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Detroit father of 10, soon to be 11, dies from coronavirus (COVID-19)

Cornelius Watkins died from COVID-19 symptoms

DETROIT – A Detroit father with 10 children and a pregnant wife died after being admitted to the hospital for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Cornelius Watkins, 40, was admitted to Henry Ford Hospital in mid-March with symptoms of COVID-19. He died days later.

Cornelius and Carolyn Hanley-Watkins were expecting a baby girl in July. Carolyn said they were nearly inseparable for two decades, and they built a life and a family together.

UPDATE -- April 29, 2020: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 40,399; Death toll now at 3,670

She worked and he was home with the children, and he was so excited for the 11th child to arrive this summer, Carolyn said.

“If I didn’t have kids here to be strong for, it would be way worse,” Carolyn said.

She said it’s nearly impossible to talk to her youngest children about their father’s passing.

“My 3-year-old says, ‘When’s dad coming back home?’” Carolyn said. “It was so hard to -- all I could do was hold him and say, ‘Do you miss him? Cause I miss him too.'”

Carolyn said Cornelius lived for his family.

“He was at every football game, basketball game, cheerleading event,” she said. “Any time you talked to him, it was about the kids or me.

READ: How one of Michigan’s largest nonprofits is continuing to serve amid coronavirus crisis

“That was my strength, my other half, and I thank God I got to spend 17 years together, because he was a great guy.”

Carolyn’s strength and grace caught the attention of Hollywood star and fellow Detroiter Kristen Bell. Her company, Hello Bello, is running a campaign to provide free diapers to a family for a year.

Carolyn’s story garnered more than 78,000 likes on Instagram.

Despite losing her best friend, and with so many little ones to raise, Carolyn hopes her faith and courage inspires others.

“I just ask for God’s grace to keep me going,” Carolyn said.

Unbeknownst to her, Carolyn’s friends submitted her name to Bell’s diaper drive. If you would like to help the family, click here to visit the Facebook page.


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