"AIDS toll comes home with first Mercy death," Gaston Gazette (11/16/1991)

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"AIDS toll comes home with first Mercy death," Gaston Gazette (11/16/1991)


Bo Peterson




Obituary of Gene Sharp, among the first residents of the House of Mercy in 1991.


Gastonia, NC


Gaston Gazette




House of Mercy Archive: Binder 1 (1990-1999)


AIDS toll comes home with first Mercy death

By Bo Petersen Gazette Staff Reporter

BELMONT - A quiet death on Thursday left a gaping silence in the wake of recent news.

Gene died. He was the first established resident at the House of Mercy to die.

The House of Mercy is a home for the care of people with AIDS who have nowhere else to go.

It was opened in May by the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic order of nuns devoted to helping the most needy.

The death of Harry Gene Shope, 47, came in the aftershock of the disclosure by basketball legend Magic Johnson that he has the AIDS virus.

Shope isn't the first House of Mercy resident to die. Last spring a resident died shortly after coming to live at the home.

"I think everyone here feels a sense of peace for Gene," said Sister Mary Wright, the house director. "He lived here in peace and I think that's how he died.

"He was a gentle, caring man and he received gentle care."

In August, he was not well, gaunt and drawn in the morning light.

But he seemed at peace as he sat at a dining room table describing his life at the Mercy house.

He talked about his fear of moving there and talked about the sense of belonging he had found.

"I had it in my mind it was a barracks-type building with bunks rolled up against the wall," he said.

Instead he found a home where he could smile a little and join in the joking, where he could take part in water pistol fights.

"The caring, that's the main part, I guess," he said. "I've found somebody that cares for you. It gives you something to live for "

Shope was a roofer and a Gaston County native.

He first became seriously ill two years ago after working on a roof in the rain.

"It's heartbreaking," said the Rev. Larry Shope, Gene's brother. "His family loved him, but we couldn't take care of him in the shape he was in. I appreciate what those folks did for him.

"I think if Gene were alive he'd be the first to want people to know, and he told me, that a promiscuous lifestyle can come back to haunt you. People think they're living a fun-filled life and really they're flirting with death."

The House of Mercy is a six-bed home operating on a $166,000-per-year budget through grants, donations and Medicaid payments.

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"Reflections on the Beanster." (11/1991) Document
Gene Shope obituary (11/16/1991). Charlotte Observer Newspaper