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‘Shock, anger, depression’: Family reflects after Black Earth woman dies from COVID-19

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TOWN OF SPRINGFIELD (WKOW) -- For the first time in 2020, there was a gathering at the ballpark where the Ashton A's amateur baseball team play their summer schedule, albeit a small one.

Members of the A's came together Sunday to celebrate the life of Linda Flansburgh, who volunteered to run the team's concession stand for more than a decade. Flansburgh, known to many as simply, 'Flansy,' died on September 29 from COVID-19 complications at the age of 54.

"Shock, anger, depression, and an incredulous feeling because, all of a sudden, the numbers meant something," said Flansburgh's uncle, Kenneth Linde.

Linde shared an ode he wrote to his niece, which he said he will deliver at Flansburgh's funeral, which originally scheduled for last Friday but had to be delayed a week because her sister was still recovering from COVID-19 herself.

At the park Sunday, Kim Adler, whose husband manages the baseball team, said Flansburgh was a fixture in the concession stand. The signs in the modest stand remained untouched: 25 cents for a 'freezie pop,' two dollars for a hot dog, three for a brat.

Outside the stand Sunday sat a plastic jar next to the condiments; 'Donations for Flansy Memorial,' read a note affixed to it.

"It's like I look over at that stand right now and I just feel like she should be there and she's not going to be," Kim Adler said.

For David Adler, the gathering was another reminder of all 2020 had taken.

"I wanna just get back to normal, know what I mean?" he said. "Our season got cancelled this year because of all of this and I just would like to get back to normal."

For Linde, his niece's death is a statement about all of the problems facing the American middle class. Linde bemoaned how his niece needed a second job in order to afford 'a night out to have fish fry' and found that job tending bar, where he worried she may have caught the novel coronavirus.

Flansburgh's husband, Joe, also caught the virus. Linde said the couple never went to see a doctor, fearing it would lead to a hospital bill that would overwhelm them.

"For two weeks, they coughed and wheezed and looked at each other, alone, sequestered in quarantine with their three dogs," Linde said.

Linde said, on their 14th day of quarantine, Joe ran to the store to buy more dog food. When he got back home, Linda was dead.

Linde acknowledges his niece was overweight and that was a pre-existing condition that put her at risk of a severe COVID infection. He said the focus on COVID victims, however, should still be on the experiences that will no longer happen and the memories robbed from friends and families.

"What has been denied is the beauty of a person giving of themselves to other people, putting a smile on their face," Linde said. "Doing small things for other people that other people never would've done."

Linde shared the eulogy he wrote for Flansburgh's funeral:

An Ode to Linda and Joe

206,000 and counting. A number! Nothing more than a series of digits, until one of those digits is someone you love, someone whose life you’ve shared, someone you’ve laughed with, cried with and went through this thing called life with. 206,000 stories now gone, whose absence has forced tears upon others and opened gaping holes in the hearts of those left behind. How sad! How incredibly sad!

206,000 is just a number until it’s one you loved - until you feel the anguish and pain and realize that the next person could be you! It all seems so distant! Then the profound depth of remorse settles in and reality slaps you across the face as you realize just how bad, how sad and how profoundly mad we all should be.

This is the story of Linda and Joe – middle class Americans, fellow Badgers - simply trying to make it through this thing called life. The challenges of living the American dream had made it difficult. Joe – a carpenter - tried it on his own and got hammered by the recession of 2007. Linda, worked for a national finance company for over 25 years until one day they announced that her job was moving to Texas because it as cheaper down there.

Linda and Joe – struggling to pay the mortgage, struggling to pay their fair share of taxes - looking for corners to cut, costs to shave, expenses to defer, trying to find health insurance they could afford and doing so only with high deductibles and astronomical co-pays.

Linda and Joe - with Linda taking a second job, tending bar in a place where social distancing was difficult and one of them might have got the Coronavirus and then the other. Too financially strained to go to the doctor – too afraid to go to the hospital for fear that their “share” of the costs would result in the American dream becoming the American nightmare, they rode it out, alone - at home! For two weeks they coughed and wheezed and looked at each other, alone, sequestered and quarantined with their three dogs – doing everything they could simply to survive.

With each day, they seemed a little better. With each day, the sun shined brighter! With each day, hope entered back into their lives that tomorrow would be better than today. On the 14th day, September 29, 2020, Joe finally felt strong enough to leave the house – only for a few minutes – just to buy some food for the dogs. When he returned, Linda was gone! Her heart had stopped and she was alone with her three “babies” lying by her side. At age 54, Linda became number 206,001.

Joe called his mother-in-law, who almost collapsed in grief! Joe called his sister-in-law, who almost did the same. Tragedy has a way of taking that last gasp of air and squeezing it from one’s lungs, making it hard to breathe the sorrow away.

Reality struck! How did one tell Linda’s dad? Nearly 89 years old and “temporarily” sequestered in a nursing home because of the pandemic, his wife of nearly 60 years, was given the task and slowly dialed the number, realizing she was about to share a parent’s worst nightmare – telling her spouse that one of their children had passed away.

As the phone rang, the old man’s voice was on the other end. The halting words came slowly as mom shared the news – “Linda has died!” There was the sound of silence and then the moans of remorse as reality slammed into the heart of an old man unable to be there, unable to share the sorrow, unable to comfort those who were his family, simply because the risks were too great that he too could be gone. “Why didn’t God take me?” he begged. “Why?” Why?” Why?”

Tomorrow, the sun will rise and the story of Linda and Joe will be repeated another 1,000 times. Tomorrow, lives will be shattered and church bells will ring as their solemn tones reverberate within the hearts and souls of loved ones gathered simply say “goodbye” to someone they loved who became nothing more than a statistic and a memory.

If Linda could speak, she would share these words – “Please, wear a mask for the good of everyone!”

Linda Flansburgh passed away from the complications of the Coronavirus on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 in Madison, Wisconsin.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Capitol Bureau Chief

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