WASHINGTON — Mercia Bowser, the older and only sister of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, died Wednesday of complications related to COVID-19, the mayor said in a statement.
Mercia, who would have turned 65 next month, served with Catholic Charities and the D.C. Office on Aging. She is one of the more than 1,000 D.C. residents and more than 500,000 Americans who have died a as result of complications of the novel coronavirus.
Following the announcement of her passing, WUSA 9 spoke to people who knew Mercia Bowser.
Reverend Ricky Helton of the Israel Metropolitan Christian Methodist Episcopal Church said Bowser attended the church for many years and was known for her involvement with the choir.
"She was quite admired by many in the church and was very active in the music ministry," he said. "She was very beloved and very resourceful. We’re going to miss her loyalty and her fierce devotion to everything that she committed to the most."
Revered Helton said Bowser helped organize community programs and worked with senior citizens at the church.
When she committed to a project, he said, you knew she would try her hardest to put it together and assist others.
"She was a very loyal person. If she committed to you, it was to die for," he said. "She loved helping people not only in the church but in the community. She will definitely be missed in our congregation.”
The reverend noted how COVID-19 has impacted the church, with at least three people sickened by the virus recently.
Just days before Bowser's death, Helton said another member of the church passed away from the illness.
"Covid has taken half a million people and it has hit our congregation," he said. "I have someone on a respirator right now.”
On Wednesday, others remembered Bowser as being an advocate for people with disabilities.
Marilyn Wyche said she volunteered with Bowser on a board of persons with disabilities and said Bowser cared deeply about ensuring access around the district.
"She was a nice person. No nonsense," Wyche said. "She had me working with the veterans and then I’d report back to her. She was instrumental in getting the budget passed for veterans to get the cab rides to the doctor on the MetroAccess.”
In a written statement, Bowser said Mercia now “joins the legion of angels who have gone home too soon due to the pandemic:”
“My family and I are mourning the loss of my sister, Mercia Bowser, who passed away this morning due to complications related to COVID-19. Mercia was loved immensely and will be missed greatly, as she joins the legion of angels who have gone home too soon due to the pandemic. I ask that you continue to keep those who have been lost or impacted by the pandemic and those who are working so hard to protect us from it in your thoughts and prayers, and I respectfully request that my family and I are granted the time and space we need to mourn the loss of Mercia.
“Mercia was a loving daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. She worked tirelessly for children, the elderly, and those with behavioral disorders until her retirement and beyond. She counted many friends and fond memories of her service to Catholic Charities and the DC Office on Aging. She is survived by her parents Joan and Joseph Bowser, brothers, sister, nieces, nephews, and a host friends ranging from St. John’s Elementary School, to Academy of Our Lady High School, to Fisk University, and Israel Metropolitan CME Church.
“We are grateful to the doctors and nurses at Washington Hospital Center, who heroically treated her for COVID-19 related pneumonia until her death. We thank you for your kindness and will share how our family will honor Mercia, my only sister and oldest sibling, and her beautiful spirit in the coming days."
The announcement of Mercia Bowser's death comes hours after Mayor Bowser declared February 24 "A Day of Remembrance for Lives Lost to COVID-19" in Washington, D.C., to mark the 1,000th death in the city from the virus.
"This tragic milestone is a reminder that this pandemic has forever changed families and communities," Bowser said. "Even when the pandemic ends, for many, the pain and loss will still be there."