A community pioneer lost, and remembered

The funeral
Sisters Martha Huggins (left) and Mary Moore (right) and their friend Ann attend the funeral of Daisy Pace, who died of Covid-19. “Ever since I knew her, she was a nice person, an easygoing person, and she loved the Lord. She loved kids,” said Moore about Pace.

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — It was the first day of the new year when Angela Moodie noticed that her 80-year-old mother seemed to be short of breath on their daily phone call. Her mom, Daisy Pace, had always been healthy and taken care of herself, so she immediately knew something was wrong. Without hesitation, she jumped in her car and drove around the block to find her mom ashen and gasping. She raced her to nearby Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade, where she was diagnosed with Covid-19 and quickly admitted. 

The pandemic has hammered Florida, leaving families and communities reeling. The state has been slow to embrace masking, lockdowns, and other preventive measures that could protect people from the virus.  Throughout the pandemic, Florida has recorded consistently high rates of transmission and deaths.

“I am truly angry with Covid-19,” said Moodie. “People as a whole look at it the wrong way. They don’t understand the severity until they walk the hospital halls.” Moodie was able to visit her mom in the hospital — a blessing, she said. But after fighting for her life for 17 days, her mother succumbed. 

To celebrate her life, Moodie decided to give her mother one last drive through the city she loved, on a horse-drawn hearse. 

“My mom was a pioneer of Belle Glade,” said Moodie. The rural town on the outskirts of Lake Okeechobee was undoubtedly better because of her dedication. Pace, a mother of five, was an active community member, volunteering at the local elementary school as a class grandparent, helping distribute food to families in need, and serving as a poll worker during elections. Pace loved her community, and service was how she showed that she cared. Her funeral was a celebration of her life, with all of her favorite songs and people from all parts of her life coming together to remember her. 

In the months since her mother’s death, Moodie has had a hard time coping with the loss. 

“It’s hard on me. I don’t like watching the news. I don’t have a Facebook. Every time I hear that the numbers [deaths] are going up, my mom is in that number too. It’s taken an effect on me,” she said.  

To channel some of her pain into something positive, she encourages others to get vaccinated. “My mama didn’t get a chance to get a vaccine. She was never given that fighting chance,” she said. A couple people have listened to her so far and taken the vaccine, she said. “Help us fight it so we can live.”

The funeral
Funeral goers sing during a service for Pace at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in January 2021.
The funeral
Pallbearers walk the casket of Pace into New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.
The funeral
Funeral goers sing and pray during the service.
The funeral
Mourners enter Pace’s funeral service. She worked at the Palm Beach County School District for over 30 years as a food service manager.
The funeral
Dustin Houck rents out his horse and carriage to families transporting caskets at funerals and said he has seen a rise in business since Covid-19 hit Florida. “Jahjah,” 11, who lives in Belle Glade, takes a selfie with Houck’s horse and said he wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up.
Funeral - glades
Pace’s family and friends arrive for her funeral.
The funeral
The carriage carrying Pace’s casket leads the funeral procession through Belle Glade.
The funeral
Funeral goers greet each other during Pace’s service.
Source: STAT