Mary Smith

Photo credit: KSDK

Mary Smith, a special education teacher, died from complications of COVID-19 on December 8, 2020 at the age of 49. She taught for 21 years with the Special School District of St. Louis County, most recently teaching first graders at Fairview Elementary in Jennings.

According to KSDK’s reporting, “Smith lived with her mother and was her primary caregiver. The week of Thanksgiving, Smith’s mother contracted COVID-19 and died a short time later…”. The seven students that Mary taught were individually notified, and staff at Fairview held a “therapy session” after the news broke. Counselors are available for students and staff to help them deal with this loss.

Jennings School District went virtual on November 18th, and no students or staff were exposed to Smith after she contracted the novel coronavirus

Mary Smith was much loved by all those who knew her, and special education was her true calling in life. She is deeply missed by all her former students, children of all ages who she helped out in life, her coworkers, and her family.

An obituary had not been published as of this writing; this post will be edited and added to as more is learned. Originally published December 9 around 8:30pm.

Sadly, Mary Smith is not the first education professional in St. Louis to die of COVID-19 – please see this page memorializing those that I know about.


Dr. Ruth Louise Beckmann Murray, EdD, MSN, RN, CS, N-NAP, DAPA

Dr. Ruth Louise Beckmann Murray, Ed.D, MSN, RN, CS, N-NAP, DAPA, passed from complications of COVID-19 and pneumonia on June 25, 2020 at the age of 84. Ruth continued her education throughout her life, starting with her nursing degree in 1957 from Deaconess Hospital School of Nursing, getting her Masters Degree from Washington University in 1967 in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing – Focus on individual and group counseling & crisis training, and finally her EdD from Southern Illinois University in 1983. Her 40 year career in the nursing department at St. Louis University included roles as a Program Coordinator, Psychiatric-Mental Health Professor for Undergraduate & Graduate Nursing Education, and textbook author (including authoring many versions of Health Promotion Strategies Through the Life Span).

Ruth gave tirelessly to the St. Louis community. Her volunteer work included, according to her obituary: St. Patrick Center where she served as a Member, Board of Trustees and numerous committee roles. She was a member of the Board of Directors for HOPE in 1999-2000, a St Louis Transition Hope House volunteer, American Red Cross volunteer and served with the crisis intervention team in St. Louis Missouri.

Dr. Ruth Louise Beckmann Murray inspired and guided thousands of nursing students in their professional paths as Nurses, helped thousands more in her various other helping roles, and reached countless through her publications and community advocacy. She mentored and profoundly touched many lives personally, as the memories posted on her obituary describe. Her vibrancy, kindness, and love are missed far beyond her immediate and extended family.

PS- I’m including her in the “Healthcare Workers” category, because she remained active in her vocation of nursing long after retiring.


Dr. Gaye Griffin-Snyder

Dr. Gaye Griffin-Snyder died of COVID-19 on June 6, 2020 at the age of 71. She was a professional counselor in Missouri, helping people in St. Louis County, Springfield and throughout the state. She also worked as an adjunct graduate professor at Missouri State. She helped out countless people through their struggles with mental health and emotional issues.

Gaye was a woman with endless love, beautiful smiles, and great faith. She loved corvettes, golfing, and vacations in Hawaii. Gaye’s spirit was indomitable and she always had a great sense of humor.

Her daughter Angela wrote “She died with strangers and couldn’t respond to me in any way when I got to say goodbye via video conference. It haunts me constantly.”

Dr. Gaye Griffin-Snyder is missed by her daughter, her son-in-law, her grandchildren, and all the students she taught and people whose lives she helped make better.


Frank Massey

Frank Massey COVID-19 death

Frank Massey, passed of COVID-19 on April 17, 2020 five days after his 68th birthday. He had been married 20 years and had seven children. He served four years in the military as a Marine. After he retired from commercial truck driving, his passion for kids let him to become a school bus driver at the Belleville Township High School District 201.

Frank’s grieving wife gave an emotional interview with News Channel 5 on Your Side on April 18th:

“I want people to know that coronavirus is not a joke. It is not a hoax and it is definitely not fake news because I’m living the nightmare,” Cynthia said.

Frank Massey is missed by his children, grandchildren, extended family, all the kids he drove to and from school and events, and the Greater St. Mark COGIC family.


Juanita Eason Graham, former Webster Groves preschool teacher

Juanita Eason Graham

Juanita Eason Graham died of COVID-19 on March 28. She was 55 years old.

