Family remembers nurse who died of COVID, his legacy lives on through daughters, wife in health care

Published: Dec. 1, 2020 at 7:39 PM EST
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FRANKLIN, Ky. (WBKO) - Over the weekend, 13 News shared a heartbreaking update that a long-time ICU nurse and Franklin resident died of COVID-19. His family is now speaking out and shedding light on the important work of our health care heroes.

“We knew with the last beat of his heart that he was present with the Lord,” said Jacque Woodward, wife of Gary Woodward.

The family of Gary Woodward finds strength in knowing Heaven gained a selfless soul on Saturday.

“We will never forget him never.”

Gary worked at Ascension Saint Thomas West in Nashville for 25 years where he was the ICU team leader. As he worked on the front lines with the sickest patients, the reality of his life’s sacrifice showing up on October 26.

“That little cough progressed into a massive call by Sunday,” said Jacque following his positive COVID test.

The nurse ended up on a ventilator on the ICU floor at Saint Thomas West he worked on. His team and co-workers were captured in a photo that showed them bowing in prayer outside of his room.

Saint Thomas West team prays for co-worker battling COVID-19.
Saint Thomas West team prays for co-worker battling COVID-19.(Jacque Woodward)

While in the hospital, his wife renewed their vows alone on their 45th wedding anniversary, wearing her wedding dress.

“45 years ago, I took him for sickness or in health, and I meant that, and I meant every word of it. So I was prepared for whatever the final diagnosis was going to be,” said Jacque.

However, the significant symbols simply were not enough to keep Gary’s earthly body living.

“We felt like he was going to get through it. He had an amazing team. It was his team of coworkers that cared for him every day,” said Jacque.

Almost exactly one month after a positive result, Gary was called to Heaven.

“We were all there with him is, I guess the last thing he heard was us telling him how much we loved him,” said Jacque surrounded by her and Gary’s three daughters. “He was our rock. And our rock is gone.”

Nonetheless, that rock has left stones that continue to do the selfless work he literally poured his life into.

“We’re a health care family,” explained Jacque.

Jacque and the three daughters Ashlea, Jennifer and Lindsay, seeing their rock’s passion, causing a ripple effect through their own lives. Ashlea followed in her dad’s footsteps and became a nurse.

“So I went into nursing because of him and actually worked in the very ICU that he works in for my very first job. He was the best mentor to me, as well as father and helping me to become the very best nurse that I am today,” said Ashlea Johnstone, Gary’s middle daughter.

Jacque, Jennifer and Lindsay are social workers.

As witnessed throughout his decades as a nurse and through their own experience, the Woodward family realizes the job goes far beyond a 7 to 7 shift.

“The nurses on the front line, they take this to heart when something happens-- if their patient doesn’t make it. And this was devastating for Gary’s St. Thomas team,” said Jacque.

A healthcare hero becoming a hero in Heaven. While he may be his family’s rock that is now gone, his life’s work will never be forgotten as it lives on through those he loved most.

“I don’t want anybody to forget Gary Woodward. He was the strongest man I know. And he gave his life as he cared for others,” said Jacque.

Gary is also survived by six grandchildren. His family said he did not have any underlying health conditions.

MORE: A prayer and a vow: ICU nurse battles COVID-19 as wife renews vows, his team prayers

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