Beverly A. Souza grabbed her pocketbook and walked down the stairs in her home toward a waiting ambulance that would take her to St. Luke’s Hospital.
Nobody imagined that the late September day in 2020 would be the last time they would see Souza — or that she would never return home.
“It’s just very unfair and unfortunate that for someone with a life so well lived, that she was denied the company of her family and friends in her time of need,” said Randall Souza, Beverly’s son.
Having contracted COVID-19 some time last September, Beverly Souza fought the novel coronavirus as hard as she could, for as long as she could. She spent nearly three weeks in the hospital, 13 days on a ventilator.
“I talked to her once for 45 seconds on a cellphone before she went on the ventilator,” said Randall Souza, an attorney in Rhode Island.
She was affectionately referred to as her family’s Florence Nightingale because she tended to everyone’s physical and emotional needs. But the COVID-19 safety protocols at St. Luke’s Hospital prevented Beverly from receiving the comfort of family members during her final weeks of life.
“And she was always the caretaker of everybody, whether it was her old aunts who didn’t have any children of her own, or her kids, her 10 grandkids, the neighborhood children, anybody,” Randall said.
Beverly died on Oct. 19, 2020, at St. Luke’s Hospital from COVID-19. She was 78.
Beverly was born, raised and lived her entire life in New Bedford. A social butterfly, she was well known in the community and served the city in several capacities. She was an aide to Mayor Brian J. Lawler in the 1980s. Before she even graduated from New Bedford High School in 1959, Beverly began a 25-year career as a legal secretary. She later served as a New Bedford park commissioner, a director of the Buttonwood Park Zoological Society, and as a member of the City Planning Board.
Beverly later became a vice president of human resources at the New Bedford Institution for Savings, where she worked until her retirement in 1994. She was a longtime parishioner at Mount Carmel Church and an active member of the parish’s seniors club. She was also the chairperson of her high school class reunion’s organizing committee.
Beverly was a talented cook, who made sweetbread for her grandkids at Easter. A gifted seamstress, she was “Dr. Grandma” who often stitched up torn stuffed animals. She also hemmed school uniforms for nephews, nieces and grandchildren. When the grandkids went away to college, Beverly knitted them afghans in their school colors.
Randall said his mother was the glue that held the family together by organizing cookouts and reunions. At reunions, it was not unusual for Beverly to introduce a relative to a second cousin from New York with instructions: “Talk to each other.”
“She was the social organizer,” Randall said. “She was always trying to facilitate those social connections.”
When the novel coronavirus shut down most of society last year, Randall said Beverly and her husband, Leonard, were “very careful,” and would go grocery shopping early in the mornings when supermarkets were only open to seniors.
“But they weren’t going to stay in their little house for a year without ever going outside,” said Randall, who added that the family was more concerned about his father, Leonard, who was older and had underlying health conditions.
Leonard and Beverly contracted COVID-19 around the same time. Leonard only experienced a fever for a couple of days while Beverly developed major respiratory issues about a week after her diagnosis, prompting her to go to the hospital.
For several days after going on the ventilator, Beverly was communicative, writing notes for the nursing staff. Several notes were the names and ages of her grandkids, which were taped to the wall near her bed.
Hours before she died, Randall said several relatives were given the opportunity to see her through a window, while wearing personal protective equipment. If permitted, Randall said someone would have been by Beverly’s side the entire time in the hospital, holding her hand and thanking her every day for all that she had done.
“I’ll always feel cheated that she had to go to St. Luke’s alone and die alone,” Randall said. “She deserved to die in a better way than that.”
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