A generous life, shortened by Covid-19

Plus: New Mecklenburg peak forecast for late June; South Carolina and Georgia open shops; Banks sued over PPP loans

Today is Tuesday, April 21, 2020. You’re reading a SPECIAL BONUS ISSUE of The Charlotte Ledger.

Ballantyne’s Bill Bauer — banker, Tar Heel, husband, father — developed a fever last month. His fight ended with his wife by his side.

Bill Bauer (center), here with sons Hank (left) and Greg, died Thursday at Atrium Health Pineville of coronavirus.

By Cristina Bolling

Bill Bauer was the kind of guy Mimi Stallings had dreamed of since she was a girl — patient and kind, a good listener who had the old-fashioned charm to surprise her with a box of candy when he picked her up for a date.

“To me, he was just perfect,” she said.

The two met in the spring of 1963, when Mimi was a 21-year-old working at a Duke Medical Center lab and Bill was a student at UNC Chapel Hill. Mimi showed up at Bill’s fraternity house while out with friends one night, and the attraction was undeniable.

“It was one of those instant things,” Mimi said. “We just stared at each other all night.”

Their love affair would span 57 years, complete with two sons and a daughter, Bill’s 35-year career at First Union National Bank, nearly two decades of retirement and six grandchildren.

Their years together ended last Thursday, when Bill Bauer died of coronavirus at Atrium Health Pineville. He was 78. He’s one of 31 Mecklenburg residents who have passed away in connection with the virus.

First, a fever: Bill Bauer’s first and only early symptom, a fever, showed up on the afternoon of March 18. The next morning, Mimi took him to the doctor, where they were told he didn’t show symptoms of coronavirus.

Bill Bauer had been in immunotherapy treatment for melanoma at Levine Cancer Center since November, so Mimi Bauer called the cancer center on Friday, March 20, to report that Bill had a fever.

She asked if he should postpone a treatment scheduled for the following Monday and was given clear orders: Get him tested immediately for Covid-19. The next morning, on Saturday, March 21, they got the results: He had tested positive.

Bill’s symptoms weren’t severe at first, so he stayed home, with Mimi caring for him. In the days that followed, he had fevers, but never a cough.

“Some days, he’d think he was going to be well, and then the next day he didn’t feel well,” she said.

Exactly one week after his diagnosis, on March 28, Bill noticed a wheezing in his chest. Mimi panicked. She called Atrium’s 24-hour Covid-19 line, and an operator told her to take him immediately to the closest hospital.

“They said, ‘Don’t even call EMS, just put him in the car and drive him,’” she recalled.

When they arrived, Mimi pulled up to the front of the hospital. A staffer brought a wheelchair over and loaded Bill in.

“I said, ‘Let me park the car and I’ll be right back,’ and they said, ‘No, you can’t come in.’”

Within hours, Bill was on a ventilator and sedated.

The hospital was off-limits to all visitors, so a doctor would call Mimi Bauer every morning with a brief update. She would go the rest of the day wondering if her husband had woken up.

There were unexpected moments of grace. For three days in a row, Bill had a nurse named Tiffany, who would call Mimi just before her shift ended and put Mimi on speakerphone so her husband could hear her.

“She would say, ‘We don’t know if he can hear or not, but that’s the last sense to go,’” Mimi said. “I would talk to him and tell him that we wanted him to get well. I’d tell him things that the grandchildren were doing.”

In the days that followed, Bill’s condition worsened. Doctors asked Mimi if they could take him off the ventilator and perform a tracheotomy to give him more oxygen.

She talked to her three kids. They decided he’d fought long enough, and that it wasn’t what he would have wanted. His advance medical directive, which was already on file at the hospital, confirmed their decision: He didn’t want such extreme measures.

Last Wednesday, the doctors called Mimi. They told her that the next day, they’d take Bill off the ventilator and said she could come be with him in his final moments.

She arrived at CMC-Pineville last Thursday and spent time with a hospital chaplain. They helped her into a protective suit and led her into the room where Bill lay unconscious.

