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Coronavirus Victims: Retired Teacher And Community Activist Tom Wilson

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Stephen Henderson, the host of Detroit Today at member station WDET, started last Thursday's show with some news.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

STEPHEN HENDERSON: If you're a regular listener of this show, you might, until today, have been someone who was still waiting for COVID-19 to take the first person from your world. But now you've lost someone, too.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Henderson was talking about Tom Wilson, Detroit Today's most frequent caller. He died last week from COVID-19.

CHANG: Wilson was a retired science teacher and local activist. Henderson says you would find him at every community meeting, earnest and engaged. And his calls to Detroit Today always elevated the conversation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

HENDERSON: Let's go to Tom in northwest Detroit - Tom.

TOM WILSON: Yeah, good morning to both of you. You know, it's...

KELLY: Not long ago, Wilson called in to discuss how he was handling the stay-at-home order.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

WILSON: I'll make it a point to get out every day; you know, do, like, a little bit of yard work and what have you. Go out on your front porch or your back deck. Just stand there. Get some fresh air and some sunshine. It makes the day better.

KELLY: Stephen Henderson says that was classic Tom - looking for a way to, quote, "boost what's good and what's possible." And as Henderson told his listeners last week, Wilson's death was another blow for Detroit.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

HENDERSON: It's so hard to put into words what we're experiencing during this extraordinary time. It feels like someone is pulling the innards away from this community; just grabbing vital organs and tissue and ripping them away. I wonder each night when I wind down the day what's going to be left when this is over. The prospect of more - more loss, more tragedy - it is just becoming overwhelming. But I think Tom of all people would be counseling right now against despair. He'd be talking about how we could persevere, how we can beat this virus and reclaim our lives. There's not just irony in that. There's strength and hope. And I think Tom would want all of us to double down on that strength and hope. He'd want us to stand in and keep fighting and, eventually, to overcome this madness. We'll do that. I know we will.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILSON: I've got a T-shirt that says - it's a motto. The slogan on it says, you know, stand for something or die for nothing. And I figure if you can't, you know, say what you want to say and then, you know, back it up, I mean, why even go there? That's just me. I mean, you know, it's - you know, what you see is what you get, as The Dramatics says.

CHANG: Detroit activist Tom Wilson remembered by WDET's Stephen Henderson.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHATCHA SEE IS WHATCHA GET")

THE DRAMATICS: (Singing) ...Is what you get. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.