Local News

'He was a light:' Community mourns Roxboro police chaplain who died from COVID-19

Posted January 21, 2021 8:17 a.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2021 6:01 p.m. EST

— The Person County community is mourning the death of its emergency chaplain, who died Wednesday afternoon after an extended battle with COVID-19

Merritt Buchanan spent about two weeks in the ICU at Duke fighting the virus, as the community sent prayers.

Sadly, the man remembered as a pillar of the community, lost this fight.

A long motorcade of grieving first responders escorted Buchanan’s body back to Person County from Duke Hospital.

“It’s just a testimony that the first responders in Person County would want to pick him up at midnight and bring him home,” said Ralph Thompson, the Director of EMS Chaplains.

He considered Buchanan a good friend.

“In his retirement, he faithfully served the lord by serving first responders, and people who were in crisis in Person County. And he did that with the zeal and the energy of a young man,” added Thompson.

The 72-year-old served as a Chaplain for volunteer fire departments, hospitals and the police department.

He served as a 'light' for those sick with COVID

During the pandemic, he became a light for many COVID-19 patients, praying for them and their nurses.

“We were struggling on a daily basis to take care of the people who are sick with COVID. Watching him die, I’m wondering who’s gonna share those words of encouragement now to get us through," said Pattie Hatcher, who worked with Buchanan at Person Memorial Hospital.

Hatcher said she has never met a chaplain so concerned and caring as Buchanan in her 30 years as a nurse.

“He was one of the great ones. He really was,” she said.

Middle school teacher, hospital comforter, disaster scene volunteer

Jermaine Wallace, one of his middle school students, remembered him, saying, "He was there for everything no matter what. Whether it was going to the hospital to visit people, showing up to a scene of of a disaster or just greeting you when you come into a restaurant. That’s what many people in the community will truly miss."

According to many who knew him, he was a true servant who will never be forgotten.

“What we’re going to see over the next few days is exactly how many lives he touched," said Thompson. "I believe his life, his legacy will continue to touch many more lives just through his memory and inspiration of other people."

The family is in the process of making memorial arrangements for him, but have no set plans as of yet.

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