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Prayer Vigil Turns Into Memorial After Death Of Dallas Ebola Patient

Bill Zeeble
More than a hundred joined what became a memorial service for Dallas Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan Wednesday night at Wilshire Baptist Church

A prayer vigil planned for Thomas Eric Duncan became a memorial service Wednesday night after it was announced he had died from the Ebola virus. Wilshire Baptist Church in East Dallas was filled with about a hundred mourners who had never met Duncan. 

This is the church Duncan’s fiancée, Louise Troh, attends. She’s been coming here about a year. But she couldn’t be at this service for the man she loved because she’s still in quarantine after spending time Duncan. Officials want to make sure she doesn’t catch Ebola. The service was being streamed so she could watch.

Those in the church, including some Liberian natives, listened quietly.  Pastor George Mason described Duncan, who was 42, as a man with hopes for a new life and rekindled family with Louise, whom he’d known years ago.  They have a 19 year-old son Duncan hadn’t seen since he was a little boy. Mason said Eric and Louise built a castle of dreams in their hearts that they never got to live in.

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
Pastor George Mason at service for Dallas Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan in the Wilshire Baptist Church.

“The last words that Eric Duncan said were said to a nurse,” Mason told those at the service. “She asked what he wanted. He said he wanted to see his son.”

Duncan’s son came to Dallas Wednesday from San Angelo where he attends college. But didn’t get a get a chance to see his father.

Mason’s measured tones touched on humor, too. He said, in a joking tone, that Louise said Eric knew how to talk to ladies.

“He didn’t let anyone use bad language around women…”

Liberian native Christopher Wreh, an economics professor at North Central Texas College, told those in attendance Duncan’s death put a face on the lethal Ebola outbreak in his country. He was upset that Duncan had to be cremated, but understood it was to stop Ebola from spreading.

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
The Wilshire Baptist Church choir performed at the memorial service for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died Wednesday of Ebola.

“We are really hurt,” Wreh said. “We wish we were able to bury him according to tradition.”

The service was mostly quiet and somber, but for a few hymns. Church member Ruth Kaun never met Duncan and hasn’t met Troh, but felt the calling to attend the service.

“Oh, I wouldn’t be any other place,” Kaun said. “They reach out to everybody. This is what it’s all about, to support members and people who need us.”

Wednesday's service was to offer prayers for Duncan and support Louise Troh. Kaun and her friends hope to see her here, in church, soon.