-two and grandmother who worked in the NHS for more than 30 years. Her daughter Krystal Coley was allowed into the intensive care unit at King’s College Hospital to see her on the night before she died on Easter Sunday. She said she would “cherish” their final moments together, adding: “I felt privileged having that moment and felt some closure knowing I had been with her for those hours just sitting by her side holding her.”
Ms Curnell, who had diabetes and hypertension, was admitted with Covid-19 symptoms on April 3 after having trouble breathing.
She was working at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals Trust when she retired in 2005 to care full-time for her husband before his death and had registered as a childminder in Southwark until 2014. Her daughter described her as the “heart” of her community, saying: “My mum was someone who got on with everyone. Young people would always come to her for advice and she opened her door to anyone that needed help.”