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Mona Fort, who died of COVID, is remembered with 'My Way' by Frank Sinatra

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

More than 1 million people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. NPR has been remembering some of those who died through the music that gave their lives meaning. We call these tributes Songs of Remembrance. Today, we're meeting Kathryn Redmond, who's remembering her cousin Mona Fort of St. Louis, Mo., with "My Way" by Frank Sinatra.

KATHRYN REDMOND: She introduced herself as Mona Lisa. Whatever you think about the "Mona Lisa" painting, you know what it looks like. I think that she was the same way.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRANK SINATRA SONG, "MY WAY")

REDMOND: Her brother Craig - for her funeral services, he put together a beautiful slideshow of, you know, our favorite memories with Mona. And that was the song that he picked out. And we all just agreed that that - it just - it's such a perfect summation of who she was. She did everything her way. She lived life her way - all of her adventures, all of her choices, the way she just - when you met her, you would not think she was her age. Like, I'm 35, and I hung out with her like I hang out with my girlfriends. She just - she did everything her way.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY WAY")

FRANK SINATRA: (Singing) I did it my way.

REDMOND: Oh, man. She was hilarious - like, the life of the party. Like, her whole aura just lights up the room. I can remember when I was little, she would come back from, like, trips to New Orleans and bring me, like, beads, which I thought were so cool as a, you know, 6- or 7-year-old girl. She used to paint my nails red, and my mom would fuss at her for it. She's everyone's favorite - always laughing, always dancing, always ready for a good cocktail. She always made really good cocktails and was a connoisseur of good cocktails. Her signature blue eyeshadow - like, everybody - I just - I hope that one day I can be as free in my expression of myself as she was.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY WAY")

SINATRA: (Singing) But through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all, and I stood tall and did it my way.

REDMOND: I've heard it so many times now since then. So that last trip that we were planning with Mona before she passed was to Aruba. And so we decided that, you know, she would definitely want us to go. So we still went. And the first night we were there, we all wanted to do karaoke. Our family loves karaoke. So we found a karaoke bar in Aruba, and we went. And, you know, we're singing songs. There were a couple of other people there, singing songs. And so one of the gentlemen that was in the bar when we got there - he asked if he could, you know, get in the queue. And so this Spanish song starts playing.

(SOUNDBITE OF VICENTE FERNANDEZ SONG, "A MI MANERA")

REDMOND: And it was "My Way." He sang "My Way." Oh, man, I'm going to cry. He sang "My Way" by Frank Sinatra in Spanish. And all of us were just, like, crying, like, happy tears because it just felt like she was there with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A MI MANERA")

VICENTE FERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

CHANG: Kathryn Redmond remembering her cousin Mona Fort, who died of COVID-19 last April at the age of 67.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A MI MANERA")

FERNANDEZ: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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