An East Butler man known for his big smile and community involvement was the county's latest victim of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the state Department of Health's daily report, Bob Graham's death Tuesday marks the seventh reported in the county resulting from COVID-19.
Graham's son described the 74-year-old East Butler man as far more than a mere statistic. He was a beloved husband, dad and volunteer.
Graham sat on the City of Butler's Parks, Recreation, Grounds & Facilities Authority Board, commonly known simply as the Stadium Authority.
“My dad was a good public servant,” said Graham's son, Tom Graham.
Butler City Councilman Jeff Smith said Bob Graham was invested in his community and especially passionate about the Stadium Authority.
Smith, who serves as the city's liaison for the stadium authority, said he could always count on Bob to ask the tough questions, especially concerning finances, he said.
“He just clearly cared a lot about that authority,” Smith said, adding that city council held a moment of silence at Tuesday's meeting in Graham's honor. “He's going to leave a big void for them.”
Smith also acknowledged Graham's personal presence within the community, too. He expects many people, like himself, will fondly remember Graham walking the downtown streets and visiting with local business owners.
“It's one thing to read about thousands of deaths in the newspaper,” Smith said. “It's something else when it's someone you used to work with.”
Tom Graham said his father also helped the East Butler municipal government and was an active member of Hill United Presbyterian Church in Butler.
The church posted Wednesday morning about Graham's death on its Facebook page, where many were quick to share their condolences. Many offered prayers, and several described the man they mourned as a happy and accepting person.
“He's always a happy guy,” Tom Graham said. “He was stern in business, but he was always a happy man.”
Bob Graham was active in more ways than one, according to his son. He enjoyed working out and liked to exercise at the YMCA every day.
“When he didn't do that, he would walk Main Street and talk to people,” Tom Graham said. “People would always talk back to him because he was generally a happy guy.”
In March, Bob Graham had to stop interacting with people. He presented a fever March 16 and self-quarantined immediately. His wife, Gerry, fell ill with similar symptoms just four days later.
Tom Graham said both his parents were hospitalized March 24. While his mother gained enough strength to return home to complete her recovery, his father stayed in the hospital until his death Tuesday.
Dressed in full protective gear, Gerry Graham was able to spend Tuesday in the hospital with her husband.
Tom Graham, however, wasn't able to do the same, but was able to share a few words with his father via a video call.
“At least I got to talk to him a little bit that way,” he said.
Tom Graham said he will miss seeing his father's smile, and so, too, will many others. He said it also adds a new, all-too-personal perspective of what the virus can do. He stressed how just one mask might have prevented his father's death.
“Listen to what health care workers are telling you right now,” Tom Graham said. “My dad loved to engage in conversations with people, and he was likely exposed through a conversation with someone.”
As a small business owner himself, Tom knows all to well what the state closure has done to businesses, big and small. The owner of Frames & Pixels on Main Street in Butler also understands people's frustrations over wanting to go back to work or leave their homes.
But he now has to cope with the death of his father.
Tom Graham said he hopes people will continue wearing masks and maintaining social distances.
“We're all going to be better and stronger,” he said.
Covid-19 Regional Data
The following data about the coronavirus pandemic is compiled daily from the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website and regular releases from Butler Health System.
Wednesday’s COVID-19 statistics are as follows:
Confirmed cases: 164
Negative tests: 1,876
New cases: 1,156
Total cases: 35,684
New deaths: 58
Total deaths: 1,622
Negative tests: 136,272
Butler Memorial Hospital
Total tests: 2,330
Outdoor tests: 1,729
Positive tests: 182
Total tests: 510
Outdoor tests: 424
Positive tests: 19
Allegheny: 1,088 confirmed cases, 11,959 negative test results, and 74 deaths
Westmoreland: 300 confirmed, 3,581 negative, and 20 deaths
Beaver: 317 confirmed, 1,638 negative, and 47 deaths
Lawrence: 61 confirmed, 550 negative, and 6 deaths
Mercer: 59 confirmed, 538 negative, and 1 death
Armstrong: 39 confirmed, 505 negative, and 2 deaths
Clarion: 19 confirmed, 384 negative, and 1 death
Venango: 6 confirmed and 191 negative