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'I’m the sole survivor': Wisconsin man loses his parents, sister to COVID-19 in less than a month

Photo of Susan and James.JPEG
Posted at 1:57 PM, Jan 13, 2022

MILWAUKEE — In just a few weeks, a Milwaukee man lost almost his entire immediate family to COVID-19.

In December, John Delarue was preparing to celebrate the holidays with his mother, father, and sister when COVID-19 hit his family. By New Year’s Eve, his mom, dad, and sister would all be dead.

“I’m the sole survivor from my immediate family. I saw my parents (and) my sister almost every day. We were (a) pretty close family,” said Delarue.

Delarue lived below his parents with his kids in a duplex that his parents owned. His mom and dad lived above him with his sister, who was legally blind. His parents were his sister’s primary caregivers.

On Dec. 9th, Delarue was home when he heard a thud above him and went to his parent’s place to find out what made the noise.

“I stopped up in my parents one morning after work (and) my mom had collapsed on the floor. I thought she had a heart attack, so I called 911,” said Delarue.

Instead, the family found out his mom, Susan Delarue, had COVID, and she was immediately put in the COVID ICU.

“I talked to my mom. It was the day before they intubated her, and she told me that her nurse and doctors recommended that if my dad and sister were feeling sick that they should get to the hospital right away,” said Delarue.

Delarue never told his mom that her daughter, Lynn, never even got the chance to go to the hospital. She had died in her sleep that morning.

“We kind of both agreed that it would be best that we did not tell her until she got better. We had hopes that everyone was going to get better,” said Delarue.

Instead, the tragedy only continued for the Delarue family.

Susan went into organ failure and died five days after her daughter. At the same time, her husband of more than 40 years, James, was rushed to a different hospital.

Delarue says it was the last time he saw his father alive and the last time his father got to speak to his wife.

“He started getting fevers off and on. His organs started failing as well. His doctor was just like, you know, the best thing to do in this case is start end of life care, also with him. She’s like, ‘Do you agree?’ and I just lost it at that point, like, ‘I’m losing my dad too?’ You know we really were hoping he was going to come home,” said Delarue.

Delarue says his whole family cares for each other. Besides his parents devoting themselves to their daughter, they also loved being grandparents to his three children. He says his mom and dad were each other’s best friends.

“They were always happy. You would never see my parents arguing. If they did, they would just blow it off super quick and get over it,” said Delarue.

He says his sister Lynn was extremely outgoing. She spent most of her time at the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons in West Allis.

He says the most challenging time for her during the height of the pandemic in 2020 was when the center had to close temporarily. He says she turned to read to get through it.

“She was just constantly reading books, also that's what kept her busy," said Delarue. "There were just constant packages of Braille books coming into the house, and she was just reading, and I know when she got a chance to go back to the center, she was just overjoyed with that, and unfortunately, it turned out this way."

Lynn was 44 years old. His parents were both 68 years old. He says they were not vaccinated. He wants people to take COVID-19 seriously.

“You know, anybody can get this. A lot of people are sick right now, and if your loved ones aren't feeling well, make sure you check in on them and make sure that they get tested,” said Delarue.

Delarue says he is now getting vaccinated. His shot is scheduled for this week.

The family has a GoFundMe set up to help with some of the medical and funeral costs, you can find that link here.

Rebecca Klopf at TMJ4 first reported this story.