'I didn't imagine being a widow at 42': Newport News woman speaks out after losing husband to COVID-19

Posted at 1:02 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 22:53:15-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va.- "He would have been sitting next to me at the Thanksgiving table, but his plate was empty, and so is my heart," said Cheris Abbott-Holder.

One week before Thanksgiving, Abbott-Holder abruptly lost her husband to COVID-19.

"I'm 42. I didn't imagine being a widow," she said.

Forty-six-year-old Johann Holder died on November 18 from pneumonia as a result of contracting COVID-19.

"Once COVID hit him, it hit him hard," she said.

Johann had pre-existing conditions such as hypertension and sleep apnea, and he was overweight. Still, his sudden death is a complete shock to the system for his wife.

"Johann was a big ball of fun. He loved people, loved to eat, loved to go places," she said. "Everybody loved Johann; he was just a big old teddy bear."

Johann complained he couldn't breathe on the morning of November 18. Cheris was at work, and during that time the couple was separated. He was rushed to Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, where he collapsed before hitting the stretcher. He died just a few hours later.

"No one was with him at the time," said Cheris.

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Cheris is now working to honor her husband's memory. She released rose petals into the James River shortly after he passed.

"Please get tested and know your status. Wash your hands and wear a mask and keep the social distancing going. This is real, and this is no joke," said Abbott-Holder.

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