Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 16 January |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Giuseppe Antonio Tovini
home iconNews
line break icon

First US Ebola Victim Remembered as Kind, Giving Man

AP

<div id="prtlt" style="font-family:Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva;font-size:11px;line-height:15px;"> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div>

Aleteia - published on 10/17/14

Family and friends of Thomas Eric Duncan gather in North Carolina Baptist church

SALISBURY, N.C. (AP) — Thomas Eric Duncan was remembered Saturday as a big-hearted and compassionate man whose virtues may have led to his infection with Ebola in his native Liberia and subsequent death as the first victim of the disease in the United States.

Family and friends gathered at a small Southern Baptist church with a primarily Liberian flock near where Duncan’s mother and other family members live.

Duncan’s neighbors in Liberia believe he was infected by helping a pregnant woman who later died from Ebola. It was unclear if he knew about her diagnosis before traveling to the United States. Duncan denied helping his Ebola-sickened neighbor, but it would be consistent with the caring nature he always showed, said his nephew Josephus Weeks of nearby Kannapolis.

"There’s no doubt in my mind that what’s described in the news is something that Eric would do," said Weeks, who like Duncan is 42 and grew up in the same households as his uncle. "Eric would have been out there and helped that woman. And he would have done everything that he needed to do for that woman to make sure she was fine."

Retired United Methodist bishop Arthur Kulah said Duncan attended a high school the cleric helped establish in neighboring Ivory Coast for refugees from the Liberian civil war that raged through the 1990s. To generate much-needed income, Duncan jury-rigged a telephone connection allowing fellow refugees to contact family abroad for help, Kulah said.

"People would go there without any money and appeal to him, and he was willing to give them time to talk to their people. There were some people who paid and some people who didn’t pay," Kulah said. "He was such a compassionate young man, respectful young man."

About 40 friends and family members — many women wearing colorful headscarves — collected inside the 100-seat church and listened as speakers remembered Duncan accompanied by an electric piano and bongos. His weeping mother sat in the front row. Weeks’ 3-year-old son dabbed at the elderly woman’s teary eyes with a tissue.

Duncan left Ivory Coast and learned auto mechanics and welding at a United Nations school for refugees in Ghana, relatives said. He came to the United States hoping to work multiple jobs, save money and build a future, said his relative, Harry Korkoya of Woodbridge, Virginia.

Duncan is also survived by four children, none of whom could attend the memorial service, Weeks said. The four people living in the Dallas apartment where Duncan stayed after arriving in the United States are due to leave quarantine next week after the end of a 21-day incubation period for the disease.

Weeks remembered the Duncan he last saw 22 years ago as an athletic youth who was their neighborhood’s best at soccer played with a tennis ball, the only kind available. He drove motorcycles so fast it scared Weeks, and named their pet dog Superstar to reflect the pride he had in the animal. Duncan commonly gave away money, then asked Weeks for a loan, he said.

"He cared for everybody, it doesn’t matter who you were. If he was driving he saw you over there, he wouldn’t splash you with dirty water. He’d pull over and let you in his car," Weeks said.

Tags:
Ebola
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
DAD, HOW DO I?
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on Y...
FORGIVING COUPLE
Bret Thoman, OFS
An exorcist teaches 4 steps to forgive
Philip Kosloski
What is the Holy Cloak of St. Joseph?
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Why God loves ordinary stuff: Pope Francis' r...
POPE FRANCIS; Ash Wednesday
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Vatican: Imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday...
D'CRUZ FAMILY
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the family of 12 siblings with a very sp...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.