INDIANAPOLIS (WRTV) - An Indianapolis couple married for 33 years planned to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible in 2021, but the two didn’t make it that far, contracting the virus and dying just one day apart.
Ernest “Ronald” and Ann Wilkins loved each other, a connection that was felt by family and friends. The two, ages 66 and 59, were married 33 years before dying from COVID-19 within a day of each other. Ronald died Friday, Jan. 8, and Ann died the next day.
“I’m very heartbroken because I loved Ann and Ron, just like my brother and sister, and I want people to take this serious,” said Bryan, Ronald’s close friend.
The Wilkins were diagnosed with COVID-19 in December, admitted to Saint Vincent Hospital and placed on ventilators. They never left the hospital.
Ronald Wilkins battled diabetes and cancer in his lifetime. Friends say he loved music and sports, and every day, he was on the phone with Bryan, whom he met at school as a child.
“That’s what we thought of each other is that we were brothers, and we did everything together. We talked 10 times a day. If I woke up first in the morning, I would call him. If he woke up first in the morning, he’d call me,” Bryan said.
Ann Wilkins was a teacher with Indianapolis Public Schools for 13 years then became a union leader, always promoting public school education.
“She was deeply committed to her profession and to her fellow educators,” said IPS Superintendent Alessia Johnson. “I think what she did well was sort of holding everybody to account because, at the end of the day, her goal was to make sure kids were getting served well.”
The Wilkins had many plans for 2021, including getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Seeing the devastation from the virus firsthand, Bryan hopes their deaths serve as a stark message about the importance of the vaccine.
“I would rather you have a reaction to the vaccine than to try to fight COVID, the disease, because a lot of times you won’t win. It’s real. I’ve seen it for myself, and it’s something that I don’t want to see again,” he said.