First US Ebola victim remembered for compassion

26 PHOTOS
Ebola in Texas
See Gallery
First US Ebola victim remembered for compassion
Visitors pray during a service for Ebola victim Thomas Duncan, held at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. (Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 15: The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where health care workers Amber Vinson and Nina Pham are being treated for the Ebola virus is seen on October 15, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The newest case of nurse Amber Vinson joins nurse Nina Pham, who also contracted the Ebola virus at Texas Heath Presbyterian Hospital while treating patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who has since died. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - OCTOBER 15: A Frontier Airlines plane taxis the runway at Cleveland Hopkins Airport on October 15, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. Recently diagnosed Ebola patient, health care worker Amber Vinson, traveled on Frontier Airlines from Dallas to Cleveland with a low fever on October 10, and returned to Dallas on October 13. The aircraft has since been decontaminated and put back in service. Nurse Amber Vinson joins Nina Pham as health workers who have contracted the Ebola virus at Texas Heath Presbyterian Hospital while treating patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who has since died. (Photo by Michael Francis McElroy/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 16: A Dallas police car and an emergency response vehicle sit in the parking lot at the The Village Bend East apartment complex where a second health care worker who has tested positive for the Ebola virus resides on October 16, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. Nurse Amber Vinson joins Nina Pham as health workers who have contracted the Ebola virus at Texas Heath Presbyterian Hospital while treating patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who has since died. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images)
Candles are lit during a service for Ebola victim Thomas Duncan, held at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. (Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 08: A possible Ebola patient is brought to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on October 8, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the U.S., died earlier today. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 08: A possible Ebola patient is brought to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on October 8, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the U.S., died earlier today. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 08: Health care workers wait for the arrival of a possible Ebola patient at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on October 8, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the U.S., died earlier today. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 08: A possible Ebola patient is brought to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on October 8, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the U.S., died earlier today. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 06: A member of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company removes items from the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 6, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 05: A member of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company takes a barrel of items out of the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 5, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the U.S. was staying with family members at the Ivy Apartments complex before being moved for treatment at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 06: Members of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company are seen as they sanitize the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 6, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 06: Members of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company are seen as they sanitize the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 6, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 06: A member of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company removes items from the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 6, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 06: Members of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company sanitize the apartment (top R) where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 6, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 06: A member of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company removes items from the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 6, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 06: A member of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company removes items from the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 6, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 06: A member of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company removes items from the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 6, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 05: Members of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company are seen as they sanitize the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 5, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 05: Members of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company are seen as they sanitize the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 5, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 05: Members of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company are seen as they sanitize the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 5, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 05: Members of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company takes a barrel of items out of the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 5, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the U.S. was staying with family members at the Ivy Apartments complex before being moved for treatment at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 05: A member of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company works on sanitizing the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 5, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 05: A member of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company is seen outside the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 5, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 05: A member of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company works on sanitizing the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 5, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the United States was staying with family members at The Ivy Apartment complex before being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 05: Parishioners attend the Wilshire Baptist Church on October 5, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. Louise Troh, the person who the first Ebola patient in America, Thomas Eric Duncan, was staying with before he was diagnosed with the virus, is a member of the church. Wilshire Baptist used their Sunday service to touch on the need to pray for the family and all those stricken with the Ebola virus. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

SALISBURY, N.C. (AP) - Thomas Eric Duncan was remembered Saturday as a big-hearted and compassionate man whose virtues may have led to his infection with Ebola in his native Liberia and subsequent death as the first victim of the disease in the United States.

Family and friends gathered at a small Southern Baptist church with a primarily Liberian flock near where Duncan's mother and other family members live.

Duncan's neighbors in Liberia believe he was infected by helping a pregnant woman who later died from Ebola. It was unclear if he knew about her diagnosis before traveling to the United States. Duncan denied helping his Ebola-sickened neighbor, but it would be consistent with the caring nature he always showed, said his nephew Josephus Weeks of nearby Kannapolis.

"There's no doubt in my mind that what's described in the news is something that Eric would do," said Weeks, who like Duncan is 42 and grew up in the same households as his uncle. "Eric would have been out there and helped that woman. And he would have done everything that he needed to do for that woman to make sure she was fine."

Retired United Methodist bishop Arthur Kulah said Duncan attended a high school the cleric helped establish in neighboring Ivory Coast for refugees from the Liberian civil war that raged through the 1990s. To generate much-needed income, Duncan jury-rigged a telephone connection allowing fellow refugees to contact family abroad for help, Kulah said.

"People would go there without any money and appeal to him, and he was willing to give them time to talk to their people. There were some people who paid and some people who didn't pay," Kulah said. "He was such a compassionate young man, respectful young man."

About 40 friends and family members - many women wearing colorful headscarves - collected inside the 100-seat church and listened as speakers remembered Duncan accompanied by an electric piano and bongos. His weeping mother sat in the front row. Weeks' 3-year-old son dabbed at the elderly woman's teary eyes with a tissue.

Duncan left Ivory Coast and learned auto mechanics and welding at a United Nations school for refugees in Ghana, relatives said. He came to the United States hoping to work multiple jobs, save money and build a future, said his relative, Harry Korkoya of Woodbridge, Virginia.

Duncan is also survived by four children, none of whom could attend the memorial service, Weeks said. The four people living in the Dallas apartment where Duncan stayed after arriving in the United States are due to leave quarantine next week after the end of a 21-day incubation period for the disease.

Weeks remembered the Duncan he last saw 22 years ago as an athletic youth who was their neighborhood's best at soccer played with a tennis ball, the only kind available. He drove motorcycles so fast it scared Weeks, and named their pet dog Superstar to reflect the pride he had in the animal. Duncan commonly gave away money, then asked Weeks for a loan, he said.

"He cared for everybody, it doesn't matter who you were. If he was driving he saw you over there, he wouldn't splash you with dirty water. He'd pull over and let you in his car," Weeks said.

___

Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.