“I went in and was holding onto his arm when he breathed his last breaths. God love him,” Mimi said. “He was so sweet and kind, and as my daughter says, the love of my life.”

A full life: Bill Bauer was born in Orange, N.J., and moved to North Carolina to attend UNC Chapel Hill. After graduating, he worked his whole career for First Union, which moved the family from Gastonia to the mountain town of Franklin, and then to Charlotte. He retired after a 35-year-career when he was 59. His father had died in his late 60s, and Bill wanted to make the most of his retirement years, Mimi said.

In retirement, he and Mimi enjoyed spending time with their sons, Hank and Greg, their daughter, Mary Catherine, and their in-law children and six grandchildren.

About twice a week, Bill would visit his mom, who is 103 and lives in a Charlotte assisted living facility. He and Mimi stayed active in their church, St. Gabriel Catholic Church, and would serve as overnight hosts for the homeless at Room at the Inn. Recently, they volunteered for the “Homemakers of Mercy” ministry, which provides furnished apartments for homeless women and children.

Bill Bauer loved taking his Ford Ranger pickup truck — which Mimi jokingly referred to as his “midlife crisis” — to scour estate and yard sales for reasonably priced furniture and household goods for the Homemakers of Mercy ministry.

“He was a very generous person with his time and his love,” Mimi said.

‘It can happen’: Mimi Bauer says she feels blessed by the support and affection she’s gotten from her family, friends and her Ballantyne-area neighborhood. Bill’s ashes will be placed in the St. Gabriel Columbarium, and a memorial service will be planned for a later date.

Mimi Bauer says she worried about her own health after her husband passed, so she went to get tested for Covid-19. The test came back negative.

She’s still taking her temperature periodically to be sure she’s not getting sick. She has shown no symptoms.

“God works in mysterious ways,” she said.

Mimi says she has no idea how her husband contracted the virus. They don’t know anyone who has come down with Covid-19. They had four friends over for dinner on March 17, the day before Bill got sick, and so far they have all stayed healthy.

“I’d like for people to hear his story,” Mimi said, “to make it personal for someone, because some people are not taking care of themselves, and it can happen. It can happen, and they are gone.”

Reach managing editor Cristina Bolling at cristina@cltledger.com

County revises projections: New peak June 16-27

Mecklenburg County on Monday night released revised projections that show the anticipated peak of local coronavirus cases to strain hospital resources sometime between June 16 and 27. Last week, the prediction was June 8. Previously, it was mid-April to mid-May.

On those dates, according to the estimates from the county and the two local hospital systems, Mecklenburg will come close to running out of hospital beds and will be short between 250 and 500 ventilators.

The dates keep getting pushed back, officials say, because social distancing appears to be working. The more that people practice social distancing, the less hospital resources will be strained, but the peak will occur later. At a news conference on Monday, health officials acknowledged that models are imprecise but said they can help hospitals plan for the future.

Officials have acknowledged that restrictions will likely start coming off by June, but at the news conference they were unable to say when that might be.

No ‘significant uptick’ in hospitalization: The county for the first time also shed some light on Monday on hospitalizations, which help indicate if hospitals are running out of room.

In a news release, along with other detailed information on its coronavirus projections, the county said there were 90 people hospitalized with Covid-19 on April 13. At a news conference later in the day, The Ledger asked for the current number and whether it is increasing or decreasing.

In response, county health director Gibbie Harris said:

We’ve been watching that closely. The hospitals’ capacity is running about the same. That hasn’t changed much over the last week. They are seeing varying numbers of people who are Covid-19-positive in the hospitals.

A percentage of those, about 30%, are on [ventilators]. But that changes from day to day, and we’re continuing to watch that with them. We have not seen significant upticks in that at this point.

Revised projection: In information released Monday night, the county also modified its projections of the number of confirmed cases in the next few weeks. Last week, it was predicting about 2,100 cases by April 25. Monday’s projections show 2,100 cases by May 4.

