CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Everyone is feeling the impacts of the coronavirus in different ways. For one Charlotte man, it meant spending the last two weeks of his wife’s life together, with family, completely uninterrupted.
Paige Johnston Thomas was well known within the Charlotte theatre and arts community. She was an actor, director and teacher. She always looked for the good in life.
“She was a bright star. She walked in the room and she lit it up and she had the most outgoing, just easy demeanor, everything was always good,” says her husband Jay Thomas.
Her family and friends are now left looking for the silver linings. Thomas had been battling cancer for 3 years. She also had an underlying liver disease. When she went to the hospital for treatment, her doctors said she’d end up spending her final days alone if she was admitted, because of coronavirus and the restrictions on visitors.
Instead, her family gathered together.
Her brother, his wife, and children packed up their minivan and drove straight from Oregon. They had been in quarantine and didn’t stop anywhere for food or to go to the bathroom. When they arrived 2 days later, they still hadn’t come into contact with anyone.
“The fact that her brother was on lockdown and he had no place to be, the fact that a lot of us, it was okay for us to be home because we had to be home. Paige wanted to be very considerate, so I think even for her, knowing that she wasn't imposing on us and that we could be there for 2 weeks, those are the silver linings to the virus and stay at home,” says Thomas.
Paige was a Charlotte native and she went to Myers Park High School. She was a force in the local theater community.
“I just adored her. I owe so much of who I am because of her pushing me,” says Mitzi Corrigan, her longtime friend, and business partner. The two owned Corrigan & Johnston Casting.
Her legacy will live on through the Paige Johnston Thomas Giving Tree. Corrigan came up with the idea before Thomas died and got her blessing to start it. She was motivated by the feelings of isolation. She says it’s not fair Paige left when so many friends couldn’t go visit her.
The foundation will award a scholarship to a student in the arts.
“Hopefully as they grow up, they will pay it forward and put it back into the arts again and that’s how I explained it to her. So that she would continue to give and give and give and give,” says Corrigan.
It's how Thomas lived. Even in her final days, she was looking out for the ones she loved.
She bought temporary tattoos that said “everything will be okay” three weeks before she was even put on hospice. One night, she put them on her family member's arms.
“Unbeknownst to us, she’s on her bed and we're gathered around and she has a little impromptu ceremony and we all apply the tattoos on our arms with her and it was just her little way of saying hey, everything is going to be okay,” says Thomas. As soon as shops open back up, he plans to get it permanently done.
For more information on the Paige Johnston Thomas Giving Tree visit HERE.
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