The congregation at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, mourned on Wednesday the loss of one of their beloved ministers, who died at the age of 46 after a two month battle with the coronavirus.
Minister Gregory Clark Jr., who also worked as a Cuyahoga County Jail corrections officer, died early Tuesday morning after spending weeks to recover from the virus, his mother Annie Clark said in a report from Cleveland.com.
After finally testing negative for the virus last week, the damage he suffered to his lungs and other organs left him unable to breathe on his own so he was stuck on a ventilator until he died, his mother said.
“Everything shut down,” Annie Clark told the publication. “His lungs were damaged beyond repair, his kidney and heart were severely damaged. It was just unbelievable.”
At a solemn memorial service at his church that was broadcast on Facebook, only a few singers and ministers were present in the building donning masks and gloves. Several hundred others logged on to the service online, some leaving warm words to comfort their hurting church family.
“We want to set aside this day to celebrate the life of Rev. Gregory Clark, a dear brother of ours, he was one of our powerful ministers on our ministerial staff. When he preached the Word he would bring it. He would bring it with full force and many a days I had many conversations with God just pleading for him but I don’t know God’s plans. But what I do know is that somewhere on the other side God is there bringing life into this situation of darkness,” Minister Otis Bevel said during the broadcast.
“This is a sad yet joyous day. When I was told the news about Pastor Clark passing, I was in the middle of training some athletes and when I was told, I couldn’t stop what I was doing but at the same time I took a moment of silence. … Pastor Clark, even though I only knew him for a short time, he was that impactful on my life, very funny man. He had jokes, but he was serious as well and he was passionate about the cause,” Mark Harris, owner of RAW Talent Sports, and son of the church's pastor, Larry L. Harris Sr., said.
Clark, who leaves behind a wife of 22 years, three children— 23, 18 and 12 — and a 3-year-old granddaughter, spent 45 days at the Cleveland Clinic, where he died, fighting the virus, Cleveland.com said.
“Everything happened gradually,” his mother said. “They did so many procedures on him, it was almost like they had a zipper on his chest, they had to open him up so much. It’s been horrific.”
Annie Clark now blames the county for not protecting officers enough who were working in environments where social distancing wasn’t always possible.
More than 30 corrections officers have tested positive for the virus, the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the union that represents the county’s corrections officers, said.
“I just don’t feel like they were providing the protection necessary for the officers,” Annie Clark argued. “Realizing how serious this was in a correctional environment where there is no physical distancing, they should have done more.”
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish called Clark, who was also a rapper, a “selfless worker.”
“Gregory Clark is an example of a truly selfless worker — one who may not have been seen every day by the public, but one whose work was crucial to all of us in the county. We mourn with his family because he was one of us,” he said in a statement.
Annie Clark said her son fought leukemia in 2018 until the cancer went into remission but the coronavirus was just too much for him.
Her son, she said, was reassigned to the densely populated jail at the Justice Center, in early May when coronavirus cases began surging. Within a week, he tested positive for the virus.
He quarantined in his home for about a week and a half but his condition worsened until he was hospitalized on May 26. He was taken to the Cleveland Clinic on June 1, where he was put on a ventilator and endured multiple surgeries before his death.