NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Grief is flowing all the way from the Motor City to Hampton Roads following the death of a former Norfolk-based U.S. Navy man who recently returned to Detroit.
Thomas Fields was employed by the Detroit, Michigan, public school system as a cultural facilitator at Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy.
School officials announced his death Monday via Twitter. In a post, school officials wrote fields “left Malcolm X Academy as a boy, and returned to Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy as a Man.”
His extended family members miles away in Hampton Roads remember him as a Navy chef who embodied the full the flavor of life.
Blair Durham met Fields at a business seminar she hosted two years ago. She offered him advice on how to focus on finance. In a photograph taken during the seminar, Fields can be seen sitting wearing a hoodie that bears his logo: Sweet science chef.
“He was just there in search of resources; We had a conversation about the organization and about ways that we could help him and ways that he could reach his business goals. He just struck me as someone who was excited about life,” said Durham, founder of the nonprofit organization Black Brand.
The coronavirus has hit the Detroit school system hard.
According to Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization, three parents from three different schools have died. Fields is one of two staff members who have died.
Many friends in Hampton Roads learned of Fields death by way of social media.
“Just reading some of the things that have been posted about the death, he was mostly staying in. He was really working to protect himself and protect others. He was going out for the essentials and he still managed to contract the virus,” said Durham.
The headlines on the pandemic are often shared as statistics; Durham says when a familiar name and face are added to a story, it changes your assessment of the COVID-19 threat.
“Lots of friends and family members have tested positive for the disease in New York. For this to happen, it’s like oh my God, this thing is encroaching upon us. This is really sadder and sadder by the hour,” Durham said.
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