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Detroit man who took pride in helping to maintain his neighborhood died of COVID-19



A man in a hat and glasses: Willie Stokes


© Submitted by Corey Stokes
Willie Stokes

This obituary is part of We Will Remember, a series about those we lost to the coronavirus.

Detroit’s Willie Stokes was an active man who devoted his spare time to tending to abandoned homes and vacant lots on his street.

The 76-year-old Stokes died on December 15 at Henry Ford Hospital as a result of COVID-19.

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Born in Durant, Mississippi, he later moved to Battle Creek and then Detroit, where he graduated from Eastern High School. After more than 40 years, he retired from General Motors.

“He didn’t believe in missing out on work or neglecting his duties,” said his son Corey Stokes. “He always said that a worker’s job is never done, and he lived that.”



A man and woman pose for a picture: Willie and Nannie Stokes


© Submitted by Corey Stokes
Willie and Nannie Stokes

Stokes was married to his wife Nannie for 46 years. “He was a wonderful husband, a good provider and the family was first,” she said.

Although Stokes had many losses and tragedies in his life, he remained faithful and faithful to God. He was a mentor and encouraged a lot of young people. He started his workday with prayer and meditation, and his favorite scripture that he shared with young people was Proverbs 3: 5-6, according to his wife.

“Many of his friends called him ‘a man’,” said his son, “because of his integrity and unwavering character.”

Stokes was active in Partakers Church, where he served as a deacon, sang in the male choir, and served communion to sick and trapped parishioners. He was a spiritual advisor and fervently prayed for all those in need.



a person walking down a sidewalk: Willie Stokes with granddaughter Ashley.


© Submitted by Corey Stokes
Willie Stokes with granddaughter Ashley.

In his spare time, Stokes enjoyed working outdoors not only to look after his manicured lawn, but also to help the neighbors by cutting the grass for them when they didn’t have a lawn mower. He encouraged the boys on the block to do well in school, respect the neighborhood, and stay out of anger. He was a block captain in the neighborhood from the 1980s until his death.

Stokes, who never met a stranger, also enjoyed bowling, but his favorite time was hanging out with his family, especially his grandchildren.

On an unusually warm day in November, Stokes and a neighbor were working outdoors on several lots. A few days later, he felt like he was under the weather, but attributed it to his underclothing while working outside.



A group of people pose for a picture: Willie Stokes, center, with his grandchildren from left, Jacob, Ashley, Colin, Kennedy and Sterling.


© Submitted by Corey Stokes
Willie Stokes, center, with his grandchildren from left, Jacob, Ashley, Colin, Kennedy and Sterling.

After losing his sense of taste, he took a trip to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and COVID-19.

He was hospitalized for a little over two weeks, developed several complications, and underwent a number of procedures, including ventilation. Finally the family was called and allowed to visit at the end of life.

In addition to his wife and son Corey, Stokes goes to keep his daughter Barbara (Darance) Marshall in mind. Son Cedric (Tonie) Stokes; Daughter-in-law Kristie; Siblings Charlene George, Alice Jean Newman, Thelma Wright, Ella Ruth Wright, Mary Cordella Wright, and Ruby Harris; eight grandchildren; two great grandchildren and a host of family members and friends.

If you have a family member or close friend who died of COVID-19 and would like to share their story, please visit our memorial wall and select “Share a Story”.

Brendel Hightower is an editorial assistant at the Detroit Free Press. Contact them at [email protected]

This article originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press: A Detroit man who took pride in helping keep his neighborhood alive died of COVID-19

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