‘He was a friend’: Union County math tutor dies from COVID-19

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — A retired Union County math teacher who tutored at East Union Middle School has died from COVID-19.

George Rowland caught the virus during Christmas break and was in a hospital for two weeks. He died Sunday night.

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Co-worker Dorris Burtrell never imagined they would say their final goodbye before Christmas break.

“He was a friend,” Burtrell said. “He was a big brother. He was an uncle and, sometimes, in our school, he was a dad.”

She said Rowland’s death puts a new perspective on the coronavirus.

“I know it’s real,” Burtrell said. “My daughter’s been through it, but this makes it so much more definite.”

Staff members said Rowland was known for being a sharp dresser, quick-witted and had a passion for teaching.

“He was an amazing example to the kids in school,” said Erin Moore, a school nurse.

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Moore kept in touch with Rowland’s family as the virus progressed. He was placed on a ventilator.

“He was scared, but he was able to talk to his wife that day and have a good conversation before he went on a ventilator,” Moore said.

Moore organized a prayer march Friday at the hospital.


Friends and family from school and church joined to pray for his healing and for front-line workers.

“It’s been very challenging and difficult to go through this, that it hit so close to home,” Moore said.

Staff members are focused on honoring Rowland.