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’Volusia County just lost two public servants:' Paramedic, teaching assistant die of COVID-19, family says

2 victims were siblings, sheriff says

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A Volusia County family is mourning Monday after a brother and sister died of COVID-19, the sheriff said.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said paramedic Gerald “Jerry” Jones and his sister, Shyla Pennington, a teaching assistant, recently died.

“I learned to be a paramedic was from him and how he treated his patients,” said Suzana Urban, who worked with Jones. “Volusia County has lost two of the most amazing people that I can possibly imagine.”

A Go Fund Me campaign says much of the family was battling the virus.

Urban said Jones was her mentor with a great sense of humor. He helped families for years, including Jamie Jarrard’s.

“He came to the house a couple times for myself, taking me to the hospital and I was scared and told me that everything would be okay,” said Jamie Jarrard.

The loss was especially hard for Jarrard after learning not only Jones passed away, but his sister, Shyla Pennington. Pennington was a Volusia County teacher’s aide who taught Jarrard’s daughter years ago.

“My daughter had a speech impediment when she was younger and she just took that time and spent it with them. She was amazing. You couldn’t ask for a better teacher than Ms. Pennington,” said Jarrard.

“Volusia County just lost two public servants, and a family lost two of their loved ones, to COVID-19,” Chitwood wrote on Facebook. “The human toll of COVID-19 is real, and these are the first responders and front-line workers who risk their own health and safety to keep our society functioning.”

Volusia County EMS also offered its condolences on social media.

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“Jerry made a difference in so many lives during his 21 years of service in Volusia County and held a presence that brought smiles to his coworkers and comfort to his patients day after day. We are keeping Jerry’s entire family in our thoughts as we mourn the passing of our friend and colleague.”

Jones had battled COVID-19 for days, according to the Volusia Ambulance Association, saying the biggest fight the Navy veteran had been involved in was Desert Storm -- until he contracted the virus.

The VAA made a Go Fund Me campaign for his family to assist with medical bills in hopes to get him back on the ambulance helping the community. The organization says the funds will now go directly to his wife to assist with unexpected expenses.

According to the Volusia County School District, Pennington taught students with special needs for the last 18 years in several schools. She just started teaching at Sugar Mill Elementary School.

Susan Persis, former Pine Trail Elementary School principal and Ormond Beach City Commissioner said she was always smiling and happy.

“She took her job so seriously and did everything she could to help the students,” she said.

The school district told News 6, Pennington started school on Aug. 31 and left on Sept. 4th. The district released the following statement over the weekend:

This weekend we received the sad news that one of our beloved Sugar Mill Elementary paraprofessionals, Shyla Pennington, has passed away. Ms. Pennington served as a teacher’s assistant in Volusia County Schools for many years. She was a dedicated employee who loved children and also was a devoted mother, daughter, sister, and friend to many. We are deeply saddened by her passing, and our hearts go out to her family, friends, and colleagues in Volusia County Schools. Teachers and staff at Sugar Mill were notified Monday, and Dr. Carmen Balgobin, our Superintendent, has spoken with Ms. Pennington’s family. We will have a crisis team at Sugar Mill starting Monday to provide grief counseling to students and employees.

“We really do not believe she contracted this at a school or at a school site or school function,” said Carl Persis, Volusia County School Board Chair.

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