Jeromy Lee had been working seven-day weeks at Bath Iron Works for so long to make extra money for his family that he decided he needed a break.

He and his wife, Nichole, enjoyed his first weekend off in months this summer. They talked about how they might fill the next several weekends, too. Most would almost certainly have included hunting or fishing.

“We had this future, so many things we wanted to accomplish and do together,” she said.

Jeromy Lee died Aug. 27, 2021, from complications of COVID-19. Unlike many who spend days or weeks in the hospital, he was there less than a day. He had turned 40 just a week earlier.

“It happened so fast,” said his wife of 16 years.

Lee is one of only 17 Mainers in their 40s who have died from the virus. He had no prior health problems but was not vaccinated.

“We weren’t anti-vaccine or anything. We talked a lot about getting it, but we had some concerns and it just didn’t happen,” his wife said. “We were very cautious, though. We wore our masks.”

Lee and his wife grew up on the same road in the Kennebec County town of China. They reconnected at a gathering as young adults and became inseparable, she said.

They have a 14-year-old daughter. He also has a daughter from a previous relationship, who is 21 and who gave birth to his grandson in January.

The Lees were supposed to celebrate their anniversary this week. They were going bird hunting. He had dreams of being a registered Maine Guide someday.

“Just the realization that it’s not going to happen, this year or any year, is so hard,” she said.

Nichole Lee hasn’t gotten vaccinated and said she doesn’t know if the shots would have saved her husband or not, but their decision eats at her.

“I do think people need to take this more seriously,” she said. “I wish we had.

“He just died too young. It still doesn’t feel real.”

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