Second Wayne State student succumbs to COVID-19

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

She was a minister, a health care worker and a college student who could often be found working in soup kitchens.

Antoinette Bell was one of the most generous people, someone who devoted her life to helping others, said Elaine P. Wright, an evangelist at Greater Miller Memorial Church of God in Christ in Warren.

"She had a gentle spirit and was always willing to help others," said Wright. "She  was just a servant."

Last Thursday, Bell died from complications of COVID-19, becoming the second Wayne State University student to succumb to the novel coronavirus.

President M. Roy Wilson announced Bell's death during his weekly address on Monday. She was 50.

Bell was a senior in the school of social work, Wilson said. 

Wayne State will work to award a posthumous degree to her, the president added, like the university did for Darrin Adams, a student who died of COVID-19 last month.

Antoinette Bell

"Condolences to her family and all her friends and to the school of social work," Wilson said.

Bell is among the handful of Michigan college students who have died from COVID-19. Besides Adams, Western Michigan University chemical engineering student Bassey Offiong also died from the disease.

Wilson, who said not many universities have grappled with deaths of two students from the coronavirus, announced an anonymous donor had verbally committed to a $100,000 gift after seeing a national tribute to Adams on television. He said that donation will go into a fund established in the university's sociology department, where Adams was a student.

Bell lived in Warren but grew up in Detroit with an older sister and a younger brother. She graduated from the former Mackenzie High School, said her mother, Catherine Brown.

She worked in medical billing for years after high school, including at the hospital that is now the Warren campus of Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital.

Bell was active in her faith and loved the Lord, her mother added.

"She was called to minister to young girls about Christ," Brown said. "That was her main focus."

Bell never married or had children.But her niece lived with her during the past year, Brown said. 

She went back to school later in life, and graduated from Macomb County Community College in 2018. She then transferred to Wayne State, according to the Wayne State's School of Social Work, which memorialized her on its web page.

Bell was on schedule to earn her bachelor's degree in social work in August.

A part-time student, Bell worked full time at the Detroit Health Department as an immunization advocate. 

"Antoinette was a delight and joy to everyone who encountered her," said her nephew Darius Knox. "With such a bright smile and heart to match, it was rare to forget a meeting with Antoinette. As part of her faith, Antoinette would encourage us all to celebrate and not mourn, to laugh as much as we cry, and realize she’s gained access to the home she dreamed about her entire life."

Knox also added on Facebook that Bell "gave life, never hurtful, mean or malicious; she never made people feel as if they weren’t welcomed and she truly was a DIVA."

"She was a Diva by every definition of the word, never a hair out of place, make up and nails done and skin moisturized." Knox wrote. "She had a strut that couldn’t be imitated. She walked with confidence and purity, that was the energy we always needed."

Several people on Facebook remembered Bell, including Tiara A Bass.

"I'm really gonna miss her!" wrote Bass.  "She was truly an angel."

Her mother said she is glad her daughter may get a posthumous degree because her education was important to her. She planned to go straight to graduate school to earn her master's degree.

"I know she is with Christ, even though it hurts," said Brown. "She left us too soon. But we appreciate the time the Lord allowed her to be with us."