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Alabama family drives 896 miles to visit Belmar COVID-19 memorial

A family still trying to cope with the loss of their beloved father, husband and brother from COVID-19 made a nearly 900-mile trip from Alabama to the Jersey Shore, all to visit a memorial.

“I’m a nurse. I never thought that my baby brother would go before I would,” says Peggy Estes.

Johnny Chambers, 57, was a retired police chief from Glencoe, Alabama, and a father of four. He died on July 4, 2020 from the virus.

A family friend who lives in Belmar added Chambers’ name to a growing COVID-19 memorial on the beach that is made of shells and stones.

“I get a lot of messages, people telling me how much I’m helping them. But you don’t realize it until somebody drives 895 miles just to come see a rock on the beach,” says memorial creator Rima Samman.

The Chambers family drove from Glencoe to Belmar straight to see their loved one’s name on the stones.

“It’s breathtaking,” says wife Melissa Chambers.

The grieving process brought this family to Belmar for the first time ever, simply to say goodbye to their loved one and get some closures.

“It represents my brother’s character, because he was a rock,” Estes says.

“My husband loved the beach. We actually got married on the beach, his favorite place was on the beach,” says Melissa Chambers. “So, for her to do this on the beach, his name being on the beach, it’s so fitting for him.”

Samman says that she is in talks with leaders in Monmouth County to move the memorial to a permanent location.

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