Juanita had previously worked for almost 20 years at Walter Ambrose Family Center in Webster Groves (but hadn’t worked there since 2018) and had a genuine love for young children that was expressed in her calm cheerful demeanor. She was, simply put, amazing at her vocation.

Juniata’s doctor had originally thought her cough was a symptom of seasonal allergies at a regular visit on March 16 and sent her home with a prescription for Zyrtec. Caring for her husband who had been diagnosed with pneumonia after the couple took a trip, Juniata’s health continued to worsen. She went into the hospital on March 25, tested positive for COVID-19 and within three days had passed away. The day she was admitted to the hospital, the friend from out of town who Juniata and her husband had visited called to tell them that a woman Juniata had sat next to had tested positive for COVID-19.

Juniata Graham is missed deeply by her husband of 18 years, her mother, her family, everyone that she worked with, and the former preschoolers who she introduced to school for the first time.

Juniata’s husband wishes people to take social distancing and all the precautions seriously, because COVID-19 is not a joke.


Carol A. Strawbridge, retired school principal

Carol Strawbridge St. Louis Covid19 death

Carol Strawbridge was admitted to the hospital on May 3, and died of COVID-19 on May 21 with her family watching 15 minutes away on Facetime as a nurse held her hand. She was 73 years old. Carol was a retired teacher and school principal, an active board member at the League of Women Voters, and taking all the precautions that she could to avoid catching COVID-19.

The much loved matriarch of her extensive family, Carol Strawbridge left an indelible mark on her community she helped, the kids she taught, and everyone who was fortunate to know her in any way.


Dr. Deborah Kantor Nagler, educational technologist

Deborah Nagler grew up in St. Louis and Kansas City and attended Washington University for her undergraduate studies. She died of COVID-19 on April 3 at the age of 66 in Teaneck New Jersey. Deborah was a great mind and accomplished in STEM education and active lifelong in Jewish education.

Dr. Nagler’s degrees and numerous, impactful, professional accomplishments are well written about on her website and in the articles linked to in the sources below.

Deborah is missed by her children, grand children, extended family and her husband. Her students, colleagues and friends miss her deeply. As the St. Louis Jewish Light concluded: “Deborah’s leadership and great love for her family will continue to reach people who may never even know her name, but will live, love, and succeed because of her.”


Educator, mother, and caregiver: Lisa Ann (Plamp) Steelman

After Lisa Steelman’s mother was released from a rehabilitation facility, she became her caregiver (as well as being a full time mother to an autistic son herself). Apparently one of the staff at the rehab facility had COVID and soon after Lisa started complaining of fatigue and chest congestion….

According to her GoFundMe page:

 … That was Thursday night (April 9).  Friday morning, Lisa couldn’t get up from the couch that she was sleeping on by my mom’s bed and was taken by ambulance to Mercy Hospital.  Friday night we were told that they were running several tests and trying to stabilize her.  We were semi -encouraged.  Saturday morning we woke to the totally unexpected news that “Lisa probably wouldn’t make it”.  No one could go see her except Perry, her husband who was allowed to be at her side when she passed away from  COVID virus complications. 

Lisa Steelman’s GoFundMe page to benefit her autistic son

Lisa Ann Plamp Steelman of Bridgeton died of COVID-19 on April 11th. She was 56. It was suspected due to exposure and symptoms that her husband and son also had COVID. Her mother Marjorie Plamp passed 5 days later on April 16; it’s unclear if she also died of COVID.

Along with her husband, son, and extended family, Lisa Ann leaves behind the children at Rose Acres Elementary in Maryland Heights where she was a paraprofessional for the past 14 years.

Please contact me if you’d like to add anything or if anything is accidentally wrong here.

Sources and links to more about Lisa Ann Steelman’s life are:

Eureka High School Counselor Sandra J. “Sandy” Kearney

Sandy Kearney passed of COVID-19 in St. Louis County on April 2, 2020
Image credit: Sandra Kearney’s Obituary

Sandy Kearny started having flu-like symptoms on March 24th, and in less than two weeks she passed of COVID-19 at the age of 70. She was placed on a ventilator within two days of diagnosis, and her daughter was able to put on a full body protective suit to say goodbye in person.

Sandy worked as a guidance counselor at Eureka High School since 1993 and as an educator since the 80s. The children she worked with, and her coworkers, could not comfort eachother in person due to the school being closed and restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

She leaves behind her husband, her brother, her twin sister, adult children, and numerous grandchildren.

She’s is missed terribly by her family, the children whose lives she touched, and her community.

Please contact me if you’d like to add anything or if anything is accidentally wrong here.

Sources and links to more about Sandy Kearney’s life are: