Melissa Staples started an online support group after her mother, Leone Harriman, pictured, died from COVID-19 on April 19. Contributed photo

Melissa Staples lost her mother, Leone Harriman, to COVID-19 in late April.

At the time, Harriman was the 35th Mainer to succumb to the disease caused by the coronavirus, and that number stuck out to Staples when she heard it read during the state’s media briefing.

“It got me thinking that my mom was more than just a number, she has a name,” she said. “From there, the group took off.”

Staples created a Facebook support group called “Remembering Maine’s COVID-19 — Every number has a name,” where members are invited to post photos of family members or friends that they’ve lost to the disease. Some share a few memories, or news stories of others lost in Maine.

A recent post was made in honor of Tom Keene, the former Skowhegan fire chief, who died Monday from COVID-19.

Harriman, of Northport, had recently entered the Tall Pines rehabilitation center in Belfast, and according to Staples, was just a few days away from being released when she tested positive for COVID-19. She showed no symptoms for several days, but then it “came on fierce,” Staples said.

The Facebook group was created April 20, just one day after Harriman’s death. It now has more than 2,500 members.

Staples, who lives in Frankfort in Waldo County, is doing all she can to grow the group, especially as more Mainers are dying, and others might find solace in the support. She reached out to the Sun Journal after she saw news reports on deaths associated with the outbreak at Russell Park in Lewiston.

“We’re just finding a lot of comfort from it,” she said. “The holidays are the worst. It’s a sensitive topic, but it’s one that is very important to people.”

As of Wednesday, Maine had reported 190 deaths due to COVID-19. So far in November, 43 people have died with COVID-19 in Maine, the second most of any month behind April.

In a recent post on the page, Staples expressed disbelief at how many people are joining it.

“As everyone knows, I started this group in memory of my late mother back in April 2020. Never did I imagine it would have grown to this big of a group,” she said. “I have found such comfort by sharing our family’s story with all of Maine and beyond and I know other families from Maine have too.”

She said a lot of fellow Mainers are losing family members who don’t live in the state, and she’s invited them to share their stories as well.

“Behind every number that has passed is a Mom, Dad, Grandmother, Grandfather, Sister, Brother, Uncle, Aunt, Cousin and friend,” the page description reads.

Staples also founded a scholarship fund in her mother’s name and will award two scholarships to students in the Northport area early next month.

To visit the page, go to: www.facebook.com/groups/1305370532984990, or click here.


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