Shelton's Apple Rehab holds memorial to honor those who died at the facility in 2020

SHELTON — On March 23, 2020, the Apple Rehab community recorded its first positive COVID-19 test.

A year later, on the anniversary of that first positive test, staff, residents and their families gathered at their respective locations to memorialize those lost and reflect on the bonds of friendship gained during the past year.

“We remember all we have lost, but also all we have gained — solidarity as a family throughout Apple,” Apple Rehab Shelton Lakes Administrator Michael Latina said. “We remember each resident that passed while celebrating this present moment where we can come together once again.”

Each Apple Rehab center held a ceremony on Tuesday. More than 30 people gathered outside Apple Rehab Shelton Lakes to honor those lost while looking to each other for the strength to move forward.

Shelton Lakes staff honored the 50 residents who died in 2020 — nearly half because of COVID-19 — by dedicating a memorial in front of the facility featuring decorated mason-type jars. Each jar is printed with the resident’s first name and is capped by a solar lid to allow the memorial to shine at night.

"While this was a very memorable moment, no one had any idea what was to come in the upcoming months,” Latina said. “(The memorial) was very emotional for all … without question. Even though this past year has been very challenging, it reminded all of us here at Lakes just how important our residents are to us.”

Latina led the memorial at the Shelton Lakes location. The Revs. Raymond Petrucci and Krzysztof Kukzynski offered prayers during the service, which was also attended by Mayor Mark Lauretti.

“Today’s memorial was not about just the lives lost due to COVID-19,” Latina said. “It was to remember all of the lives lost in 2020.

“The year of 2020 was a very different year for all of us, and so many did not have the chance to say their goodbyes especially at the beginning of the pandemic,” Latina added.

Latina said dealing with the pandemic early last year was difficult for everyone.

He said staff communicated weekly with all family members to keep them updated on developments. At first, Latina said staff held daily virtual visits until eventually being able to have outdoor and indoor visitations.

Now, Latina said 70 percent of the facility employees have been vaccinated and 80 percent of residents have been vaccinated. With confidence in the vaccine’s effectiveness building, he said he expects those numbers to increase.

“From the beginning, the employees of Shelton Lakes came to work and faced the pandemic head on,” Latina said. “They were there for our residents every day. Some days were tougher than others, but we like to believe that we are through the worst of it and getting back to normal.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com