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.
Juan Ordoñez, 40, of North Arlington, N.J., died on April 11, 2020, after becoming ill with COVID-19. He’s among the more than 500,000 Americans who have lost their lives to the disease since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic early last year.
Ordoñez was born in Lima, Peru, and immigrated to the U.S. at a young age. His wife, Diana Ordoñez, says he was “a prime example of the American Dream.” He faced many struggles when he arrived in America, including having to learn a new language and being away from his family. But, she says, “he still recognized that he had opportunities to grow and learn and be better as long as he worked hard.”
Ordoñez’s greatest passion, his wife says, was computers. He was an information security analyst at UPS and had just been promoted at the time he became sick with COVID-19.
Another passion, which he shared with his wife and 5-year old daughter, Mia, was traveling. Their first trip as a family was to the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, in Peru. Juan had told Diana the place was very special to him, and she plans to return there as a way to honor his memory.
“It's gonna be a while probably before I can get there, but it'll be important for me to lay him to rest where he said he wanted to be, so that's on my list. It’s also a way to maybe bring closure. It's hard to get closure during everything that's going on,” she said.
Ordoñez contracted the virus in early March 2020, before lockdowns were put in place and when relatively little was known about the virus. His wife said that, at the time, he was spending a lot of time in cafes studying for a IT certification exam, and that’s probably how he got infected.
Like many COVID-19 victims, Ordoñez experienced shortness of breath and was hospitalized and put on a ventilator. He died after battling the disease for three weeks.
Life without Juan has been difficult and painful for his wife and daughter. But Diana says that telling his story brings her and her little one some comfort.
“Any chance that I’ve gotten to share his story, I've done it. And she loves to see when Daddy's on TV or on Daddy's in the paper,” she says. “I just want him to be remembered and for people to know him, and to know that our lives are short, and we should live every day. … He can't wake up today, and you can, and that's a privilege.”
Cover thumbnail photo: Courtesy of Diana Ordoñez
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