A little more than a year after COVID-19 hit, Kitsap reaches 100 virus deaths
It was as a boy that Christopher Ylagan picked up guitar through lessons from his father. A love for The Beatles came too. Over the years, Christopher would become a Beatles fiend: He'd grow a collection of anthologies, pick up magazines and merchandise. He’d name his son after John Lennon.
When Paul McCartney’s Freshen Up tour brought him to?Vancouver in 2019, Christopher’s wife, Glend, bought tickets as a surprise.
“When Paul came out to the stage the first time, (Christopher) cried and said, ‘Oh my goodness,’” she recalled.
The two were to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary about a month ago on March 17. Instead, that day Glend?mourned Christopher’s death at a funeral service. He died in late February after a bout with COVID-19, which Glend believes he contracted in an outbreak that occurred at an adult family home in Bremerton where the two worked, he, as a certified nursing assistant, she as a nurse.
At first, he’d quarantined at home, but eventually, Christopher became short of breath and had to be taken to St. Michael Medical Center in Silverdale for treatment in late January. He'd suffer kidney failure, brain swelling.
“He was on a (ventilator) for a month,” Glend said. “He never came back.”
Christopher’s death underscores the still-mystifying nature of the virus and how it affects those who are infected: At 45, the Bremerton man was a healthy person with no known underlying conditions, Glend said. He’d go to the gym to exercise, he didn’t smoke and?would only drink alcohol occasionally.
A tragic milestone
Ylagan’s death is one of more than 5,300 that have been tallied in the state of Washington since the pandemic began. This past week, Kitsap County marked a somber milestone as health officials announced the 100th death associated with COVID-19 locally. At last update,?that number sat at 103.
About half of Kitsap’s COVID-19 deaths?have come in 2021, with a surge of 32 that was reported in January alone as cases hit their peak locally. Per the latest data available, roughly half of Kitsap’s deaths occurred in those age?80 and older. So far, nine deaths have occurred in those ages 59 and younger.
In 2020, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States and was listed as the underlying or contributing cause of nearly 378,000 deaths, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only heart disease and cancer claimed more lives nationwide.
“Each COVID-19 death reported is tragic and preventable," Kitsap Public Health District Health Officer Dr. Gib Morrow said in a statement. "We have all the tools we need to slow the spread of this virus and spare more Kitsap families from enduring the grief of losing a loved one.”
Not all local COVID-19 deaths are investigated by the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office, but of those that have come to the office, underlying conditions – like diabetes, coronary arterial disease, hypertension – have been common, Coroner Jeff Wallis said.
Two cases investigated by the office have appeared to be consistent with COVID-19 deaths?but have not been confirmed, he said. In one of those cases, Bainbridge Island Police Officer Kurt Enget died about a year ago?at age 49 with “all the symptoms and autopsy findings that match the disease, but everything came back negative,” leaving his death classified, officially, as “undetermined,” Wallis said.
“They classified it as novel coronavirus for a reason,” he said. “It’s still new and we’re learning more about it on a daily basis, but everyone responds to it differently.”
The Bainbridge Island Police Department considers the death to be COVID-19-related, and Enget’s death is classified as a line of duty death. Bainbridge Island Police Chief Joe Clark said Enget’s name will be added to state and national law enforcement memorials in Olympia and Washington, D.C., respectively.
A private memorial service for Enget was held April 10, one year after his death, and Gov. Jay Inslee directed that flags were to be flown at half-staff to mark the date.
In an address during the memorial service, Suquamish Police Chief Mike Lasnier recalled Enget’s time in Suquamish during a stint in the tribe’s police department, how he invested in the lives of people?he'd interact with on the job, sometimes as?was driving to jail after an arrest.
"I work for a community that’s been there for 10,000 years, that’s down to a little over a thousand people left," he said. "If he was able to save one person, the echoes of that down through time are astronomical. And I guarantee you he saved a hell of a lot more than one person.”
“If you ever want to see your husband’s legacy or your father’s legacy,” he said, addressing Enget’s family, “you come to any event at the Suquamish Tribe and you look at the strollers, and about every 20th stroller you see there is only there because of what Kurt did. That will echo down for thousands of years.”
Kitsap’s first known COVID-19 death came in 80-year-old Joanne Hunter, of Bremerton, also about a year ago. Those close to Hunter recalled a caring soul known for her kindness. After surviving lung cancer, she was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease but didn't allow it to slow her down much.
"She was determined to live life to its fullest, to breathe every last breath," her daughter, Jodi Bodenman, told the Kitsap Sun last year.
In September of last year, Central Kitsap’s Earl Sincere, 64, died from complications related to COVID-19. A Navy veteran, he’d coached youth?at the Bremerton Jaguars Track and Field Club and became a?mentor to those he worked with?over the years.
"He could understand the kids well, he related to them well," former Jaguars head coach Tim Lavin told the Kitsap Sun in September. "He was like a dad, a grandfather figure. He had tremendous patience with the kids."
In August last year, the Kitsap Sun wrote about Mariano Matias Mendoza, 55, a Bremerton man known as a pillar in the local immigrant community, a go-to for those looking for work or for access to health care.
“He had a relationship with everyone,” his brother Juan Matias Mendoza said then.
Glend and Christopher Ylagan met in nursing school in the Philippines and were married in 2011 before they moved to the United States, first to Chicago, then to Washington state. A family man, Christopher would spend time loving their children, now ages 5 and 14, and cooking, Glend said.
While she’s left to grapple with her husband’s death, she pointed to her faith: “We may not know (God’s) reason why at this time or at this point, but he (has) plans for all of us,” she said. “It’s just hard sometimes to accept.”
Call to readers:Seeking the stories of those who have died of COVID-19 in Kitsap
This story contains reporting from the Kitsap Sun's COVID-19 coverage over the last two years, including previous work from reporters Josh Farley, Jeff Graham and Austen Macalus.
Nathan Pilling is a reporter covering?Bainbridge Island, North Kitsap and Washington State Ferries?for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-5242, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @KSNatePilling.
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