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Remembering Sean Fletcher, Beloved Teacher And Brother In Arkansas, Lost To COVID


Over the past year and a half, we've been remembering some of the hundreds of thousands of people who have died in the U.S. after contracting COVID-19. And we've asked you, our listeners, to share with us the stories of those you've lost to the virus.


Today we remember Sean Fletcher, a retired German and history teacher in the town of Flippin, Ark.

ALEX THOMPSON: One thing that I think we all think about - or anyone who knew him thinks about - is he was just wickedly smart.

FADEL: That's Fletcher's younger brother, Alex Thompson.

THOMPSON: You could be talking about anything, and he would be able to tell you all about the history of it and, you know, how it came about. And to be honest, probably, you know, there were times where we were like, OK, Sean, yeah, we get it (laughter). We don't need to hear the history of everything. But I miss that.

CORNISH: Fletcher shared his curiosity and thirst for knowledge with the students he taught in more than two decades in the classroom. But he took it further than that.

THOMPSON: Every couple of years, he would take trips to Germany. He would take high school kids to Germany. And I know that it was, really, a big part of the joy in his life to be able to visit Germany and to introduce some of those students to that culture as well.

FADEL: Another thing Fletcher loved, learning and talking about was music - the history of different types of music, who was in what band and how those changed.

THOMPSON: I remember him once telling me all about, like, Rod Stewart being a semi-professional footballer in England before he became a rock star. And then he was with the band Faces. And I was like, how do you know this stuff, you know? It's just stuff that, unless it's your field, you just don't think about knowing.

CORNISH: Thompson also described his brother as being the glue that kept him tied to his family after Thompson came out as trans.

THOMPSON: My mother and my sister had a really hard time with it and didn't speak to me for a long time. And my mother came around, you know, probably within a year. My sister and I actually didn't speak for over a decade. It was 11 years. And he was pretty instrumental in convincing her that, you know, family is important.

FADEL: Thompson says while he doesn't know what was said in those conversations between his brother and his family...

THOMPSON: I know that that was what made the difference in sort of being a part of our family again versus not being a part of our family again.

CORNISH: Sean Fletcher, who was 49 years old, was also a husband and father of two. Despite his love for teaching, he retired in the summer of 2020. He was worried about getting COVID-19. But later that same year, he became infected. And Sean Fletcher died on December 12, 2020.


FADEL: If you want us to memorialize a loved one you've lost to COVID-19, find us on Twitter at @npratc. There's a pinned tweet right at the top.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROD STEWART SONG, "MAGGIE MAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alejandra Marquez Janse
Alejandra Marquez Janse is a producer for NPR's evening news program All Things Considered. She was part of a team that traveled to Uvalde, Texas, months after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary to cover its impact on the community. She also helped script and produce NPR's first bilingual special coverage of the State of the Union – broadcast in Spanish and English.