Thomas E. Comer’s final hours are a mystery to his family. You see, he died and was buried before the family knew he died of COVID-19. Comer lived at the Bayshore Health Care Center until his sudden death on April 13. The nursing home never contacted the family after the Irish expatriate succumbed to the coronavirus. His son, David Comer, first learned of his father’s death after his daughter called the nursing facility to find out how he was doing.
“We had not heard anything. We knew they were overwhelmed, but I had this false sense nothing would ever happen to him,” Brianna Comer recalled. “The woman who answered the phone said she could not find him.” Then she was told he had expired. “I went, ‘what? When did he die?’”
“We were told by the funeral home that he was already buried, against his wishes of being cremated, and they also attempted to contact my father, but they were only given an outdated phone number by the nursing home,” Comer remarked.
“Somebody could have told me something,” said his son, David. “He was my dad.”
“I understand what’s going on,” he said of the crisis in nursing homes. “But they couldn’t spare me five minutes?”
Comer, a retired Passaic County Sheriff’s Officer, said it would not have been hard to find him.
“They could have called the Holmdel police and given my name and they would have found me in minutes,” he said.
Born on September 2, 1931 in County Mayo on Ireland’s west coast in the town of Westport, Thomas Comer was a proud Irishman who never lost his brogue, said his granddaughter. He was a veteran of the Royal Air Force. He followed his parents and siblings to the United States, arriving here in 1958. She said he loved math and loved chess and for some reason, dogs always seemed to love him.
“He never got sick. He always said he had Irish immunity,” Brianna Comer remembered. “When we got sick, he said we weren’t Irish enough.”
The family is now trying to obtain his medical records in order to find answers regarding what happened to him and locate his belongings.
“I would have just appreciated his few effects,” said David Comer. “Some pictures. The wristwatch my son gave him. It’s just a $10 watch, but it was his.”