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Remembering some of the Arizonans we lost to COVID-19

As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, we remember the people who fought hard but unfortunately lost their lives to the virus.


More than 2,000 people have died due to complications related to COVID-19 in Arizona as of July, according to state health officials

Each one of those lives lost to the disease currently crippling health care systems and economies around the world is marked by the family and friends they left behind. 

As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, we remember some of the people who fought hard but unfortunately lost their lives to the coronavirus.

If you know someone in Arizona who died of COVID-19 that you would like to add to this remembrance, email their names, photos and more information to connect@12News.com

Here are some of the Arizonans we have lost to COVID-19:

Lonnie Dench was a husband, father and grandfather. He and his wife Wanda gained national attention in 2016 after Wanda accidentally texted Jamal Hinton and invited him over for Thanksgiving dinner.

The strangers became fast friends and stayed in touch over the years. Lonnie passed away in early April after being hospitalized with the virus and pneumonia.

"As some of you may have already found out tonight Lonnie did not make it... he passed away Sunday morning, but Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that!" Hinton wrote on Twitter. 

MORE: Husband of grandma who befriended teen through accidental text dies of COVID-19

Credit: Jamal Hinton/Twitter

Edgar Pacheco is described by his family and friends as an adventurer. The family man went skydiving, swimming in the ocean and just a few weeks before his death he climbed Machu Picchu in Peru.

The healthy 38-year-old from Queen Creek fought the virus as his condition would get better and then decline, his family explained. 

"He’ll get better," his brother Raul said he initially thought. "He’s 38 years old. He’s young, he’s strong. He doesn’t have medical issues. He’ll pull through. That’s not a problem."

MORE: 'He smiled with his whole being': Family says healthy 38-year-old Valley man dies from COVID-19

Corrina and Cheryl Thinn both died after battling the virus in the month of April. The sisters dedicated their lives to helping people of the Navajo Nation. 

Corrina Thinn was an officer with the Navajo Nation Police Department for 11 years. After Corrina earned her master's degree in social work, she went on to work for various health centers in her community.

Cheryl Thinn also chose to serve her community. She was a Navajo Nation juvenile detention officer and emergency medical service member. Cheryl also worked for the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation. 

MORE: Community mourns Navajo sisters who passed away due to coronavirus

Credit: Family
PHOTO: (Left) Corrina Thinn, former Navajo Nation Police Officer, in uniform and on-duty. (Right) Cheryl Thinn and her son. Corrina and Cheryl were sisters that both served as public servants to the Navajo People. Both sisters passed away in April 2020 from the coronavirus

Valentina Blackhorse died at the age of just 28 years old. Blackhorse was crowned Miss Western Navajo 2015-2016 and competed in the Miss Indian World Pageant.

The young pageant queen was described as loving and passionate. And she was a strong mother for her one-year-old daughter. Her family said she contracted the virus after caring for her boyfriend who tested positive.

“She had her whole life ahead of her and it was cut short due to this pandemic that’s going on,” Vanielle Blackhorse, Valentina’s sister said. “Me, my family, my parents, my sisters, our hearts will not be the same."

MORE: Former Miss Western Navajo dies from COVID-19

Sybil Walker passed away after contracting the virus in a senior living facility. Her son Michael said his mother would have wanted the community to come together during these difficult times. 

"I would like people to know not only was she brilliant, but she also had a powerful desire for good and fairness in the world. And she cared a great deal about those who needed help," Michael said. 

Veronica Morena lost her battle with COVID-19 in April. Her daughter Sabrina Garcia is a nurse in the Valley. Garcia said she cared for her mother as she fought the virus. 

Garcia started experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 a week after her mother passed away. 

"This disease definitively doesn't discriminate. It doesn't discriminate against age, it doesn't discriminate against anything. I urge people that if you absolutely do not have to go out into a public place or a store don't do it," Garcia said.  

Robert Edward Washington Jr. died in Arizona in June from a coronavirus-related illness, just weeks after returning to work. He was 68 years old.

His daughter, Lina, who is a Sacramento TV sports anchor who grew up in the Valley, has a straightforward explanation for why her father died.

“He returned to work because he had to,” Washington said.

“And because he returned to work he was exposed to coronavirus. And because he was exposed to coronavirus with his vulnerabilities, now he’s dead.”

He died four weeks after returning to work as a security guard at the Gila River tribe’s Lone Butte casino near Chandler.

“This is very real,” she said. “This is not something where the elderly and vulnerable are disposable. This is not natural selection. These are people, these are parents, these are grandparents.”

RELATED: Beloved father dies from coronavirus just weeks after returning to work at Arizona casino

Officer Michael Lee of the Navajo Police Department died as a result of COVID-19 in mid-June.

Lee was a father, husband and 29-year veteran of the force.

The Navajo Police Department says it's their first line of duty death related to the virus.

RELATED: Navajo police officer who died of COVID-19 laid to rest Thursday

Bacilio Lopez, a dedicated father, grandfather and husband, died on June 25, days after he turned 42 years old

His wife, Lesslie, said he started feeling sick on June 2. He tried to get better at home, but it didn’t work and he eventually ended up in the hospital. 

“He was really careful, especially for the kids," Lesslie said. "Anything that came through that door he was cleaning it. The kids were washing their hands. We were changing clothes as soon as we got home from the store. I honestly think about it and I don’t know where we could’ve gotten it.”

RELATED: Valley wife shares message of caution after husband loses battle to COVID-19

Teddy Bernal, the owner of Frank and Lupe's Restaurants in the Valley, died of COVID-19, the company announced on Facebook on Monday. 

"It is in our deepest thoughts that we regret to inform the customers who we consider to be apart of the Bernal family that Teddy Bernal has lost his battle with COVID-19," part of the post read. 

"Teddy was the most caring person you could meet and it was his life’s work and passion to run this restaurant that we all consider a second home."

Bernal became sick "weeks ago," the company said, and "we have taken the proper precautions as guided by the cdc to ensure that this is a safe and healthy environment for both our employees and customers."

There are three Frank and Lupe's locations: One in Scottsdale, one in Phoenix and one in New Mexico. 

It is in our deepest thoughts that we regret to inform the customers... who we consider to be apart of the Bernal family that Teddy Bernal has lost his battle with COVID-19. Teddy was the most caring person you could meet and it was his life's work and passion to run this restaurant that we all consider a second home.

RELATED: Frank and Lupe's owner passes away from COVID-19

Robert Anthony Young was 28 when he lost his battle with coronavirus, younger than most. 

His mom, Alexis, says Robert was diagnosed with COVID-19 on June 23. 

In the days that followed, she says he would get very sick, was hospitalized, then sent home, only to return to the hospital for a second and final stay. 

“If I could see him one more time, I told him before they took him to the hospital, I love him, I love him so much I miss him," she said.

Alexis says even though her son was only 28-years-old, he was overweight and in the high-risk category.

“That’s why we were trying so hard to get him to do something about his health," she said. "Unfortunately, it was too little too late when he finally realized it and the week before he passed, he was trying to work on that.”

RELATED: Valley mom struggles over loss of son who became very sick with COVID-19


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