A Falmouth family is telling how the highly contagious coronavirus has hit them hard, leaving one member dead and two others infected.

Ellen Mahoney Simmonds, 81, died Monday at Mercy Hospital in Portland. She and her husband, Tom Simmonds, moved to the OceanView at Falmouth retirement community in 2011.

Ellen Simmonds

Tom Simmonds said that he and his son, Scott Simmonds, also of Falmouth, have both tested positive for the virus, an experience that Scott wrote about in a letter to the editor that was published Friday in the Press Herald.

“My dad got it three weeks ago. My mom died Monday from it. I have it,” Scott Simmonds wrote. “Rule one. Fight like crazy to keep this out of your home.”

The risk of spreading the coronavirus within a family or a household was addressed Thursday by Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, during his daily news briefing. Shah said that household transmission of the virus is one of the most common ways it can be spread. He said Maine’s death toll has risen to 16, with two more deaths and 23 new confirmed cases for a total of 560 in Maine as of Thursday.

In a message posted March 27 on its website, OceanView at Falmouth said seven residents had tested positive for the coronavirus, although an update to residents on Tuesday cited 11 positive cases. OceanView said that due to the Maine CDC’s confirmation of community transmission, the retirement community would no longer be reporting each new positive case. OceanView has several different types of living arrangements within its sprawling 80-acre campus on Blueberry Lane, including cottages, apartments, assisted living and memory care.

Tom Simmonds said COVID-19 knocked him off his feet for about two weeks with extreme bouts of exhaustion, a cough and fever.

“If I tried to get out of my own way, I couldn’t,” he said.

But the 86-year-old, whose marriage to Ellen Simmonds spanned six decades, said in an interview Thursday evening that he has recovered, adding: “I’m over it. I’m feeling fine.”

Simmonds said the disease was like none other that he had endured in his life, and urged people to take whatever precautions they can to avoid contracting the virus.

“Anybody out there who doesn’t think this is serious are just fooling themselves and others,” he said.

Ellen Simmonds graduated from Lasalle Junior College in Massachusetts in 1958. It was then that she met her husband, Arthur Thomas Simmonds Jr., who was a student a Babson College, another school in Greater Boston. They married over 61 years ago, on Oct. 4, 1958.

Simmonds said his wife was a loving and kind person who did not hesitate to help others. After moving to OceanView nine years ago, she became involved in fundraising activities to support the OceanView Resident Assistance Fund. She was also a gifted quilter, a skill that resulted in her producing many different styles of quilts that she donated to charities or gave to people as gifts.

Ellen Simmonds was a take-charge kind of person, her husband said.

“If you wanted something done, you’d put Ellen in charge of it and it was done,” he said.

In addition to Scott, the couple raised two children – Katie Bartlett of Smithfield, Virginia, and Sarah Simmonds of Falmouth. There are six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and a fourth great-grandchild on the way.

In his letter to the editor, Scott Simmonds wrote the he has had the virus for about five days. He urged families to take whatever steps necessary to protect their households, even if the measures might seem extreme.

He spelled out four rules for protecting a household from the coronavirus: scrubbing your hands raw, wiping down surfaces that people entering the home touch, not letting any outsiders into the house, and making your house smell like disinfectant.

“You should feel that your actions are over the top, crazy-obsessive,” he wrote. “You should feel like a crazy person. That means you are doing it right.”

Simmonds said that if someone in your household tests positive, the person should be quarantined in a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroom.

“The violation of this rule cost me dearly. At the time, I rationalized my actions. I look back, and I know I could have done a better job,” he wrote.

“Look at your family,” he said. “Consider that your failure at any of the above could mean the sacrifice of someone you love. You are fighting for their lives.”

Simmonds said he has had good days and bad days since becoming ill.

“One day I feel fine. The next day I feel like dirt,” he wrote. “It seems that the bad days follow days when I ate junk and did not rest. Deep breathing seems to help. Not fun while I am doing it. Feels good about 10 minutes later.”

A memorial service for Ellen Simmonds will be held at a later date at Falmouth Congregational Church. Interment will be in Arms Cemetery in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.

Note: This article was updated at 9:30 a.m. Friday, April 10, with updated information on illness at OceanView.

 

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