Pastor pays tribute to Mississippi couple who died of virus while holding hands

Published 11:24 am Friday, April 10, 2020

A Long Beach couple who died holding hands contracted coronavirus on a cruise ship and succumbed to the virus shortly after their return, their pastor said Monday during a streaming funeral service.

A private service was held to remember the lives of Jerry Austin Williamson and his wife, Frances Jewel Bond Williamson, both 72.

The couple died six minutes apart with their hands still intertwined in love until each had passed.

A pastor remembered them during a broadcast of the service Monday and stood at a podium in between the couple’s two caskets.

A United States flag was draped over Jerry Williamson’s casket to honor his longtime service in the U.S. Navy, where he worked until his retirement as a public works supervisors at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Mississippi.

An assortment of flowers adorned the casket of his wife, a native of Wiggins, Mississippi, who had spent her life in the medical field working as a phlebotomist, or healthcare professional trained to draw blood from patients.

Both were members of North Long Beach Baptist Church, where he was deacon and she was member of the flower committee.

As a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Jerry Williamson was devoted fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide. A pastor donned a Crimson Tide hat in his honor.

The pastor said the couple had spent their lives as devoted Christians and were now with the Lord to live their eternal lives.

Calls for prayers came for the family, including those who may be experiencing some anger as they grieve because of the cruise line’s decision to continue operating after the initial warnings went out about the deadly COVID-19 that, by then, had spread into the United States.

The pastor pointed out they knew of the virus in the early stages but didn’t realized just how dangerous it was at that time.

The couple loved to go on cruises, the pastor said, but they usually returned to shore with some type of illness they had caught on the trip. The only difference was this time the condition was terminal.

Over the years, the couple had faced good and bad times together, but each time had relied on their faith to get through.

They had made it through the loss of a child and through Jerry Williamson’s battle with lung cancer that was so severe he had lost one lung to the cancer.

The couple’s greatest love was their children and grandchildren, their friends and their faith in God, the pastor said.

At the service, the pastor reminded parishioners that the couples’ steadfast faith led them to a life of eternal love.

They are survived by their two children, Delora Demaris Williamson Ingerson and Jerry Austin Williamson II, along with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Interment will follow at a later date at Biloxi National Cemetery along with a public memorial.

This article originally appeared in The Sun Herald newspaper and is republished here with their permission.