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Patricia Frieson was more than the 1st COVID-19 death in Illinois. She was their sister.

When she was 11, her parents, Dan and Effie Frieson, who’d migrated to Chicago from Arkansas in the late ’50s, sent Patricia Frieson to live Down South.

Her grandfather had died, and she was to live with her grandmother in Helena, Ark.

It’s where she’d grow up, finish high school at Barton High in Barton, Ark., go on to attend the nursing program at Phillips Community College there and receive her nursing license.

Frieson, sixth in a family of nine siblings — the others raised in Bronzeville before the family moved to a four-flat in Auburn-Gresham in the mid-70s — passed away Monday at age 61, survived by seven siblings, and her seven beloved nieces and nephews.

The world now knows Frieson as the first person to die of the novel coronavirus in Illinois.

But while her name draws this tragic note in history, one South Side family, in which she played a central role — her apartment in that four-flat the focal point of any gathering — mourns.


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