Remembering the lives lost to COVID-19: James Luensman, 43, of Atkins, Iowa

This is part of a Yahoo News series honoring some of the American lives lost to COVID-19. Their stories are told by family and friends, who were left to deal with their often sudden and painful deaths.

James Luensman, 43, of, Atkins, Iowa., died on Oct. 30, 2020, after becoming ill with COVID-19. He is among the more than 580,000 Americans who have succumbed to the disease since the first known fatality in the United States in early 2020.

His 16-year-old son, Connor Luensman, told Yahoo News that his father was his “best friend” and a “hero” who saved many lives.

James was a paramedic for 19 years in the Cedar Rapids area. He also ran the paramedic program at Kirkwood Community College and taught respiratory therapy and nursing.

Video Transcript

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CONNOR LUENSMAN: My name is Connor Luensman. I lost my dad, James Luensman, to COVID recently.

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My dad was a paramedic. My dad hated any time I called him this, but he was a hero. He saved lives-- more than I can count-- and he was there for everything. He made time for everything. He was-- he was my best friend.

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SALLIE LUENSMAN: James was a mechanic when we were first married, and after 9/11 he decided that he wanted to quit his job and become a fireman. And with that they have to go through the paramedic course. And so, you know, that just ended up being his calling. He works at the hospital here in town and also with the ambulance service here in town. And over the years he, you know, kind of branched to other services and also decided to start teaching at Kirkwood and has several years at the community college with the Paramedic Program there.

And James was definitely a friendly, you know, funny guy. He was a very hard worker.

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He was a very involved dad.

CONNOR LUENSMAN: Dad and I's favorite things that we did together was-- especially over the summer-- we went fishing a lot. We went to the gun range a lot. That's one thing we did bond over a lot later in my life. He loved wrestling. He was a wrestler. Wrestled in high school, he wrestled in college, and I picked up on it and he was ecstatic about it because a lot of our family is wrestlers.

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One of the times that stand out to me the most is when I got my very first varsity win. He was there for me every step of the way. I wouldn't to be half the person I am without him and I couldn't even hear my coaches over him because he was screaming so loud. And as soon as I won, I didn't even go to my coaches, I went to him, because his opinion was all that mattered.

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I've been around medicine my whole life, and after my dad passed I took a step back from it. It was semi recently I stumbled upon a picture of me wearing my dad's old paramedics uniform and it reminded me how much I actually love him and that I want to follow my dad's footsteps, save lives, just like he did every day.

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It's important to honor my dad because I know, especially around my family and around this area with the medical field, his memory won't be lost, but I want more people to know how much of a hero he was.

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