Alexis Demby is among those who have played basketball in college and who have died from Covid-19

By Joel Alderman

The ten basketball players we have profiled so far in this series, in which we recognize former college athletes who died from the coronavirus, have all been men. Here we reluctantly add the name of a woman, Alexis Demby, who played the game when an undergraduate and is among the victims lost in the pandemic.

She went Caldwell College (since 2014 Caldwell University), where she played sparingly one season on the women’s team and then became a student-manager and work-study student in the athletics department

Demby was previously a star at Memorial High School in West New York, N.J., where she scored 1,279 points in four years. Her athletic ability was proven even before then. At age 11 she was chosen for the West New York Little League All-Stars, competing with and against boys, as reported by Jim Hague, veteran Hudson County sports journalist.

She leaves a younger sister, 19-year-old Genesis, and older brother, Ricky. Her mother, Yareira “Yare” Rodriguez, had died five years ago. She used to come to all her daughter’s high school games and got to know everybody, according to Alexis’ scholastic coach, Craig Kuzirian. He recalled that when she was on the floor “she busted her tail. She was just a wonderful person.”

Player, manager, and graduate of Caldwell College

The college Demby attended is located in Caldwell NJ, 20 miles from New York City. Caldwell is an NCAA Division II program and a member of the 14 team Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference. She graduated in 2008 after majoring in criminal justice.

In the few games she played for the Cougars, all in the 2005-06 season, she scored but eight points and had 10 rebounds and a pair of steals. Her coach at Caldwell was Linda Cimino, now coaching at St. Francis of Brooklyn.

But what she did or did not do on the basketball floor was really insignificant for the purpose of this story. The important thing here is that she played college basketball and is thereby properly included among our unique list of Covid-19 victims to whom we are paying tribute.

Her coach in college, Kevin Reilly, wrote when contributing to a GoFundMe drive, “I coached Alexis one year on the basketball team. Wonderful kid. Great smile. What a shame she had passed. Rest in Peace.”

After Caldwell

Alexis Demby became a social worker and moved to Pennsylvania, where she was a case-worker in the juvenile justice system for about eight years. In 2016 she relocated to Georgia and was a case management coordinator at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health in Kennesaw, about 23 miles from Atlanta.

Shortly before she died, she went back to New Jersey to attend her grandmother’s 95th birthday celebration. “She felt sick and went to the ER because she hadn’t been feeling well all week,” according to a timeline written by her cousin, Celeste Demby.

“She was admitted to the hospital and it was confirmed she had pneumonia,” the timeline continues. “They tested her for COVID-19 and told her it would take 2-3 days to receive the results. They released her from the hospital to go home and quarantine.

“She found out she tested positive for the virus and continued to quarantine at home. On March 21, 2020, she went to Kennestone Hospital (in Atlanta) complaining of having trouble breathing, I don’t know if she was seen, I don’t know what transpired but at some point, they told her to go home and she ended up dying in her sleep on Sunday, March 22.”

When the end came for this beloved native of New Jersey it was in Marietta GA, far from her hometown, her relatives and most of her friends.

In his sports blog of March 24, Hague described Alexis as a “vivacious, extremely humble, fun-loving kid who never thought she was as good as she really was. She was a joy to watch — unless you were an opponent.”

Celeste Demby, interviewed by Matt Galloway, a host of the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s radio program, The Current, expressed the belief that her cousin was not admitted by the hospital because she was an African-American. “Everything in America is racialized, even health care where you think things should be equal,” she claimed.

Caldwell University remembered Alexis and issued a statement saying “we pray for the repose of her soul and that her family can find peace and comfort during this time of great sadness and loss. Please join us in holding Alexis and her family in your thoughts and prayers.”

A controversial and perhaps unnecessary death

Another cousin, Kenneth Demby, was also skeptical about her death. “And to know that she didn’t have to pass because they do have people inside of hospitals receiving breathing treatment. They just sent her home to die, basically. (New Jersey

“She was the type of person when she walked in, her smile just like warmed you up,” he said further.

And her hometown mayor, Gabriel Rodriguez, stated “Even though she no longer resided in West New York, she was one of ours.”


The GoFundMe campaign was organized by a friend, Aida Chenevieve Emanuels of Marietta GA. She expressed it this way:

­­­“The woman who ALWAYS smiled! Our Alexis, just 34, earned her angel wings on March 22nd as she was taken from us way too soon due to complications from COVID-19. Alexis, a sister, a girlfriend, a friend, a cousin, a niece, an auntie, and co-worker leaves behind her younger sister Genesis and her older brother Ricky. On behalf of Genesis, we are asking for your help to cover some immediate unforeseen expenses! This is so unexpected and painful for all of us to process but knowing Alexis, the loving, kind, always ready to have some fun, compassionate, caring, would take her shirt off her back kinda friend — would want us to remember her amazingly unforgettable bright smile, her willingness to always help, her love for people, no matter how old or young, and her love for life. So as you find it in your heart to donate, in the meantime, she would probably say: ‘Enjoy Life’ with a smile. :)”

An indication of her popularity and the feelings so many people had for Alexis is that the goal of $5,000 has already been exceeded and the last tally shows that $11,405 has been raised.

This prompted the organizer of the fund to write: “We have decided to allow people to keep on giving because Genni, as Alexis called her, will need every penny. From the bottom of our hearts – THANK YOU!’

A very sad and unavoidable goodbye for the family

Celeste Demby revealed that Alexis, under her Last Will, was cremated in Georgia. The ultimate decision for that was reluctantly made by her sister, Genesis. “There were few options, with the virus running rampant,” wrote Celeste. “We were all on lock down when it happened and were unable to travel.”

Celeste herself was too sick with covid-19 at the time and would have been unable to visit her cousin in those final days, even if she was permitted to do so.

In an email to this writer, she disclosed that “our family is very upset that we have not had the chance to mourn her properly. Not being able to see her body or have a service has left all in limbo and unable to really process her death.”

However, it did spare them and a myriad of friends the emotions of seeing her laid to rest. Perhaps that was what she wanted.

Former college players who died of coronavirus

March 22, 2020 Alerxis Demby 34, Caldwell
March 23, 2020 Lee Green, 48, St. John’s
March 23, 2020 David Edwards, 48, Georgetown and Texas A&M
March 24, 2020 Jonathan Duck, 50, Iona
March 29, 2020 Arnold Obey, 73, Wagner
March 31, 2020 Harvey Sheff, 59, Yeshiva
April 1, 2020 Ted Vartelas, 89, Uconn
April 6, 2020 Marty Derer, 56, Rutgers-Camden
April 15, 2020 Matt Gras, 46, Siena
April 22, 2020 Ed Siegel, 87, Franklin
April 28, 2020 Charles “Duffy” Jernigan, 61, Eastern CT

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *