Editorial: In memoriam

The old adage that thousands killed is a statistic, but the death of an individual is a tragedy, surfaces at times like these because it is true.

Shelter Islanders learned last weekend of the first deaths here from the COVID-19 coronavirus. Forrest Compton and Kevin Brooks died after being hospitalized. We mourn their loss.

The quality of the lives these two men lived will ensure they will never be cold numbers on a fact sheet, but living souls in the hearts of their families and friends, and anyone fortunate enough to have encountered them.

A close look at Kevin — his obituary is on page 4 — and Forrest, whose profile by Charity Robey from last year is on the Reporter’s website, reveal people who served their hometown in multiple ways.

We especially remember Forrest for his work bringing the highest quality classical music to the Island as president of Friends of Music, which presented free concerts at the Presbyterian Church.

Kevin served on the Board of Trustees of Mashomack, helping make decisions that keep the Island’s natural jewel thriving and open to all.

Both men served their country in the military, Forrest seeing action in World War II and receiving a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in France, and Kevin served a tour of duty in Vietnam. They both worked hard and rose in their professions, remembered by those who knew them as dedicated and fair colleagues.

People who knew Kevin and Forrest were struck by their sense of life as an adventure to be cherished. Ms. Robey, who was a friend of Forrest’s, said he was a person whose optimism never faltered, quoting him in her Reporter profile: “Despite what is happening in this country now, people overall are kind, the goodness in most people is there. There are more good people than ones who are selfish and self-serving. It’s been true in my life, and I think in most people’s lives.”

Police Chief Jim Read, at the first public meeting to alert the community about the pandemic and provide solid information to protect against the illness, noted that Islanders are proud of their reputation as a hardy lot, people who can take care of their own without too much interference from those across the water. But he cautioned that what was coming would be something that couldn’t be fought alone, and that information from reliable sources was the best weapon of protection.

Islanders, overwhelmingly, have heeded that counsel, and are rallying around to keep their neighbors safe through acts of kindness and by staying informed. Forrest and Kevin embodied that spirit.

What the Reporter will do is not forget the lives of Forrest Compton and Kevin Brooks, and ensure that they, and others who might succumb to the terrible illness that has come to the Island, will be remembered as people, and never as numbers.