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Friday, June 21, 2024
COVID 19  |  UF

UF student loses both grandparents to COVID-19 hours apart

<p dir="ltr"><span>Gerald and Arline Polinsky, married for 64 years, died from COVID-19 five hours apart.</span></p><p><span> </span></p>

Gerald and Arline Polinsky, married for 64 years, died from COVID-19 five hours apart.

 

As a child, Sam Berens called before each visit to his grandfather. He would list the names of a few countries into the receiver, and his grandfather, a history professor, would prepare lectures before his arrival.

When the visit came, Berens listened attentively as his grandfather opened atlases and pointed at maps while lecturing about the countries’ histories.

The stories about Denmark and China were often paired with rounds of Solitaire and gin rummy with his grandmother, Berens said.

Berens recalled sharing similarly sweet moments with his grandparents over Spring Break. Little more than one month later, they exchanged their final goodbyes.

Berens, a 19-year-old UF political science and international studies sophomore, lost his grandparents to COVID-19 five hours apart. Gerald Polinsky, 89, and Arline Polinsky, 86, died April 13 and 14 in Hollywood, Florida, where there are 1,291 confirmed cases of the virus as of Monday.

Two weeks before his death, Gerald Polinsky was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood for a fall, Berens said. Before being discharged, hospital staff administered a COVID-19 test. One day later, it came back positive.

At the time, Arline Polinsky, who suffered from dementia, was living in an assisted living facility, Berens said. She fell and was also hospitalized. There, Gerald and Arline reunited once again.

Doctors proceeded to test Arline for coronavirus, Berens said. The result was also positive. Berens said his family got regular updates from hospital staff, though none were promising.

“We weren’t allowed to go to the hospital,” he said. “All the communication we had with them was through the phone or through the hospital letting us FaceTime.”

The final update came on the morning of April 14: Gerald passed away late the night before, the doctor said. Five hours after her husband’s death, Arline woke up and called out: “Together, Jerry.”

After 64 years of marriage, Arline died.

“It made it almost very poetic, in a sense,” Berens said.

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Berens’ family held a virtual funeral April 17 on Facebook Live to commemorate the pair and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Eight out of 10 virus-related deaths are in people aged 65 and older, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In Florida, 2,923 people living or working in long-term care facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The couple met and married in St. Louis, Missouri, Gerald’s hometown. They lived in Missouri, Iowa, South Carolina and ultimately moved to Florida in 2014.

Gerald was a professor and administrator who worked at historically black colleges and universities for most of his career in South Carolina. With a doctorate degree in history and geography, he retired about six years ago while in his 80s.

Arline Polinsky, originally from Boston, was the artsy one in the relationship, Berens said. She was an interior designer and real estate agent. Her 87th birthday would have been Thursday.

“It was always kind of a running joke that he had enough education for both of them,” Berens said.

Gerald and Arline are survived by two daughters and three grandsons.

Reflecting on the loss of his grandparents, Berens said the virus becomes “much more real” after being affected by it.

“Between the two of them, there was 176 years of life, 64 years of marriage, two daughters, three grandsons, hundreds of holiday dinners, thousands of magazine subscriptions, and a boundless reserve of knowledge and life lessons,” Berens wrote on Facebook.

Contact Grethel at gaguila@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter at @GrethelAguila.

Gerald and Arline Polinsky, married for 64 years, died from COVID-19 five hours apart.

 

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