The Rev. Merle Dry, a beloved grounds manager at Oral Roberts University and Pentecostal minister, became the first casualty of the deadly coronavirus in Oklahoma last Wednesday. He was 55.
Dry’s death was announced Wednesday night by Metro Pentecostal Church, led by Don Martin, in Tulsa where he served.
“It is with great sadness that I have to announce our dear Bro Merle Dry made his journey from earth to glory at 8:01pm. Sis Dry and family are under quarantine and cannot receive guests. Please text her instead of calling. Thanks to everyone for your prayers. We need the hand of God to guide us. He was so loved by the Metro Pentecostal Church. Details of his funeral will be forthcoming,” a statement on the church’s Facebook page said.
The statement also sought to clarify what it termed “misinformation” regarding Dry’s health explaining that as far as the church knew, Dry had no underlying illness prior to his death from the coronavirus.
“Merle Dry was in good health as far as we all knew. He was fighting a cold and then he contracted the coronavirus. He was diagnosed on Tuesday and passed away on Wednesday. He was unable to breathe,” the church continued, noting that the pastor was a member of the Cherokee Nation.
Because of his cold, Dry had not been attending church and leaders are “taking all precautions to allow the virus to die out in the area he would have been in,” the church added.
Dry was described as an “authentic” person who “loved people.”
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In announcing his death, Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart called it a “tragedy.”
“This is a tragedy for our community. In these unprecedented times, everyone feels the weight of this loss. COVID-19 has impacted our community on a monumental level, but today I ask you to take a moment to pause and recognize that a family has lost their loved one. Our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Dart said in a statement cited by NewsOn6.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt also offered prayers for Dry’s family.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of Oklahoma’s first death from COVID-19. Sarah and I send our sincere condolences and ask Oklahomans to join us in praying for his family and loved ones,” Stitt said. “My highest priority is the safety and well-being of every Oklahoman and I will deploy every resource available to protect the health of all of our families, friends, and neighbors.”
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. of the Cherokee Nation also urged citizens to be safe as he offered prayers for Dry’s family.
“For months, we watched this virus from afar, and now with the passing of a Cherokee Nation citizen in Tulsa County, we hope people understand this has now hit home and is a very real pandemic that can affect anyone of us. We ask that everyone take real safety precautions and on behalf of the Cherokee Nation, our thoughts and prayers are with the Dry family at this time and we are so very sorry for this tragic loss,” he said.
Dry leaves behind his wife Carrie; son, Jesse, 22; and daughter, Pamela, 17.