‘He always helped people in need’
Longtime firefighter, grandfather dies of COVID

Kennedy Daugherty and her family planned to meet with a preacher in the parking lot at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center on the evening of Aug. 20 to pray for her grandfather, who was put on a ventilator due to COVID-19 complications, but he died earlier that day at the age of 76.

William “Sonny” Thompson

His name was William “Sonny” Thompson, and he was a firefighter for more than 50 years. He had served for the Burgin Fire Department, the Harrodsburg Central Fire Department, and lastly the Shakertown Fire Department as an assistant chief, where he was active until he died. Thompson is from Burgin and was born in Anderson County. Daugherty also is from Burgin and was born in Danville.

Prior to his death, Thompson had recently tested positive for COVID-19, and after having low oxygen levels and three hospital visits, Daugherty said he was admitted at EMRMC.

“He developed a hole in his lung, blood pressure issues, and low oxygen,” she said in a text message. “He was put on a ventilator and relied 100% on it. His kidneys started to fail, and that’s when he began continuous dialysis. The doctor was impressed that he made improvement and only relied 60% on the vent.”

The afternoon of Aug. 20, Daugherty said things “took a turn for the worse.” She said he had a “massive heart attack” and died within 15 minutes. Thompson had not been vaccinated, she said.

“He told everyone in our family to get a vaccine,” Daugherty said. “He convinced a employee of the kitchen staff at the hospital to get the vaccine. All I have to say is if you don’t want to go through the horrors of watching your loved ones die alone and not get a last hug or touch goodbye, get the vaccine. Don’t think it won’t happen to you, because it can. My grand dad wasn’t big on any vaccine at all, but this is the only shot he ever told us to go get.”

She said, “He never met a stranger. His favorite thing to say was ‘It’s in Gods hands.’ I never want another family to go through what we did. We weren’t allowed to hug him goodbye, or even touch his hand. We had to say goodbye from behind a glass window.”

Daugherty said her family will always remember her grandfather. She said he was a Freemason in addition to being a firefighter, and “He always helped people in need. He loved spending time with family. Watching ‘Jurassic Park’ on Thanksgiving was his tradition with us grandkids. We will never forget him.”

The Advocate-Messenger wants to produce a series of stories about first responders and health care workers who have died of COVID-19 complications to commemorate their lives and the time they dedicated to helping others. If you have a story you wish to share, please email a few paragraphs about your loved one to Olivia Mohr at olivia.mohr@amnews.com with the subject line “Commemoration.”