Family of Anchorage woman who died from COVID-19 remember an adventurous, ‘beautiful soul’

Published: Mar. 28, 2020 at 7:52 PM AKDT
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Family have confirmed the identity of the woman who died Friday morning from COVID-19 at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

Gloria Merculief, 63, died after testing positive for COVID-19. Her family wants her remembered for more than the virus, saying a friend described her best as a “beautiful soul, accepting, peaceful, and calm.”

Merculief was also known as Glo, Glo-Bug, Strawberry Girl, Gloodge and Glory.

"Gloria was known for her easy giggle and good-natured spirit and she loved to laugh until tears rolled down her face," family said through a written statement.

“Gloria’s life was filled with adventure from riding in our family’s houseboat up and down the Yukon river, to riding her bike from California to Seattle, to flying solo in a plane out of the Honolulu airport when she was stationed there in the Navy in the 1980’s,” the statement reads. “Her positive and loving presence will be deeply missed by her children, husband, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings, and numerous cousins and friends.”

Merculief had been battling Alzheimer's disease before she began feeling flu-like symptoms last Saturday. She tried resting at home but needed to go to ANMC on Monday.

Doctors suggested Merculief be tested for COVID-19. She tested positive and was sent home to quarantine.

Her health continued to decline.

Merculief was taken back to the hospital on Wednesday as she was struggling to breathe. Her condition worsened.

Family couldn’t be at her bedside during her final days.

“We wanted to thank the nurses at ANMC for being there with Gloria when we could not, we asked them to play her music, specifically the song, “You Are My Sunshine,”" family said.

“They held the phone up to Gloria’s ear while her brother talked with her and prayed with her, and did it again for her husband to express his last words of love to her. The most difficult part of all of this, beyond Gloria’s suffering, was knowing that she was without family during her last hours.”

Gloria Jane Merculief died at 9:40 a.m. Friday morning.

Merculief lived in Anchorage, and her family says she hadn’t traveled out-of state recently. She was also practicing good social distancing and only went out rarely.

“It is unknown how she contracted COVID-19 but it likely happened when she and her husband were running errands,” family said. “We will never really know.”

Merculief’s family advised others to follow health orders to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We do know that social distancing at this time is essential to stop the spread of the virus to the ones you love and to those that are most vulnerable.”

“Our ancestors and Elders pass on wisdom and practices around how to be a good person, embedded in those practices are examples of responsibility for yourself and others, sharing and caring, reciprocity, and a deep love and respect for one another and the land,” the family writes. “We are seeing acts of compassion and service every day in our communities during this challenging time and that inspires hope for the future.”

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