NewsLocal NewsGrand Rapids


Rapid bus driver dies of COVID-19; wife gets vaccine in his memory

Posted at 6:28 PM, Jan 10, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Gene Bandlow was a Rapid bus driver for 21 years. This weekend the company honored him with a minute of pause for all drivers.

The support means everything to Gene's widow, Kristi. You see, Gene was not vaccinated for COVID-19. He was against mandated vaccination and like so many out there, hated being told what to do. But with that comes undue judgment. Kristi loves her husband and says his vaccination status doesn't make their loss any easier.

She still lost the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.

“It doesn’t matter. It was Gene’s time. Vaccinated or not vaccinated, I know it was his time. There’s nothing that we could do differently. I just wish we would have been treated differently in his end days,” Kristi Bandlow said.

Kristi just got her first dose of the shot. She says it wasn't because she was required to. It was because of what she saw COVID-19 do to her husband.

“Gene did say when he got out of there he was going to go get vaccinated because he never wants to go through that again. It was horrible,” Kristi Bandlow said.

Gene spent Christmas at the hospital. Kristi says the hardest part was knowing her husband was sick, oftentimes unable to answer medical questions for himself.

“The nurse said well does the patient make his own decisions usually? I’m like yes, but he’s sick. He can’t do that. Why won’t you let me be there?” Kristi said.

Kristi dropped her husband off to get an antibody treatment, and never saw him alive again. Gene's doctor called her shortly after the New Year and told her to get to the hospital. He was gone by the time she got there.

“I was going right to his room, expecting to see him there with a tube in his throat, and alive. And I walked in, and he was already gone,” Kristi said.

Kristi says at the end of the day, yelling, fighting, and arguing aren't ways to convince someone to get a vaccine. It has the opposite effect.

"I’m still not going to tell people you should get vaccinated. But I do see what COVID does. What COVID did to me,” Kristi said.