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Remembering four Southern Arizonans lost in the pandemic

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TUCSON (KVOA) - As of Monday, nearly 240,000 deaths related to COVID-19 documented in the United States have been recorded, with more than 10 million cases.

News 4 Tucson shared data daily to help keep residents informed throughout this pandemic.

What we haven’t shared is an in-depth look behind ​the numbers, the faces​ of COVID-19.

Throughout the pandemic, we have been inundated with COVID-19 stats, facts and figures, but there are real people behind the math. They are your friends, your neighbors, your family and a pandemic took them.

The following names are just some of the more than 670 people in Pima County who lost their lives to COVID-19: Gloria Andrade, Victor Munsey, Larry Mackel, Fidelina Ramirez Ybarra, Raymond Grijalva, Albert Barboa, Art Rotstein and Maria Lucero-Vazquez. They are just some of the faces behind the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My dad was very outgoing, very a people-person and loves sports, but he was also very humble and cared for others," Daniella Grijalva said. "My grandpa, he was very big and proud to be a Marine. He was just like that comfort zone that you would have“

“Always had a smile... always good to others... very good to me," Peggy McKellar, who lost her husband to COVID-19, said. "Treated me like a queen.”

“My mom, she was such a people person," Gilbert Ybarra said. "A mom‘s mom because that’s who she was.”

All of these people are remembered and honored by their loved ones after they left too soon due to the COVID-19 virus that is plaguing the world.

Larry Mackel

“My husband deserved to live just like anybody else," McKellar said. "I should have been able to be with my husband when he died.”

McKellar was married to Larry Mackel for 10 years. Mackel was a metal worker deeply rooted in his Christian faith and loved by many. In October 2019, she said he contracted the Coronavirus in a Tucson care facility. March 13, 2020, was the last time she saw ​her husband.

“And he died April 14, alone,” McKellar said.

To Peggy, Larry meant the world. He was 69 years old.

“I miss him horribly,” McKellar said.

Raymond Grijalva and Albert Barboa

Daniella Grijalva ​said he had the virus. She survived it but her father and grandfather did not. She lost them both this summer. 

Her father, Raymond Grijalva would have ​celebrated his 56th birthday this month. She said he was a big Dodgers fan and he would have loved to see their World Series win.

Her grandfather, Albert Barboa Sr. was 81-years old. She said he was a proud former Marine. Daniella said both men were all about family.

“No matter what we needed or what needed to be done within the family, one of them was doing it, helping somebody no matter how big or little it was,” Daniella said.

Her father, Raymond passed away on June 18, 2020. Exactly one month later on July 18, 2020, her grandfather, Albert also passed.

“Greatly missed, definitely,” Daniella said.

Fidelina Ramirez Ybarra

“A lot of people through the years remember her and remember how her smile and her charisma that she had,” Gilbert Ybarra said about his mother, Fidelina Ramirez Ybarra.

Gilbert lost his 87-year-old mother in August.

“She had a good bill of health when she had her physical in January,” he said.

Gilbert said ​his sister and him were very proud of their mother at 87-years-old.

“She was still pretty independent," he said. "She could still cook and clean, whatever she needed to do”

But when the pandemic hit, Fidelina, Gilbert and his sister caught the virus. He and his sister were healthy by late July, but their mother developed other medical complications related to the virus. Her health took a turn for the worse. She was moved into hospice and in early August she then tested negative for the virus, allowing them both to be in the room with her holding hands. 

Gilbert said though she could no longer speak or open her eyes, she had still gripped their hands to acknowledge their presence

“And I told her, 'it’s okay mom. You can go,'” Ybarra said. "On Wednesday, August 5, 2020, at 8:34 p.m., my sister and I saw my mom take her last breath as we were holding her hands“

A gesture Gilbert says, “meant so much for us to be there with her because I understand, I know so many people didn’t have that opportunity.”

A virtual memorial for the people in our community who died from COVID-19 has been set up on the News 4 Tucson website.

To view the memorial, click here. To submit an individual to be added to the memorial, click here.

EDITOR'S NOTE: News 4 Tucson's Edgar Ybarra contributed to this story.

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Alexis Berdine

Alexis Berdine is an Investigative Multi-Media Journalist at KVOA.

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