Editor’s note: This story is part of a series about Oklahomans who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read the stories of other Oklahomans here. Have you lost a loved one to COVID-19? Help us tell their story. 

Stilwell resident Susan Charmaine Young was a beautiful, funny and fierce mother of five. 

“She was one of the quintessential mama bears,” said daughter Kristy Young. “You do not mess with her kids or grandkids at all. You just don’t do it.” 

Susan was born Oct. 15, 1947 in Tahlequah. She worked as a beautician for 47 years. Kristy recalls her mother as hard-working and possessing an inner strength that allowed her to tirelessly care for her large family. 

She met the love of her life Johnny Marlin in 1973 when a friend tried to set her up on a date with a doctor at a nightclub in West Siloam Springs. The doctor was on call that night and didn’t show up for the date, but Johnny was there. 

Johnny, a talented musician, was immediately smitten with raven-haired Susan and told a friend that he had met the woman he wanted to marry.  

“They were together pretty much from that night on,” Kristy said. 

In March 2020, Susan became ill with what family initially believed was strep throat. In the early days of the pandemic, tests for COVID-19 were harder to obtain and it took a few days to get results. 

It wasn’t clear that Susan had become infected with the virus until after she collapsed at her home in Stilwell. An ambulance rushed her to the hospital in nearby Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she was placed on a ventilator. 

The same day Susan was hospitalized, Kristy’s sister, who also had COVID-19, was placed on a ventilator at a different hospital. She later recovered. 

Susan became the first person to die of COVID-19 in Washington County, Arkansas, on March 26, 2020. She was 72 years old. 

Two months later, Johnny also died of COVID-19. 

The couple is survived by a big family that includes the five children they raised together, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren. 

Kristy describes the sudden loss of both her parents as the most devastating experience of her life. 

“I just want people to remember that they were amazing parents — wonderful people. And just salt of the earth,” she said. “They were everything to me.”