This story is part of WHYY’s series “COVID-19: Remembering lives we’ve lost” about the everyday people the Philadelphia region has lost to the coronavirus pandemic, the lives they lived, and what they meant to their families, friends and communities.
Falneshia Adams made people laugh.
According to her two sisters, her comedy wasn’t by way of jokes, per se. Instead, Falneshia could make you chuckle away your own insecurities with playful teases and illicit deep belly laughs with spot-on impressions of family members. She also wasn’t afraid to be self-deprecating.
“It was always a sight to see her because she always made them laugh and they always knew that when she was around, they was going to have a good time,” said Sonya Robinson, Falneshia’s eldest sister. “She just energized the house. [She] just brought more laughs and happiness.”
Falneshia’s sisters say she maintained that good humor until the very end. On May 16, the Prospect Park, Delaware County resident died from complications of COVID-19. She was 49 years old.
Born in Orangeburg, South Carolina on January 5, 1971, her family was not concerned that she would blend in the background as the middle child of the three girls.
Though Falneshia needed time to get comfortable with people before she could bathe them with her charm, she and her sisters made friends with ease as the family moved from South Carolina to Florida.
As Falneshia grew older, music and dance became central to her life. She loved the “oldies” from the 1960s, R&B, and 1980s rap.
When she wasn’t dancing with her high school drill team, she was learning the moves of her favorite artists.
Shani Adams Nicolas, Falneshia’s youngest sister, said when the music video to Janet Jackson’s “Control” came out in 1986, Falneshia memorized every spin, head snap and hip swing.
“If we’re in the middle of a conversation and one of her favorite songs came on, she’d just get up and start dancing,” Sonya said. “She really thought she was one of the better dancers in the family.”
A claim Falneshia’s sisters say was true.
Her “passion for people” inspired her to go to school for hotel management at Bethune- Cookman University in Florida and the love she had for her big sister Sonya, plus a desire to move to the “big city,” brought her to the Philly region in the summer of 1990.
Several years after arriving in Pennsylvania, Falneshia took an environmental services job at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where her sisters said she worked for about 25 years.
Falneshia also doted on her 10-year-old daughter, and spent time with her sisters.
One of the last memories Sonya has of her sister is a visit in March. Falneshia and her daughter went to Sonya’s house and they talked politics, life and how COVID-19 felt like it was getting close to home.
“We both worked in the hospital, so we were making sure we were both cautious,” Sonya remembered. “Because my job is essential. Her job is essential. So we had to be out there whether we wouldn’t want to be out there or not.”
The group then did some shopping at Walmart and National Wholesale Liquidators, ending the night with a pasta dinner. Sonya remembers laughing most of the day.
Though Falneshia spoke with Shani more often — every day before or after work to catch up — they were always making plans for when the three sisters could get together again for a “girls trip.”
The three sisters loved to take trips together and made it a point to go somewhere special for each other’s birthdays. It didn’t have to be far, Shani said.
Falneshia, who liked to play the slot machines at casinos, was just as happy with a weekend getaway to Ocean City, Maryland as she was with a trip to Florida — as long as she could drive.
Shani said she would pick the music and offered directions while Falneshia drove, always looking chic.
“Everything was always matching,” Shani said. “From her glasses to her shoes, everything would match. So if she had on leopard print, she also had leopard print glasses and leopard print shoes. Everything was coordinated.”
The last conversation Shani had with Falneshia was over the phone. Falneshia had been hospitalized with COVID-19 and was feeling better. So much so, she couldn’t stop talking about how much she was ready to go for a drive.
Shani sent Falneshia a photo of their mother holding a baby. The baby was Falneshia, but Falneshia told Shani the baby must be a boy the sisters knew.
Falneshia then joked, “That baby looks tired.”
“But she was a baby at the time,” said Shani, “so we laughed about it.”