Vaccine Voices: Union man honors oldest friend who died of COVID-19

“If you meet folks that ask, ‘Well, do you know anyone who’s actually died from this made up government hoax?’ Just send them my way so I can tell them about my friend KP.”

Jim Arnott

70-year-old Jim Arnott has lost three friends to COVID-19.

“John and Maz were touchstones of my history, but KP was my oldest friend.”

Arnott met KP when he worked in a motorcycle shop in the early seventies. He says KP came in looking for carburetors for his Honda 350.

“How that grew into a lifelong friendship I couldn’t tell you, but he had been in my life for nearly fifty years,” said Arnott. “We partied together, worked together, rode together, helped each other out again and again. We survived marriages and divorces and marriages. I could tell you so much more about KP.”

In November, around Thanksgiving, KP began feeling poorly. Testing confirmed that he’d contracted COVID-19. When Arnott spoke with him during this time, he had no respiratory distress, but he was “as weak as a kitten.” KP figured he was likely exposed at his local supermarket.

He worked through it and seemed to be recovering nicely, but around Christmastime, KP who lived alone was found unconscious in his home. A scan revealed a tumor on his brain. KP had surgery and the biopsy indicated he had brain cancer.

“You die from it,” said Arnott. “Usually in about a year. Tough diagnosis, but KP took it all in stride. ‘I get a year! Some folks I’ve known have strokes or heart attacks and just keel over. I’m really lucky,’ he said. It was typical KP.”


Days later, calls to KP kept going straight to voicemail, so Arnott reached out to KP’s brother. He was unconscious in the hospital.

“They intubated KP on a Tuesday and he died of COVID that Friday,” said Arnott.

Arnott says KP was an example of how to live the healthy life. Light on the red meat, lots of veggies, no alcohol or drugs. He never smoked and he exercised often.

“He was even an Eagle Scout (yeah, that too),” said Arnott. “That was not exactly my life for a lot of years, but he was my good example and he put up with me.”

Arnott says he got the Moderna vaccine as soon as he was able so that he wouldn’t have to be concerned about being in public places. Specifically, he wanted to be safe in the local supermarket where KP believed he had contracted coronavirus.

While Arnott loves his rural community of eastern Oregon, he wishes more of his friends and neighbors would take coronavirus seriously. Arnott moved to Union 27 years ago with his wife and three kids. In his “past life,” he was an aerospace engineer working on NASA, Department of Defense and commercial defense projects. He has spent nearly 20 years working as a technician for an internet service provider in the area and its surrounding communities.

“Here in Union, the majority of our neighbors are not vaccinated and have no desire to change that,” said Arnott. “It literally costs nothing to get vaccinated. Two weeks after, I am unlikely to contract COVID. Some say, ‘it’s just like a mild flu,’ to which I would say, ‘Why would you want to get even a mild flu if it is completely avoidable?'”

Arnott tells his story today, he says, to honor his oldest friend.

“Just please, please my friends, get your vaccination as soon as you possibly can,” said Arnott. “Do everything you can to not catch this disease. Do everything you can to make it so your friends and loved ones don’t have to write stuff like what I did here. If no one in your circle has succumbed to COVID-19, count yourself blessed. I see this as honoring KP.”

Get vaccinated

Vaccination remains the safest and most effective way for all people in Oregon to get back to doing the things they love. If you are 12 or older, visit OHA’s Find a COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon webpage to schedule your vaccine appointment today.