One in a series of occasional portraits of people COVID-19 has taken from us.

Scott Libby had fought through misfortune before and he battled COVID-19 in the same way.

“The last thing I told him before he got intubated was to fight hard,” his wife, Kim McDonough said Wednesday of the conversation they had before he was put on a ventilator.

Scott Libby and his son, William Libby. Courtesy Libby family

“He fought hard,” she said. “On Feb. 22, Maine Med called me to come in. He was in the COVID ICU. He was unconscious. The doctor said they didn’t think he would make it through the night. I wrapped his hand around mine. I spent a half hour with him. I talked to him. I told him how much I loved him. When I went to get up, Scott gripped my hand. I think he heard me and was holding my hand. He lived another week.”

Libby tested positive for the coronavirus on Feb. 5. At the time, he was assembling rapid-result COVID-19 tests kits in a temp job at Abbott Laboratories in Westbrook. He died on Feb. 27 from “acute respiratory syndrome due to COVID-19,” McDonough said, citing his death certificate. He was 55.

Libby grew up in Portland’s Kennedy Park neighborhood and graduated from Portland High School in 1983. He was remembered this week as a hard-working, strong and resilient man who loved his family.

After graduating, he went to work the third shift on the cleaning crew at Jordan’s Meats, a landmark business in the city’s East End. Libby was severely injured in 1987 while cleaning a meat blending machine. News stories about the accident said Libby was spraying down the machine when a hose became tangled, drawing his arm into the sharp blades. His left hand and part of his forearm fell to the ground beside the machine.

He was rushed to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where doctors successfully reattached his hand during a 15-hour surgery.

Left to right, Scott Libby, his sister Susan Melcher of Pownal, his brother William Libby Jr. of Sebago and his sister Wendy LaPierre of Limerick.

Libby endured two more operations and 155 physical therapy sessions to regain the strength in his hand. About a year later, he returned to Jordan’s Meats and was promoted through the ranks to a cook, working for the company for 20 years until the plant closed in 2005.

“He was so proud of doing that work,” McDonough said. “He would light up talking about Jordan’s Meats. He loved the company, the workers … everything about it.”

Libby, the second eldest of four children, stepped up to help his family following the death of his father in 1989.

Libby had been awarded $720,000 in 1990 after suing the manufacturer of the meat blender. His sister Wendy LaPierre of Limerick said Libby bought a house in Windham with a pool and took care of her and their mother.

“He was the most laid-back person you could ever meet,” LaPierre said. “He was agreeable. He was so giving. He did everything for me. He was such a good brother.”

Libby worked for several years at Maine Medical Center in the environmental services department. He also worked for Port Resources helping adults with special needs to live independently and thrive in their communities.

“He would do anything for anyone. He was such a good guy,” LaPierre said.

Libby got a temp job working for Abbott Laboratories in November. He was among dozens of front-line workers at Abbott Labs who tested positive for the virus as the company was scaling up to build rapid test kits to help fight the pandemic.

The Westbrook plant had an outbreak from Sept. 9 through Nov. 26 that involved 58 cases and there was a separate outbreak at the Scarborough site in June involving 33 cases, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. No COVID-related deaths were associated with either outbreak, and there are no open outbreak investigations associated with Abbott Labs, the CDC said.

Libby began showing symptoms of the virus on Jan. 31. McDonough said her husband thought he contracted the virus at work, although there were no active outbreaks at the time. Libby started coughing at work on Feb. 4 and was told to go home and get a COVID-19 test, she said. He tested positive for the virus the next day, and McDonough tested positive a day later.

Scott Libby and his wife, Kim McDonough

McDonough, of Hollis, shared memories of their life together, noting that they met five years ago through the dating website, OkCupid.

“We started talking,” McDonough said. “The funny thing is he only lived 10 minutes from me.

“Before we went on our first date, I said to Scott, ‘I have a prosthetic leg because I have muscular dystrophy and diabetes. I lost my leg.’ I said, ‘I don’t know if you still want to go on a date with me.’ He said, ‘This is weird cause I lost my hand.’ It was kind of cool. He didn’t see disabilities, you know.”

The couple got married July 15, 2019. They adopted a dog and took several cruises to the Caribbean. His wife said Libby enjoyed traveling and new experiences. She said they shared an interest in antiques and loved going for sushi.

“He loved doing things, going out and seeing people,” his wife said. “We didn’t sit around. Honest to God, I thought we were going to grow old together. It’s funny because Scott was talking about buying a house in Belize. I said, ‘What are we going to do in Belize?’ Scott says, ‘I don’t know. We will figure it out.’ He was so carefree and easy going.”

In addition to his wife, he leaves his mother and siblings. He also leaves a son, William Libby, 19, of Hollis; and his daughter, Heather Musgrove and her son, Sebastian, of Portland.

LaPierre said her brother loved being a father and spending time with his grandson.

“He was a laid-back father and so easy to talk to,” she said. “William is doing amazing and I think it’s because of their long conversations and how they communicated with each other.”

LaPierre said that the day before her brother died, the family was able to have a Zoom call to talk to him.

“I talked to him and told him we will take care of William. He was his pride and joy,” she said. “When William heard his father was probably not going to make it, he said ‘I’m not going to let this break me. I’m going to make him proud.'”

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