A statement by the county said: “There has not yet been a dramatic acceleration in new cases, and the number of new cases each day is starting to trend downward.”

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S.C. opens stores; ‘There will be an impact’ in Charlotte

As expected, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Monday cleared the way for many retail shops in the state to open, effective yesterday at 5 p.m.

The types of shops cleared to open include “sporting goods stores, book, music, shoe and craft stores, jewelry stores, floral shops and other luggage and leather goods stores,” The (Columbia, S.C.) State reported. They must follow rules to prevent overcrowding.

McMaster also announced a plan to get the state’s businesses running again, called AccelerateSC, according to TV station WPDE:

Officials described the plan as a “coordinated economic revitalization plan involving small and large business leaders, healthcare professionals, local government officials, and education professionals.”

The plan consists of five components of analysis and effort: response, protection, governance, resources, and information, state leaders said.

Asked Monday by a Charlotte TV reporter if she was worried about a surge in new coronavirus cases when South Carolina opens stores, Mecklenburg County health director Gibbie Harris said:

One of the issues that we’re going to deal with across the country is any time you open something up in one area and you don’t have the same thing happening in others, there will be an impact.

South Carolina, we’re right on the border. If they loosen things in those communities, we expect to see some effect on our county from that. We’re just not sure what that will be at this point.

Join us for a webinar on results of N.C. pandemic poll

On Thursday, The Ledger is teaming up with marketing agency Chernoff Newman on an exclusive free webinar in which the company will share new findings from its Consumer Insights poll of residents in North and South Carolina about the coronavirus pandemic. 

The study examined consumer perceptions about finances, employment, news consumption, trust in state and federal leadership — and even stress and expectations about returning to pre-pandemic life and what a “new normal” might look like.


What: Zoom Meeting: Consumer Insights — Pandemic Poll

When: Thursday, April 23, 4 p.m. EST

Chernoff Newman presenters:

  • Fenton Overdyke, Director of Research

  • Tye Price, Senior Vice President & Chief Brand Strategist 

How to attend: There’s no cost. Registration is required, and participation is capped at 100. Click here to sign up for the webinar.

Sign up for pandemic poll webinar

In brief:

  • Georgia reopening: Georgia will allow gyms, barber shops, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys to open on Friday, and theaters and dine-in restaurants can open on Monday, the state’s governor said. “We definitely have a plateauing and what appears to be a decline,” the state’s health commissioner said. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Ballantyne rezoning hearing: The City Council held a public hearing on Monday on Northwood Office’s plans for Ballantyne Reimagined, the planned mix of apartments and retail shops on the site of the golf course by the Ballantyne hotel. Three speakers, including Board of Education chairperson Elyse Dashew, voiced concerns about schools. A decision is expected next month.

  • Bottling company furloughs: Charlotte drink bottler Coca-Cola Consolidated has furloughed 700 workers companywide, including 200 in the Charlotte area. The company, headquartered in SouthPark, employs about 2,200 in the Charlotte region. (Observer)

  • Merger cuts: Truist cut 800 jobs from across the company in the first three months of the year, the bank said Monday. It has about 2,400 workers in Charlotte. (WFAE)

  • Atrium Health CEO Gene Woods made a $1M personal donation to the company’s Caregiver Heroes Fund, which he established to provide employees with financial assistance. Other Atrium executives donated a combined $1M to the fund, Atrium said Monday.

  • Banks sued over small-business loans: California lawyers representing small business owners shut out from the federal emergency loan fund have sued Bank of America, Wells Fargo, US Bank and JPMorgan Chase. The federal suit, which seeks class-action status, alleges the banks “rigged the loan process to benefit their bottom line” and that small business owners “are feeling hopeless and terrified.” (Business Wire/Bloomberg)

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The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

Executive editorTony MeciaManaging editorCristina BollingContributing editor: Tim Whitmire; Reporting intern: David Griffith