On March 7, National COVID-19 Memorial Day, friends and family members of fallen healthcare workers and patients joined SEIU-UHW for a Forever Essential memorial program, to honor the dedication and courage of our community members who lost their lives to the pandemic.
Attendees gathered in Los Angeles from across the region to pay their respects and share memories of their loved ones. We heard many voices, including Mayor of Long Beach Robert Garcia, whose mother Gaby O’Donnell, a medical assistant, passed away in 2020.
Dinh Kozuki remembered her father Thong Nguyen: “He worked for Garfield Medical Center as a cardio respiratory technician for almost 35 years… My sister and I encouraged him to retire. He was almost 74, and he told us he would retire when he turned 74. He missed it by a month. Before we could wrap our heads around the devastation of his loss — a day before Thanksgiving — we lost our mom.”
Adelita Simon honored her father Felipe Simon Amador, who was hospitalized for 67 days: “Felipe Simon Amador dedicated 30 years of his 48 years of life to serving patients and a whole community of medical professionals who valued his positive presence and light to this world… He worked alongside his two brothers, his sisters and his nieces and longtime friends.”
Mariana Alvarez lost her husband of 30 years, Jose Alvarez: “Jose was a loving son, a loving brother, a loving father, a loving husband, and a loving grandfather. He loved his job. He worked at Parkview Community in Riverside. He was a jokester. A lot of people know him there. I know they all miss him, and we miss him a lot also… Sometimes I remember his jokes, and I’ll just laugh.”
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia remembered his mother Gaby O’Donnell, who worked at City of Hope National Medical Center for nearly 25 years: “She was a very strong, working, Latina, mom, immigrant, incredible woman. And what’s amazing about everyone we’re celebrating tonight, and I think my mom is part of that, is these women, these men: they were heroes. They went to work to help people. They were heroes at home, but they’re also heroes in the workplace.”
Garcia was not the only elected official to participate in the Forever Essential Memorial, as we were also joined by Supervisor Janice Hahn: “And while many of us had the luxury of staying home, during the worst of the pandemic our health care workers did not. Whether they were doctors or nurses or physician assistants or pharmacists or custodial staff, they had to show up to work. And as patients poured into our hospitals, they were the ones who cared for them and held their hands when their friends and family could not be there to say goodbye.”
SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan spoke on behalf of the Union’s 100,000 members : “We have lived this together for the last two years. It’s been exhausting. It’s been traumatizing. It’s been gut wrenching. It’s been hard. But we also know we’re gonna find a way through it. And we will in this organization. And this is the commitment we want to make to all of the families who are here: that what we’ve done here tonight presenting this memorial about Forever Essential, the Forever Essential workers and family members and loved ones and friends, that we will continue to tell this story. We will tell it until this damn pandemic is over with. And then we will continue to tell it into the future.”
We invite you to submit any friend, family member, or coworker lost to COVID to our online memorial.
Forever Essential in the News