A San Diego family is mourning the death of Blanca Estela and Juan Manuel Rodriguez, high school sweethearts who died of COVID-19 just hours apart.
According to CNN, the 67-year-olds tested positive for the virus on Jan. 18, along with other members of their household. Their children told the outlet they’re unsure how the family contracted disease, as they’ve consistently taken safety precautions over the past year. Blanca and Juan reportedly had pre-existing health conditions that made them especially vulnerable to the virus; the former had diabetes and arthritis, while the latter suffered from diabetes, kidney issues, and congestive heart failure.
“We were quarantining since February of last year,” their daughter Cynthia Rodriguez told CNN. “My brother-in-law was the only one leaving the house as an essential employee.”
Juan and Blanca’s health continued to deteriorate in the week following their diagnosis. Their conditions became so severe that they had to be hospitalized at separate facilities on Jan. 26. Less than two weeks later, the couple had their last video call with members of their immediate family. Their children recalled Blanca being the more talkative of the two, despite her breathing struggles.
“She told my dad that he was the love of her life and that she loved him,” daughter Blanca Velazquez said. “She told us all that she loved us.”
Blanca died at 12:34 a.m. Feb. 8, just hours after the video call. Juan died the same day at 4:18 a.m.
“I told my siblings I’m 100 percent sure my dad wasn’t alone when he passed because my mom was there with him,” Blanca Velazquez told CNN. “For him, that was everything. It was a little bit of a comfort for us that they were together. Our parents’ love was legendary and extraordinary in life, but it was also extraordinary in death. They were lovebirds. They were always together, cuddling, holding hands.”
Juan and Blanca reportedly began dating in high school and eloped in 1972. They had four children, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. The family has since created a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the funeral expenses. As of press time, they’ve raised about $16,000 of their $25,000 goal.