LONDON, ONT -- Staff members of a long-term care home in London, Ont. gathered Wednesday morning to pay their respects for their colleague who passed away from COVID-19, the first nurse in Ontario to die of the virus.

The Ontario Nurses Association confirmed Tuesday that registered nurse Brian Beattie died after contracting the virus.

Beattie had been an registered nurse for 23 years, and had worked at at Kensington Village since Nov. 2018

In a statement, his niece Amber Overholt, wrote that the family is devastated, but receiving a tremendous amount of support.

"He was dedicated to his work. He loved his job – we always knew that. However, since his passing hearing all the stories from colleagues and those he cared for truly opens our eyes on how much he touched others’ lives. Thank you to all that have shared."

Len, a support employee at Kensington Village where Beattie worked, says, "It's super sad for our colleagues here. I'm sending my condolences out to his family and his loved ones."

He declined to give his last name, but added that staff was told Tuesday of Beattie's death.

Len was part of a group of staff members who gathered during shift change Wednesday morning. Other employees described Beattie as a fixture on the overnight shift.

“It’s tough, it’s tough on all of us that were here, and we’re doing the best we can do in a tough time," says Len.

"I am devastated at the loss of Brian, who was a dedicated RN," says ONA President Vicki McKenna in a statement sent to media. "ONA sends our deepest condolences to Brian's family, friends and his colleagues."

Beattie worked at Kensington Village, a long-term care home in London that has had an outbreak of the virus like so many others across the province and country.

Kensington Village long-term care home
A cross has been placed outside the Kensington Village long-term care home in honour of Brian Beattie, in London, Ont. on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (Jim Knight / CTV London)

Beattie contracted the virus and was off work and seeking treatment.

Several posts have been made to social media honouring Beattie's life, including Kim Thomas the operator of Kismutt Rescue in St. Mary's who is also Beattie's cousin.

"The animal community lost a huge advocate and I lost my best friend and cousin. My heart is broken," wrote Thomas.

Thomas told CTV News that Beattie contracted the virus two weeks ago and that he was dedicated to nursing and animal welfare.

Beattie's public Facebook page has several photos of dogs he was passionate about.

In a statement, Kensington Village said that residents and staff are in mourning.

“This death is felt deeply by our residents and our care team, and we mourn together as a community,” the statement read.

The home began dealing with an outbreak on April 3 when eight staff members tested positive.

There have been five deaths of residents, and three active cases remain.

The ONA says they are providing support to Beattie’s colleagues and that the Ministry of Labour has been contacted to investigate the circumstances of his death.

"While there will be much discussion about Ontario's pandemic preparedness and protection of nurses and health-care workers, this is not the time for speculation," said McKenna.

Condolences pour in from officials

In a statement Wednesday afternoon London Mayor Ed Holder said, "On behalf of all Londoners, I want to offer my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Brian Beattie, a Registered Nurse who worked at Kensington Village, a long-term care home on Huron St. in London."

He added that the best way to honour Beattie's memory, and the sacrifices made by front-line workers, is to listen to their advice.

"That means physical distancing, adhering to hygiene protocols, wearing masks or other forms of PPE when appropriate. We know these things, and we need to commit ourselves to continue doing these things."

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions President Linda Silas added in a media release, "My heart is breaking for Brian’s family, friends and colleagues, as they grieve the loss of a loved one, friend and co-worker. Canada’s nurses grieve with you."

She added that the death of any health-care worker from COVID-19 is not acceptable, and the union will keep fighting to ensure workers have the protection they need.

- With files from CTV's Amanda Taccone