Late singer-songwriter Aretha Franklin's longtime partner William Wilkerson, who is also known as Willie Wilkerson Jr., is no more. He passed away after contracting the novel coronavirus.
The Vietnam War veteran, who had been a constant companion to Franklin, widely called Queen of Soul, till her death in 2018, died on April 8 from COVID-19, her relatives have confirmed, reports aceshowbiz.com.
Wilkerson was admitted to the hospital for suffering from the COVID-19 symptoms on March 30, according to family members. He died at Ascension Providence Hospital in Rochester. Other details are currently not available.
His daughter Tanya Wilkerson-Thompson posted a tribute on Facebook: "I know most of you were praying for him and our family and I want you to know how much we appreciate you. If you knew him at all or ever met him even once, you know how full of life he was. He was my hero, my father and my friend. I will cherish every memory of him."
Willie, a retired firefighter, met Aretha in the late 1980s after he had a front-row seat at one of her concerts. Their friendship began as they learned that both had apartments in the same locality. Soon their relationship turned into decades of an off-and-on romance.
He had also escorted Franklin to multiple events and road manager on her cross-country bus tours after she developed a fear of flying.
They were engaged again in 2012, after several cancelled nuptials. Later in that year they decided that they would not marry, but would remain close friends.