By Adam Tamburin
The Tennessean (Nashville)
Kentucky Circuit Court Judge Eddie C. Lovelace's death left his family stricken with grief and struggling to understand how a stroke could have killed the man who had been so vital only days beforehand.
Now, his wife of 55 years is demanding justice for her husband, who doled it out from the bench for two decades.
"Somewhere down the line somebody did not do what they should have done," Joyce Lovelace said, later adding, "I feel like I'm speaking for him, and he can't speak for himself."
Eddie Lovelace died on Sept. 17, days after checking in at Vanderbilt University Medical Center with slurred speech, trouble walking and numbness. He was 78.
Lovelace lived in Albany, Ky., about 130 miles northeast of Nashville, but traveled to hospitals here for medical treatment and appointments.
In July and August, Lovelace received three rounds of epidural steroid injections after a March car wreck left him with neck pain, Joyce Lovelace said.
A representative from Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center, where he received the injections, called Joyce Lovelace on Sept. 25, more than a week after he died, to check on "Brother Eddie," she said. That person did not mention the outbreak.
Someone called again the next day to quiz her about his death and the symptoms that preceded it, which are consistent with symptoms of fungal meningitis.
Still, Joyce Lovelace did not learn about the outbreak that she believes killed her husband until Wednesday, when she read about it online.
"That right there has really floored the whole family," she said. "I don't appreciate not being told about it."
Love of law, family
Family and friends said Eddie Lovelace,
the first probable victim of the fungal meningitis outbreak in Tennessee
, brimmed with energy in several corners of his life.
He lapped the streets of Albany every day on morning walks and taught Sunday school for more than 40 years at Albany First Baptist Church.
In court, he presided over a combination of criminal, drug, civil and family court cases.
"He was the hardest-working judge I have ever seen," said David Cross, a family friend and lawyer who practiced regularly before Lovelace.
"He couldn't understand why people didn't work as hard as him."
His wife, who worked in his office, said her husband's work ethic was widely respected and far from waning.
"He always wanted to be known as a judge who knew the law, and he certainly was," Joyce Lovelace said.
"His career was not over. He had years yet to work."
Lovelace passed that passion for the law to his granddaughter, Megan Thompson, who was a law clerk in his office. He had planned to start a law firm with Thompson after he retired from the bench.
"You hear about his love for the law, but his passion was with his family," Thompson said. "The reason I'm a lawyer is because he took me to court growing up."
From the back of her grandfather's courtroom, Thompson marveled at Lovelace's mastery of the law.
He memorized everything, she said, from the facts of a case to the poems he would occasionally recite to offenders.
Thompson said eulogists recited poetry in his honor at his funeral Sept. 21, where more than 100 attorneys and judges from across Kentucky served as honorary pallbearers.
An attorney is examining the cause of Lovelace's death, but it is too soon to say if the family will pursue legal action.
"We just don't know yet," Joyce Lovelace said.