Janice Dean: My in-laws died from COVID in 2020. This week we were able to publicly celebrate their lives

Although there were moments of sadness at the memorial service there was also laughter and joy.

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Almost a year and a half after the deaths of my in-laws Michael "Mickey" and Dolores "Dee" Newman, we were finally able to publicly celebrate their lives.  

The memorial service for Mickey and Dee was held in New York City on Monday afternoon.

I am grateful to New York Fire Department Engine 323 in Brooklyn for organizing the beautiful memorial service at their firehouse where my father-in-law Mickey worked for 23 years.

Many of you know the story of how my husband’s parents died tragically in spring 2020 after getting COVID in their separate elder care facilities.  

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I am just one of many New York State family members who is still fighting for accountability and answers about how COVID got into our loved ones nursing homes. Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned this week, I still won’t stop fighting for answers about how Mickey and Dee died until we get them.

But Monday was about them -- and their lives. 

Dee and Mickey Newman in an undated family photograph.

Dee and Mickey Newman in an undated family photograph. (Courtesy Janice Dean)

True New Yorkers, through and through, Mickey and Dee lived in a four story walk up in Flatbush, Brooklyn for over 50 years. They would have celebrated their diamond anniversary marking 60 years of marriage had their lives not been cut short.

My wish is that all the families who were not able to grieve properly due to the pandemic will one day have the same moment together to honor those we lost in such a tragic way.

My husband Sean was in his dress uniform for the service and delivered a heartfelt eulogy which I know he has been working on for over a year in his mind. 

Sean Newman and family members at the memorial service for his parents Mickey and Dee Newman on August 9, 2021 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Sean Newman and family members at the memorial service for his parents Mickey and Dee Newman on August 9, 2021 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

He talked about how as a kid he loved visiting his dad in the firehouse and how proud his dad was of his service as a veteran in the U.S Air Force.

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Sean’s mom was eulogized, too, of course. Dee was a homemaker  who had a part time job for over two decades as an assistant in a dentist’s office right down the street from where they lived. She loved to knit and make her famous meatballs. 

They both adored all of their grandchildren.

Dee and Mickey Newman and one of their grandsons.

Dee and Mickey Newman and one of their grandsons. (Courtesy Janice Dean)

Sean told the friends and family who attended the service that there isn’t a day that goes by when he doesn’t think of calling his mom. He used to call her every day on his way home from work to check in and say hi. 

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In many ways he’s grateful that the urge to hear her voice on the other end of the phone still happens. I think those little moments are Dee’s way of reminding him she’s thinking of him, too. 

Janice Dean, husband Sean Newman and mother-in-law Dee Newman

Janice Dean, husband Sean Newman and mother-in-law Dee Newman (Courtesy of Janice Dean)

Family members came from as far as Dallas to honor my in laws and my mom flew in from Canada. It was the first time I’ve seen my own mother since December of 2019 before the pandemic changed our lives forever. 

I’ll never forget the moment this week when she wrapped her arms around my children and gave them the world’s biggest hug. -- It wasn’t lost on me that my husband’s parents were not able to do the same thing before they left us.

A Newman relative and FDNY firefighter at the memorial service for Mickey and Dee Newman on Aug. 9, 2021 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

A Newman relative and FDNY firefighter at the memorial service for Mickey and Dee Newman on Aug. 9, 2021 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

And although there were moments of sadness at the memorial, there was also laughter and joy.

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There were so many great stories told to keep their memories alive. My boys told me afterwards that they missed Grandpa Mickey and Grandma Dee, but they knew someday they would see them again. 

And we felt their presence all around us.

Janice Dean, husband Sean Newman and family members at the memorial service for Sean's parents Mickey and Dee Newman on Aug. 9, 2021 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Janice Dean, husband Sean Newman and family members at the memorial service for Sean's parents Mickey and Dee Newman on Aug. 9, 2021 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

I’m grateful we were able to honor Mickey and Dee properly. So many families still haven’t been able to do that. These kinds of ceremonies help us to get over such great loss and to be with others who are feeling the same way.

My wish is that all the families who were not able to grieve properly due to the pandemic will one day have the same moment together to honor those we lost in such a tragic way.

But, knowing they’re together in heaven gives me comfort, because to be honest, I’m not sure they’d know what do without each other here on Earth.

Janice Dean's in-laws Dee and Mickey Newman attend their son Sean's promotion ceremony to battalion chief

Janice Dean's in-laws Dee and Mickey Newman attend their son Sean's promotion ceremony to battalion chief (Courtesy Janice Dean)

Someone asked me recently what I loved most about my in-laws. I knew the answer right away:

They were parents to the greatest love I’ve ever known and to the best father my sons could ever have. 

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For that, I am eternally grateful. And, although they will always be greatly missed, their spirit lives on in our family.   

I see it clearly and feel it all around me. 

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