Theresa Manning died of complications from COVID-19 on June 15.

Theresa Manning died of complications from COVID-19 on June 15. Credit: Manning family

Theresa Manning called her five children every day. Often more than once a day.

"She kept everybody connected," said her daughter, Patricia Miller, of Sag Harbor. "That was her strong sense of family. She wanted us to be connected."

That became challenging when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March and closed Manning's Southampton nursing home to visitors.

Manning showed signs of the illness in early April. Over the next two-plus months, the former longtime Baldwin resident spent a total of 54 days over three stints in Stony Brook Southampton Hospital as her condition improved and worsened, improved and worsened.

But she fought. Oh, how Theresa Manning fought. And her family fought to stay connected to her by any means possible.

During her first hospital stay, a priest was called to offer prayers and absolution by phone. Manning spent Easter away from her children for the first time. But Manning recovered and returned to the nursing home.

Less than two weeks later, she was back in the hospital. She spent Mother’s Day and her 85th birthday there. Planned window visits at the nursing home became phone calls and FaceTime hookups to the hospital.

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For a second time, after nearly a month’s stay, Manning was released from the hospital. But she returned after only two days. Two of her children were able to visit wearing full PPE gear.

Eventually, Manning was moved to East End Hospice Kanas Center for Hospice Care in Quiogue. On June 12, her children and her 10 grandchildren, ranging from age 16 to 28, were able to visit her and hold her and be with her.

On June 15, Manning died of complications due to COVID-19, according to the family. A memorial service was held at Commack Abbey. Manning was buried at Calverton National Cemetery in Wading River with her husband of 49 years, Bernard, who died in 2008.

A month later, the inestimable loss of the woman who grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, as Theresa Zukowski, was still sinking in.

"I talk to my sisters about it," Miller said. "The phone doesn’t ring anymore. Mom was very connected to all of us at least once a day. It’s like a strange, little loneliness, like a piece of my heart has chipped off and it’s not growing back."

Along with Patricia Miller, Manning is survived by her son, Peter Manning of New York; daughters Grace Byington, Ruth Manning Frebowitz of Villanova, Pennsylvania, and Mary Lehmann of Dix Hills; and 10 grandchildren.

Her grandchildren "were her pride and joy, without a doubt," said Frebowitz, adding that her mother’s most notable attribute was her kindness. "She was never, ever cruel to anyone. She never said a bad word about anyone, ever."

Frebowitz said the siblings would continue their mother’s tradition of calling each other.

"The grandchildren," she said, "they’ll text."

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