Family holds virtual services for COVID-19 victim on Memorial Day weekend


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — For a Norfolk family, Memorial Day weekend does not include cookouts and a trip to the beach. They are making trips to a funeral home to bid farewell to Robert Allen Fentress.

The BAE Shipyard contract engineer died April 9 after contracting COVID-19.

More than 40 days after his death, the family will bid farewell as questions remain on why more was not done to help the 44-year old.

When Fentress — who was known by his middle name, Allen — asked for a COVID-19, test it was denied. When he finally received one, the results did not come in until eight days later.

Two days later, Allen collapsed and died at his home.​

Allen’s sister says the family has filed a complaint with the Norfolk Police Department regarding how officers responded to grieving loved ones on the scene.​

“People have been highly insensitive and I don’t think they go into a situation empathetically​,” said Toshiba Fentress, who is calling for COVID-19 sensitivity training.

After Allen’s death, BAE, under pressure from other contractors, started a screening program to identify employees who may have symptoms. Newport News Shipbuilding followed suit a few days later.

As states reopen on different levels, there isn’t an agreement on the number of cases — some saying they are inflated to hurt the administration, others saying they are suppressed to promote commerce.

Allen’s loved ones say there’s no excitement about dining and shopping when the virus has killed your loved one. ​

“All the money, all the possessions in the world are not going to help if you are not here anymore,” said Fentress,.

On Friday, a photo viewing at Graves Funeral Home will tell the story of Allen’s life. He would have turned 45 next month. No more than 10 mourners will be allowed to attend Saturday’s 3 p.m. memorial service. Allen’s remains were cremated.

“Although his body won’t be there, this gives people closure– this gives us closure. This allows us to come together in small groups to do something meaningful,” said Fentress.

Graves Funeral Home will provide a livestream of the service on the funeral home’s website.

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