SCHENECTADY — A stalwart church gospel singer and leader in a Hamilton Hill church, the daughter of its legendary founder, died last weekend from COVID-19 — one of just a handful of Schenectady County residents to have been claimed by the novel coronavirus illness.
Regina Dix-Parsons, 75, of Schenectady, was the daughter of the late pastor Georgetta Dix, co-founder with her husband of the Refreshing Springs Church of God in Christ, located on what is now Georgetta Dix Plaza.
Commonly known as “Gina,” Dix-Parsons died on Saturday, April 4, at Ellis Hospital. She was celebrated for her gospel singing, performing with the church choir and as a soloist on songs like “The Lord is Holy.” She headlined at local gospel festivals, and performed in other churches. She was singing in church until a few weeks ago, when she became ill.
Her death has been a painful experience for her family, which was unable to have direct contact with her for the 16 days she was hospitalized, said her oldest daughter, Wakena Parsons Jackson of Schenectady, with whom her mother lived. They don’t know how she contracted the deadly virus.
“My sisters and I kept trying to backtrack, but she was so involved in a lot of things, she went to choir practice, she went for groceries. We cannot pinpoint how she got it,” Parsons Jackson said.
“She was very sweet, non-judgmental, and she saw the good in everybody,” Parsons Jackson continued. “She would always leave people with a word of encouragement. She was very openhearted and loving.”
Schenectady City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield attended the church for decades and knew Dix-Parsons. “She was genuinely a person of God, kind-hearted, she was honest, and she was a wonderful singer,” Porterfield said.
She said Dix-Parson’s death from COVID-19 was the first she was aware of in the local black community, but she said she knows three other people who have suffered from COVID-19. Two have since recovered, and other was just recently diagnosed.
Including Dix-Parsons, there have been eight COVID deaths to date in Schenectady County. As of Saturday, county officials said there have been 194 confirmed cases, with 100 people hospitalized, and 839 in quarantine. The hospitalizations include downstate residents who have been transferred to Ellis Hospital for treatment.
Based on state and national figures, the novel coronavirus is having a disproportionally severe impact on black community. Porterfield said that’s probably true locally, as well, and said community leaders have started talking about what can be done to address the problem.
“We’re starting to have discussions around that, why that is,” Porterfield said. “I can say from my perspective, we’re going to having some discussions on what we can do to educate people and maybe try to improve their health, so they don’t have some of the underlying health conditions that lead to these outcomes.”
According to the state Health Department, 17 percent of those who have died outside New York City have been black, though blacks make up only nine 9 percent of that population.
Regardless of skin color, people shouldn’t have to die alone in an intensive care unit, as her mother did, Parsons Jackson said.
“Your loved one is in there, and then you can’t talk to them,” she said. “You get that call that says there’s nothing more we can do, and that’s what they leave you with. Why wasn’t the U.S. more prepared for this?”
Dix-Parsons was born on April 18, 1944 in Washington, D.C., the eldest daughter of the late Pastor Elder Eugene W. Dix and Georgetta Kitchings Dix. She moved to Schenectady with her parents in 1952. In 1955, her parents founded Refreshing Springs Church of God In Christ.
Dix-Parsons was very involved in the church from childhood, according to her obituary, performing in choirs and bands at the church throughout her life, going on to perform in district and state choirs. In 2008, she was appointed church mother, a leadership role.
She was a 1963 graduate of Linton High School and 1965 graduate of Spencer’s Business School in Schenectady. In 1966, she graduated from the Urban Center at Albany through Hudson Valley Community College. She worked for the state Department of Motor Vehicles and for 36 years at the Refreshing Springs Child Day Care Center. She also worked 10 years at Sodexo’s Schenectady High School food service location. “Regina was passionate about music and children,” her obituary said.
She was married to Pastor Elder Richard I. Parsons, and they had three daughters: Wakena M. Jackson, Sanoma J. Parsons, and Georgina R. Parsons. The couple also fostering many children in Schenectady and adopted five of them. Dix-Parsons also had 12 grandchildren, and at the time of her death was expecting her first great-grandchild. She would have turned 76 on April 18.
She is survived by a brother and three sisters, including Refreshing Springs Pastor Arnetta Dix.
In lieu of flowers, the public is asked to make a donation in memory of Regina “Gina” Dix-Parsons to Refreshing Springs Church, 327 Georgetta Dix Plaza, Schenectady, NY 12307.
A private graveside service took place Friday at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery Park. A public event will take place in the future, at a time and place to be determined, according to her family.