‘His worst fear was realized.’ Fort Worth BBQ owner dies of COVID between vaccine doses

·3 min read

It was Waldo Strein’s worst nightmare.

Strein, who died from COVID-19 on Monday at age 73, was supposed to receive his second dose of the COVID vaccine on Aug. 16. But by then, his symptoms were too severe. He started having symptoms just a few days prior. By Aug. 18, he was hospitalized.

Strein and his wife, Barbie, own Jambo’s Original BBQ Shack in Rendon. The two competition barbecue cooks bought it three years ago.

“It was his worst fear and it was realized,” said Barbie Strein, who was infected with COVID days after her husband. She fully recovered after several stints in the hospital and a nursing home. She’s 63 and has multiple sclerosis and an autoimmune disease.

“He was definitely afraid of getting COVID. He was afraid if he got COVID he’d have to go to the hospital and be put on a ventilator and die. And he was afraid of leaving me with my medical issues,” she said.

Waldo Strein had underlying heart issues so he wanted the vaccine. He put his second dose off because the couple had a trip to Port Aransas planned with the owners of BBQ on the Brazos. The trip never happened because of COVID.

“It’s all such a blur,” Barbie Strein said. She was last able to talk to her husband Friday, three days before he passed. “Waldo and I were quite a couple. We were always together. It was just a wonderful love story.”

Both were divorced when they started dating in 1993. He proposed at a barbecue competition they were judging in Boston. They were married in 1994.

“We were just meant to be together. We enjoyed the same things,” she said. Both had been in the competition barbecue game, which made buying Jambo’s, located on Farm Road 1187 in Rendon, a natural choice.

The couple had made it a weekly ritual to eat ribs at Jambo’s every Friday night.

“He just thought it might be something we’d like to purchase,” she said. “He thought it would kind of give me some family if anything ever happened to him.”

He was eerily prescient.

Waldo Strein was preceded in death by his son, who died several years ago. He leaves behind daughter Kimberli Broom, of Cross Timbers, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild.

“He was just a wonderful man. He was my everything,” she said.

The family plans to have a small, private memorial soon.

“We plan to have a larger one later after we can get our thoughts together,” she said. “This was very surprising.”

Barbie Strein, 63, was not vaccinated, although her doctor advised it.

Waldo Strein, who is one of the founders of the International Barbecue Cookers Association, was concerned about the coronavirus, she said.

But he started having symptoms less than two weeks after his first vaccine dose.

“We had heard the second [dose] was a little harder on you with maybe some flu-like symptoms so he was going to get it when we got home [after the planned trip to the coast],” she said.

He first felt symptoms on Aug. 13, including trouble breathing. Five days later, light-headed and dizzy, his daughter called the ambulance. By this time, Barbie Strein was struggling too.

“He was just so terribly sick. I didn’t even see him the morning he left for the hospital,” she said. Later that day, she was also admitted to the hospital.

“He was so afraid of having me be alone,” she said. “I’ve had an outpouring of love and phone calls.”

She hasn’t been to Jambo’s since the ordeal. It will be an emotional return.

“It’s going to be a good thing and it’s going to be hard,” she said. “I love the restaurant, but it’s going to be tough.”

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