Shyla Pennington, 41, was a teaching assistant who helped special needs children for almost 20 years and served in three different elementary schools in Volusia County.
Her brother Gerald ‘Jerry’ Jones, 51, was a longtime paramedic who was noted for his dedication and commitment to ensuring residents’ well being.
The two siblings lived together before Pennington died of COVID-19 on September 19. Jones died on September 20.
Shyla Pennington and Gerald ‘Jerry’ Jones (left to right) both died of COVID-19 just two days apart in Volusia County, Florida
Greg Jones, the pair’s father, shared several Facebook posts that detailed the tragic turn of events after Pennington and Jones were diagnosed.
‘When it rains it pours, Our son Gerald Jones has been admitted to the hospital with Covid19 so please send your prayers for him as well as our daughter Shyla Pennington,’ Greg wrote in a post on September 13.
On September 19, he revealed to friends and loved ones that Pennington had succumbed to the illness.
‘Our daughter Shyla Pennington is not with God, she lost her battle with COVID19. I would like to thank everyone who prayed and supported her.’
Greg Jones, the sibling’s father, shared updates on his children’s conditions on Facebook
Kathleen Carman: ‘Working with kids with special needs can be a bit challenging at times but [Pennington] was patient with them and loved them like her own’
Then, Greg shared the second heartbreaking blow in a post shared soon after.
‘…After we lost our daughter we just got a call saying we lost our son to covid2+ 19. RE T T ST IN PEACE MY CHILDREN. This is not right, thank God.I did not mean this, I am sorry,’ he wrote.
According to The Daily Beast, Pennington tested positive for COVID-19 less than a week after classes began at Sugar Hill Elementary.
She was rushed to a local hospital on September 11 with low oxygen saturation levels. Pennington would later develop kidney and blood pressure while in critical condition.
‘She was a dedicated employee who loved children and also was a devoted mother, daughter, sister, and friend to many,’ the district told Daily Beast in a statement.
‘We are deeply saddened by her passing, and our hearts go out to her family, friends, and colleagues in Volusia County Schools.’
The Volusia County school district said Pennington did not contract the virus at work, but did not provide any evidence of that.
Greg told Daily Beast that Pennington was not afraid to go back to school as cases and deaths continued to rise in the country.
‘I even asked her, I said, “I’m worried about you,”‘ Greg told the publication. ‘But she said, “No, don’t worry about me, I’m good.'”
Pennington left behind various family members, including her 20-year-old son who is a collage student majoring in dance.
‘She loved her son—did everything for him and also for the kids at the school,’ Kathleen Carman, a former co-worker of Pennington, told Daily Beast.
‘Working with kids with special needs can be a bit challenging at times but she was patient with them and loved them like her own.’
Before Jones’ death, he was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and served in Operation Desert Storm.
‘He was probably one of the most loved people [at Volusia County EMS] ever,’ Greg said about his son, per Daily Beast. ‘He was super with people. He was a calming influence, which I guess in that profession you need.’
Greg Jones (right), pictured with his wife, said Jones was ‘a calming influence, which I guess in that profession you need’
Janie Jarrad, a Volusia County resident, recalled Jones’ strong sense of character and commitment to others.
‘He came to the house a couple times for myself, taking me to the hospital and I was scared and [He] told me that everything would be okay,’ Jarrard told Click Orlando.
Several tributes were posted in honor of Jones on social media and many recalled his kind nature.
‘Jerry made a difference in so many lives during his 21 years of service in Volusia County, and held a presence that brought smiles to his coworkers and comfort to his patients day after day,’ read a post in the ” Volusia County EMS IAEP Local 77 Facebook group.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood honored both siblings in a Facebook post shared earlier this week.
‘Volusia County just lost two public servants, and a family lost two of their loved ones, to COVID-19.’ write Chitwood.
Sheriff Mike Chitwood said on Facebook that Volusia County has ‘just lost two public servants, and a family lost two of their loved ones, to COVID-19’
‘The human toll of covid-19 is real, and these are the first responders and front-line workers who risk their own health and safety to keep our society functioning.
‘No one has all the answers to this health crisis, but I pray we are doing enough to protect people like Gerald and Shyla. May their memories be a blessing.’
A GoFundMe was created by the siblings’ mother, Mary Mullis Jones, and asked for help paying medical expenses.
A GoFundMe was set up for Pennington (left) by family and a separate one was created for Jones by the Volusia Ambulance Association
And a separate GoFundMe was set up for Jones by the Volusia Ambulance Association.
‘When an emergency happens, 911 is called, and the paramedics arrive. When a paramedic has an emergency, we never ask for help; we fight through it, adapt and overcome.
‘In a few instances, we need the support and help of our community. One of our own paramedics is in need of help.’
The two fundraisers have raised a combined total of $27,491 to pay for medical bills and other related expenses.