COVID-19 intensified but weddings, funeral, life keeps moving

2020 — the year we’ll never forget. It was strange for most, and hard for

2020 — the year we’ll never forget.

It was strange for most, and hard for many. For journalists it was exciting and reminded us of our purpose.

The year started with President Donald Trump’s campaign stop in Wildwood, and quickly intensified as the world learned about COVID-19 and eventually saw its impacts on education, business and families. 

As a reporter, looking back at this year through the stories I told, reminded me humans are resilient and kind. They are smart, creative and charitable. 

NJ Press Pass — a live web show — launched in August to connect my fellow South Jerseyans to those making unprecedented pandemic decisions that have impacted all of us. 

And as life pushed forward in a new way, we all experienced milestones from weddings to funerals, business openings and new ventures.

Bring on 2021.

January

South Jersey Congressman Jeff Van Drew switched from Democrat to Republican party, and to show his support President Donald Trump hosted a campaign rally in Van Drew’s district. Supporters waited for more than a day to get inside the shore town convention center. This is what it took to get to the front row.

Read it again:Front row for Trump? Here’s how they did it

Trump supporters wanted those front sets were corralled for day in winding lines outside the Wildwoods Convention Center. They brought tents, chairs, blankets and coolers. But, couldn’t bring any of those items inside the building at go-time. Take a look back at the aftermath, and what the city demanded from the Trump campaign.

Read it again:Wildwood rally: Mayor wants reimbursement for Trump rally cleanup, policing

Greg "Big Daddy" Conklin poses on his bench in front of his home in Gloucester City.

February

A basic bus stop bench in a Gloucester City neighborhood has inspired spirited giving. From food donations to dry, clean socks, the man behind the bench is using it as a symbol of charity.

Read it again:How did a bus stop bench in Gloucester City earn infamy and blessing?

Courier Post reporter Carly Q. Romalino and husband Robert Griffiths Jr. pose on their wedding at Feb. 29, 2020 - Leap Day - at Big Daddy's Bench in Gloucester City, a landmark for charity work in small city.

A major highlight in February was the Leap Day wedding of Courier Post reporter Carly Q. Romalino to Philadelphia Mummer Robert Griffiths Jr. in Collingswood. The photo was shot by Kelly Lisk at Big Daddy’s Bench in Gloucester City. 

March

We didn’t know in March 2020 that we would be still facing COVID-19 through January 2021. Seeming like a millenia ago, governments shut down to flatten the curve of positive cases. South Jersey students abroad were stranded in Peru, living in an AirBnB and running out of time on their contract and money.

Read it again:Rowan students stranded in South America as coronavirus outbreak shutters borders

Ken Valinote wears a mask on a walk to get supplies in Lima, Peru during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in March 2020.

Reporting and legwork to make connections on behalf of the South Jersey residents stranded in Peru lead to the group’s return to New Jersey. It was chaotic and messy. Here’s how it happened.

Read it again:UPDATE: NJ natives, Rowan students evacuated from Peru in COVID-19 crisis

A funeral service is held for World War II veteran Herman Taggart Wednesday, April 22, 2020 at Gloucester County Veterans Cemetery in Williamstown, N.J.

April

COVID-19 kept the state from mourning it’s veterans. Burials with full military honors at South Jersey cemeteries were postponed. Officials hoped the pandemic would calm by late summer. It didn’t.Veteran burials remain ‘unfinished.’

Read it again:‘Unfinished’ funerals: Veteran grave site ceremonies postponed in pandemic

Greg Murphy stands with his bugle aboard the USS New Jersey Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 in Camden, New Jersey. A ceremony was held for the 76th anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor.

May

Burials for South Jersey veterans may have gone “unfinished,” but a bugler with Bugles Across America won’t let veterans be laid to rest without the playing of TAPS from a distance.

Read it again:Sound of Honor: NJ buglers won’t silence taps during pandemic

Deborah O'Connor fills popcorn boxes as Skelly's Amusements sells drive-thru carnival food Friday, April 24, 2020 in Williamstown, N.J.

COVID-19 spurred business to innovate amid new restrictions and safety rules. With spring, summer and fall carnivals canceled, a Williamstown-based company set up a drive-thru carnival on their property.

Read it again:Where can you experience a drive-thru carnival in South Jersey?

Video of men along the Black Lives Matter march route in Franklinville, New Jersey has gone viral after allegedly reenacting the police-involved death of George Floyd. This is a screen shot from the viral video circulating on Twitter and other social media.

June

The country was rocked once again on Memorial Day weeked with the police-involved death of Minneapolis man George Floyd. As the Black Lives Matter movement rose through the U.S., counter protests challenged the demand for equality and justice, including a display in Franklin Township in which a man on private property taunts peaceful protestors by kneeling on another man’s neck in a reenactment of Floyd’s death.

Read it again:Counter protest reenacting George Floyd’s death in South Jersey goes viral

The men involved in the roadside reenactment of Floyd’s death were fired from their jobs as an even larger protest in the Gloucester County township goes on the same route.

Read it again:500 anti-racism protesters march in Franklinville

July

Unrest over social injustice took over cities just as the country prepares to celebrate the birth of our nation. Protests and looting are going on in Philadelphia. Fireworks are now legal in New Jersey. And stay-at-home orders have the region antsy. Nightly fireworks explosions sparked wide-spread star-spangled irritation.

Read it again:Startled by nightly fireworks? It’s not just your neighborhood, industry leaders say

COVID-19 spurred state officials to push back primary elections from June to July. For most New Jerseyans, this is the first time they’ll use a vote-by-mail ballot to vote.

Read it again:Your vote-by-mail ballot: From the drop box to the vote counter

August

The vote-by-mail New Jersey primary election was a major test for the November general election, which was also a full analog vote-by-mail election. Here’s what elections officials in the region learned about the process.

Read it again:Vote by mail: Lessons from the 2020 Primary Election in South Jersey

With weeks until thousands of New Jersey students were set to return to school, debates went on over whether in-person, hybrid or all-remote learning was best. The debate and confusion spurred the Courier Post to launch NJ Press Pass, a live web show connect our readers directly with decision-makes on issues, including education. The first episode NJ Press Pass: COVID and Classrooms went live on Aug. 21.