He was a John Deere man with a dog named Jack.
“Corky loved being on his tractor and he loved that dog,” his wife Pauline Barnett said with tearful emotion. “His garden, his cows, cutting and baling hay, he loved it all. We prayed for a miracle, but a miracle didn’t come.”
Corky Barnett died from COVID-19 on September 9, only a few weeks shy of his 77th birthday. In early August, he was helping a friend in the hayfields and developed a persistent cough. The couple was tested for COVID-19 the following day.
“We went together, we both were tested and we both tested positive. That was on Aug. 10 and we got the infusion on Aug. 11,” Pauline Barnett said. “I never had any symptoms, not even one, but Corky’s cough continued to get worse.”
Being together was commonplace for the couple. Together, they had increased their vitamin intake, together they were vaccinated, together they received the infusion...together they followed every recommendation, but for Corky, it was to no avail.
“Corky was a great man, he left behind a wonderful legacy in our little community,” his wife continued. “He gave so much to his family and friends. He is missed, but we know he is healed from that old Covid mess.”
To have and to hold
After 57 years of marriage, Pauline reminisced about the couple's life together and how the sudden death of the “love of her life” has changed everything.
“We’ve known each other since we were 7-years-old,” Barnett said still speaking of her husband in the present tense. “We grew up in Rara Avis Community.”
The two attended Hurricane Creek School together. Barnett said Corky was her “fella.” As time passed, they decided to tie the knot. They moved ‘up north’ for one year, and found themselves returning to Itawamba County to live out their over five decades-long marriage, doing almost everything together. In 1966, Andy their oldest son was born and five years later, their son Alan was born.
“He would give our sons a quarter apiece when they were in school,” she laughed. “He would tell them, ‘Sons, don’t spend it all in one place!’ It was his motto in life, simplicity, common sense, and moderation!”
Barnett continued his simplistic ways when his grandchildren came along his wife said. His price for his grandsons, Kaleb and Kyler for killing the carpenter bees that ate away at the porch was ten cents apiece.
“When our other grandchildren, Lily, Evan, and Annabeth came along he had to up his price to quarter,” she laughed.
The couple worked for 33 years at Itawamba Manufacturing, Corky as a mechanic, and Pauline as a seamstress. They rode to work together, ate lunch together, and since their retirement, had spent the last nine years working around their farm...together.
“It wasn’t all peaches and cream for 57 years, it wasn’t without arguments or disagreements,” she stated without a doubt. “But he was my peaches and I was his cream.”
One disagreement came about when Pauline decided she wanted a four-wheeler.
“I had told Corky for years that I wanted a four-wheeler and that’s when his simplicity and moderation kicked in again,” she laughed. “He wasn’t having it. We walked around the fences, there would be no riding.”
As wives often do, Pauline told her husband she would save the money until she had enough to purchase the all-terrain vehicle for herself.
“Out of the blue he comes to me one day and says ‘how close are you to having enough for that four-wheeler?’” she grinned. “He said that’s close enough and off we went to buy it.”
Barnett told his wife that purchasing that four-wheeler was the best thing she had ever done.
“He loved it, we rode all over the place on that thing,” she said thinking back. “Now I ride it to the cemetery every day to visit Corky.
Till death do us part
Throughout Barnett’s COVID-19 illness, Pauline continued to show no symptoms, but his condition spiraled quickly. The 76-year-old had two underlying health conditions, atrial fibrillation, and diabetes. He was hospitalized on Friday, Aug. 13., immediately placed on the vent, but after improvements, came off four days later.
“We were able to talk to him at length during those days, his breathing was better, but they wouldn’t let us see him,” she recalled. “The hospital did a wonderful job of taking care of him, but I’m convinced that visitation rule needs to be changed. If the patient is better, the family should be able to visit.”
Barnett’s condition worsened once again and he was placed back on the ventilator. He never came off. He was in the critical care unit for four days and four nights in a comatose state. His family was able to visit with him three times.
“We were able to talk with him,” Pauline Barnett said emotionally. “But we don’t know if he could hear us. That’s why I hope if this virus continues, they will consider changing the rules.”
Barnett’s wife and children were with him at his death.
As of Oct. 4, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported over 185 million people in the United States had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to their website, during the same time, they reported 30,177 patients with COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections who were hospitalized or died. Of that number, 5,660 deaths were people like Barnett, age 65 years or older.
“He was a great man, he gave so much,” Pauline Barnett said. “He loved his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He left behind a wonderful legacy.”
On Oct. 12 the couple would have celebrated 58 years of marriage. Although it was not all “peaches and cream,” as Pauline Barnett says, it was a marriage based on friendship, love, and above all, being together.
“When it came to COVID, we did all the right things, followed every recommendation,” she said again tearfully. “And I still lost my Corky. We had a wonderful life together and I miss him. It will never be the same.”