Thousands of Hoosiers have died since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020 and we know — they're more than just numbers. If you've lost a loved one to COVID-19 and want to share their story reach out to us at FacesOfCovid@wrtv.com.
Ernest “Ronald” and Ann Wilkins shared a deep love and connection through their 33 years of marriage all the way up until the day they died — just a single day apart — from complications of COVID-19.
"Very heartbroken because I loved Ann and Ronald---just like my brother and sister and I want people to this serious,” One of Ronald’s close friends, Bryan told WRTV.
Bryan said those who knew Ernest best, called him Ronald.
Ronald, born in 1954, was raised a Hoosier. He attended Indianapolis Public School #43, which is where Bryan said the two first met as students.
Close friends, the two would talk every day on the phone. Most days, several times a day.
"And that's what we thought of each other… you know that we were brothers — we did everything together,” Bryan said. “We talked 10 times a day. If I woke-up first in the morning, I'd call him. If he'd wake-up first he'd call me. We talked 10 times a day."
Ronald went on to graduate from Shortridge High School in 1972 and then studied at Ball State University.
Ronald played trumpet in school as well as football. Music and sports, two things Bryan said his friend loved.
After college, Ronald held multiple jobs, and eventually retired after working at Allstate Insurance for 12 years.
Ann was raised in Michigan and graduated from Cass Technical High School in Detroit in 1979 before attending Butler University in Indiana.
Ann was a teacher with Indianapolis Public Schools for 13 years and worked for many years with the Indiana State Teachers Association and Indiana Education Association. Bryan said she was always promoting public school education.
"She (was) deeply committed to her profession and her fellow educators,” IPS Superintendent Alessia Johnson said of Ann. "I think what did well was holding everyone to account, because at the end of the day her goal was kids were getting served as well."
Johnson said she took the photo below after they learned she and Ann shared a birthday on May 14.
Ronald and Ann were already making plans for 2021 — which included getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it was available to them.
But the couple didn’t make it that far.
They were both diagnosed with COVID-19 in December and admitted to Saint Vincent Hospital. Eventually, they were both placed on ventilators.
They never got to leave the hospital.
Ronald died on Friday, January 8. Ann died just one day later on Saturday, January 9.
Seeing firsthand the devastation that can come from COVID-19, Bryan hopes his friend’s death serves a stark message about the importance of the vaccine.
“I would rather you have a reaction to the vaccine than fight COVID the disease because a lot of time --you won't win,” Bryan said. “It’s real. I’ve seen it for myself. It’s something I don’t want to see again.”
You can read the obituaries for both Ronald and Ann below.
Ernest Ronald Wilkins (Sep. 6, 1964 — Jan 8, 2021)
Ernest Ronald Wilkins, age 66, transitioned form labor to reward on Friday, January 8, 2021. He passed one day before his wife of 33 years, Ann Grissom-Wilkins.
Ronald, aka Ron and “Ron Bull” was born September 6, 1954, to Ernest Coy and Jewell Lemon Wilkins in Indianapolis, Indiana.
He attended Indianapolis Public Schools Elementary School #43, graduated from Shortridge High School in 1972 and also attended Ball State University.
During his youth, Ronald was a dutiful Cub Scout and his mom Jewell, was a daunting Den Mother of Pack 102. He played wind instruments in high school (some well enough to almost be in a professional band) and also excelled in football… whereas he got his name “Bull”.
At a young age, Ronald united with Mt. Zion Baptist Church under the pastorate of Rev. R.T. Andrews, Sr.
Ronald retired after working 12 years for Allstate Insurance in 2016. He’d also held jobs at IPS and RCA. He loved music, playing cards and sports. He watched the games and called friends and family throughout the games to comment and vent!
Ronald was a true “Wilkins Man”! He loved being around family and always made it known he was a “Wilkins” and proud of it!! He was always his Aunt Sis’ pet and was spoiled by her until she passed.
Ronald lived a full life and enjoyed every minute of it! He was very analytical but also fun to be around!! He will be missed by all who knew and loved him.
Ronald leaves to cherish his memory and celebrate his life, his 3 children: sons, Ernest Ronald Wilkins II (LaTiffany), Michael Wilkins, and daughter Denise Dixon-Wilkins; 4 grandchildren: Ernest Ronald Wilkins III, “Tre”, Taylor Wilkins, Xaiden Wilkins and Xander Wilkins. Father and mother-in-law, Joseph & Betty Grissom, sister-in-law Ruth Grissom-Morton (Frank), nephew Joseph Grissom and a host of uncles, aunts, cousins many friends and extended family members.
Ann Grissom-Wilkins (May 14, 1961 — Jan. 9, 2021)
Ann Grissom-Wilkins, 59, passed away on January 9, 2021 due to COVID complications. Ann was born in Detroit, MI to Joseph and Betty Bates Grissom on May 14, 1961. Ann was preceded in death by one day by her husband of 33 years, Ernest Ronald Wilkins.
Ann graduated from Cass Technical High School in Detroit in 1979. After moving from Detroit many years ago, she maintained many friendships with her fellow classmates and never missed a reunion. She loved her hometown and her many friends, family and church members (Unity Baptist Church) that became her family.
And speaking of family, Ann was the head cheerleader, organizer and communicator for the Grissom Seeds. With her big heart, and her spirit of compassion, Ann kept up with most of the large Grissom family. She did the same for her Wilkins family as well. Ann would get behind the wheel of her car, turn up the tunes, and drive to any of her family and friends that needed her.
For many years, Ann attended and was an active member of the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church where she developed several long-term friendships and forged a personal relationship with Jesus.
A Butler University grad, Ann was a former longtime IPS teacher and also worked for many years with the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) and Indianapolis Education Association (IEA). Ann dearly loved her jobs in education and the teams of great people that she worked with, who weren’t just co-workers but more like family.
Ann is survived by her parents, Joseph and Betty Bates Grissom, her sister Ruth Grissom-Morton (Frank), her nephew Joseph E. Grissom, her children Ernest Ronald Wilkins II (LaTiffany), Michael Wilkins, and her beloved Denise Dixon-Wilkins and her precious grandchildren Taylor J. Wilkins, Ernest Ronald Wilkins III, Xander Wilkins and Xaiden Wilkins.
Ann was loved by all who knew her and will be missed. At this time, the funeral services will be for immediate family only with a Memorial Service to be held at a later date. Thank you to everyone for their support and prayers during this time.