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Florence artist Jan Roblin dies of coronavirus

Jan Roblin was an artist, a mother, a grandmother, and someone who will be missed, said her family.

Posted: Jul 2, 2020 7:35 PM
Updated: Jul 3, 2020 4:36 PM

WAAY 31 spoke with a family in Florence who lost their mom to coronavirus last week.

Family members confirm Jan Roblin, 77, was one of the 39 residents and employees at Florence Nursing and Rehabilitation Center who got the virus.

Jan Roblin, at right. (Photo courtesy of the family)

She's now one of four from the same nursing home who has died of the virus.

As heartbroken as Roblin's family is, her son, Benji Wilson, wants people to know about his mom. She was an artist, a grandmother and so much more.

"She was known by my youngest daughter Isabella as Abunanny, and she wore that badge proudly," said Wilson. "My mom was beautiful. I was so proud of her all the time. Her beauty wasn't just skin deep, it was throughout."

Wilson gave WAAY 31 videos of his family visiting his mom A toddler runs down a long hallway with squeals of excitement. Knocking on a door and Jan happily opens it and wraps the child up, giving her a big kiss. Those moments are the one's Benji Wilson said he will never forget.

Wilson said his mom painted people mostly. Her works of Helen Keller and W.C. Handy are the most recognizable. Wilson said besides being a mother, grandmother, and artist, one of her favorite titles was art teacher.

Roblin would hold local art camps in Florence every summer. Right up to the time she passed she was still getting postcards from former students.

"I'm sure even now she will get postcards and letters from people saying 'Mrs. Jan I just want you to know how much I appreciate the love of art you helped me understand,'" said Wilson.

Roblin was already in the Florence Nursing and Rehab Center off of Cloyd Boulevard when the pandemic hit North Alabama. In June she got a fever then a positive coronavirus test. Roblin was then taken to the hospital in Florence.

"She wasn't ready to leave and I wasn't ready to lose her," said Wilson.

Wilson couldn't be in the hospital with his mom because the virus is so contagious. On June 24, a nurse at the hospital put the phone next to Roblin's ear so she could hear her son one last time.

"I said mom I'm proud of you. I love you. You have fought this virus and you are so strong but just relax and just know that I love you more than anything and you're the best mom and I'll see you soon.

"She died an hour and a half later. The nurse was so nice. She called me back to let me know I didn't let your mom die alone," said Wilson.

Wilson said that nurse held his mom's hand for 25 minutes.

He's building a bridge over a peaceful creek to honor his mom and plans to put her art in a more permanent place so people can enjoy it, and so that her legacy won't just be another coronavirus statistic.

WAAY 31 reached out to Florence Nursing and Rehab several times on Wednesday and Thursday. Officials have not responded to any of our questions or returned any calls.

Previously the nursing home confirmed with WAAY 31 on June 10 that it had two coronavirus cases. On June 23, after calling and emailing officials for more than a week, the nursing home said its cases jumped from two to 39. Nineteen residents had the virus and 20 employees. The nursing home also confirmed on June 23 that three residents had passed away from the virus.

Roblin's death now brings the total to four, but the nursing home won't confirm that. WAAY 31 has also asked the nursing home several times about its protocols and how it's handling the virus all they would confirm is that they are following CDC and public health guidelines.

Officials did say on June 23 that five of the 19 residents that tested positive had recovered and that others were improving.

But now they won't give an update on cases or how residents and employees are doing.

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