Retired D.C. firefighter dies of COVID-19, family remembers him as a hero


MOUNT AIRY, Md. (WDVM) — The family of a retired Washington, D.C. firefighter is speaking out about their “hero” who recently died from the coronavirus during an outbreak at a Mount Airy nursing home. 

For more than 20 years, Gary Holmberg answered the call of duty as a firefighter with the D.C. Fire and EMS department. 

“I know everybody says their family member is a great person, but he truly was a good person. Anybody you talk to will tell you. Firefighting, EMT, and all that was his life. He loved to help people,” Holmberg’s son, Rob Holmberg, explained. 

Rob says even after he retired as a captain in 1988, Holmberg still made it known that he was a part of the service. 

“He had his [D.C. Fire Department] shirt on constantly, everywhere he went. It’s all he wore, he was proud of it, without a doubt,” Ron said. 

On February 12,  Holmberg moved into the Pleasant View Nursing and Rehabilitation center in Mount Airy to recover from a recent fall. Robs says he was diagnosed with dementia. The goal was for Holmberg to recover and then move to a different facility.

“I told him, I said ‘Pop, just get through the physical therapy and then we’re going to get you out of here. We’re going to get you out of here,” Rob recalled. 

On March 27, Holmberg was taken to the Carroll County Hospital Center in Westminster. The following day, a press release from the Carroll County Health Department reported the first two cases of COVID-19 at the Pleasant View facility. 

“He just went downhill so fast there,” Rob said, “The last thing he said to me was ‘I love you. Say your prayers.”

Holmberg died on March 29, 2020 at 77 years old from pneumonia. Rob adds that he tested positive for COVID-19. 

In the wake of his father’s death, Rob has started a Facebook support page to help other families share stories of loved ones in the facility and to try and get some answers. 

“I’m hoping to get this support group out enough to get enough people in here so we can get answers for these families and everybody,” Rob explained, “It’s got to be hard to not know what’s going on with your family member in there.”

On Monday, the Carroll County Health Department reported four additional deaths at the Pleasant View Nursing Home due to COVID-19. Four more staff members have tested positive, the department stated.

As of Monday, the nursing home reports that a total of 14 residents have died.

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