JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – COVID-19 has now taken over a thousand lives in Northeast Tennessee.

A Jonesborough woman has been keeping up a growing flag memorial to those lives for months now, envisioning it as a place of healing for grieving families and health care workers.

When she first started putting flags in the ground to represent COVID-19 deaths in November, Marat Jean-Moore had no idea just how full her yard would become. Spring flowers now poke through the grass between them as Northeast Tennessee’s COVID death toll rises to quadruple digits.

The flag memorial seen in Nov. 2020 (WJHL)
The flag memorial on March 16, 2021 (WJHL)

Moore says the lives affected go far beyond the ones lost.

“We would see flags that were endless if we really included everyone who was hurting,” she said.

The bright colors of the flags are meant to represent the vibrancy of the lives lost. But lately, some flags have grown even more personal.

A flag contains a quote from a COVID-19 patient: “Just give me 10 more years of my beautiful life”

On some flags, a loved one has written a family member’s name. Moore says on others, healthcare workers have come to write memories and quotes on flags representing patients they lost.

“There’s a lot of grief and trauma that they’re carrying as they continue to care for people,” said Moore.

White flags at the memorial are meant to represent healthcare workers caring for COVID patients

Families like Kingsport resident Ricky Watterson’s have been greatly affected.

In recent months COVID-19 has taken the lives of three of his family members: Barbara Watterson, his stepmother; Charles “Buzzy” Love, his stepbrother; and his father, former Kingsport Vice-Mayor Richard Watterson.

Richard and Ricky Watterson (Image courtesy of Ricky Watterson)

“It’s just unthinkable, what happened,” Ricky told News Channel 11.

In Richard’s last days, his family was able to call him at the hospital.

“He was able to communicate by blinking his eyes. And the nurse would tell us that he’s smiling at us,” said Ricky. “I think my dad knew what was coming, and he was saying goodbye to us.”

As the virus affects families across the region, Moore is inviting them to come and honor their lost loved ones at the memorial.

“Because the grief is pandemic here. And we need kindness that’s pandemic now,” she said.

Moore said families can come to the memorial and pick out a flag for their lost loved one. Families can also write a message on it if they’d like. Moore said if a family can’t travel, she can also personalize a flag for them.

Arrangements can be made by emailing