Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Thursday that the eldest of her three brothers, Donald Reed Herring, had died of covid-19 in Oklahoma.
“He was charming and funny, a natural leader,” Warren, D-Mass., said in a statement. “What made him extra special was his smile. He had a quick, crooked smile that seemed to generate its own light – and to light up everyone around him.”
The death means that Warren is one of several top political figures whose orbits have been afflicted by the pandemic. The husband of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., was hospitalized for treatment of covid-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes, and has recovered. Former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, lost a longtime friend and adviser to the disease.
President Donald Trump’s friend and donor Stanley Chera died of covid-19 earlier this month.
Herring, who was 86, tested positive for the disease in early April, according to a Warren aide, and he died Tuesday evening in Norman, Oklahoma. It is not clear how he contracted covid-19, but he had been in a rehabilitation center in early April where several others had active cases, the aide said.
“I’m grateful to the nurses and other front-line staff who took care of my brother, but it is hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say ‘I love you’ one more time,” Warren said. “And now there’s no funeral for those of us who loved him to hold each other close. I will miss my brother.”
The senator shared several photos of him on social media Thursday morning, including a black-and-white shot of Herring wearing aviator glasses and a helmet while sitting in the cockpit of a plane.
Warren has released several plans on dealing with the pandemic, including a proposal Thursday with Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., outlining a public health procedure called contact tracing.
Warren, who ended her presidential campaign last month, frequently told anecdotes at her rallies about growing up in Oklahoma with three older brothers. She was particularly proud of Herring’s military service, noting in many speeches that he spent more than five years in combat in Vietnam.
“We were very lucky to get him back,” Warren told audiences. Herring joined the Air Force at age 19 and spent his career in the military, she said.
Warren, a liberal Democrat, also liked to point out the ideological diversity of her siblings. “I told you about my three brothers, Don Reed, John and David,” she said last year at a campaign stop in Keene, New Hampshire. “One of them is a Democrat. Think about what that means. I’ve got Thanksgivings just like you all.”
She often went on to say that despite their differing political philosophies, the four siblings were in agreement in many areas.
Herring retired from the military in 1973 with the rank of lieutenant colonel and started a small auto-detailing business, according to Warren’s office. He is survived by his wife, Judith, his two sons, John and Jeffrey, and his three siblings.