They now live in memory. People like Veronica Alice Mildred Coody, one of the first Berkshire County residents to fall to COVID-19 last April. “She had to fight for everything,” says her eldest daughter, Phyllis Gaule. “Whatever she got, she earned. She was a person you could look up to.”

Today, The Eagle presents the first in a series of profiles, “These Lives,” honoring eight of the 138 Berkshire County residents whose deaths, as of Thursday, have been linked to the virus. New profiles will continue to appear weekly. The series seeks to ensure that memory wins out over statistics.

R. Jacob Leonesio remembers his brother Jimmy’s love of Julie Andrews’ rendition of “Do-Re-Mi” from “The Sound of Music.” They sang it together as children and never stopped. As he grew into an adult, Jimmy Leonesio, who had Down syndrome, continued to embrace the song. The last week of Jimmy’s life, before he too was felled by the virus, the brothers sang it one last time on Skype.

Marc Warner remembers one of the things his stepmother, Lucille Schulberg Warner, told him a few years ago, before she too was taken, last spring, by the novel coronavirus. “Really, Marc, who wants to be average?” He knew she was anything but.

In coming weeks, staff reporters of The Eagle will provide more profiles like those presented today in "These Lives."

The initial portraits published today were written by freelance journalists enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who conducted interviews and laid the groundwork for this project, guided by editors with The Eagle.

Their stories include a profile of Micheline Toureille, who made her way to the Berkshires, some 70 years ago, after surviving the depredations of World War II as a member of a religious minority in France. The experience toughened her, but did not destroy her belief, her children say, in human possibility. 

Stanley R. Farnum saw action in that same conflict, the war that stopped fascism in Europe. He survived the D-Day invasion of Normandy, after coming home on leave to marry his hometown sweetheart, Hilda Mae Duryea. Together, they raised 11 children. 

To this day, Diane Mirante thinks of her dad, Attillio Mirante, as her hero. He was the kind of person who looked after people and did what he said he'd do. “If you knew my father, he would do anything for you. His word meant everything,” she said.

Like many men his age, Carl Wendell Cahoon served in World War II — in his case, with the U.S. Navy. The details of those days never left him, a child recalls. 

Edgar "Joe" Cartier found his way to Pittsfield from Fall River, then made the Berkshires his home for decades. In the last 17 years, he showed courage, his wife Vera says, after suffering a disabling stroke. 

Today's profile subjects were identified in death certificates obtained through public records requests and from published obituaries, both of which will guide staff members of The Eagle as they work to honor those lost to the pandemic. To comment on the series, or to suggest names of future subjects, please email lparnass@berkshireeagle.com.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass, investigations editor, joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant and CommonWealth Magazine.