Married for 52 years, William and Diana Gutierrez died months apart from COVID: NPR

Married for 52 years, William and Diana Gutierrez died months apart from COVID: NPR


William and Diana Gutierrez lost their lives about two months apart last winter. We take a moment to remember her life.



MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

For the past year and a half, we’ve thought of some of the 750,000+ people who died of COVID-19 in the United States, and we’ve asked you to share your stories with us.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Today we wanted to take a moment to remember two people, a husband and wife, who were married for 52 years and died just months apart – William and Diana Gutierrez from Austin, Texas.

MELISSA GUTIERREZ: You were always inseparable. When you saw one, you saw the other. And that even went to death.

CHANG: This is Melissa Gutierrez, your daughter. She says her parents have always been her best friends.

GUTIERREZ: So this will be hard to do without crying.

KELLY: William and Diana grew up in Austin in the 50s and 60s, and as Mexican Americans, they were discriminated against everywhere.

GUTIERREZ: You weren’t allowed to speak Spanish in schools. You would be reprimanded. My father’s name was actually Guillermo. He officially changed his name to William so he could attend school. White students were put on the college path and Mexican students were on the trade path.

CHANG: Neither of them went to college, although Melissa prides himself on the fact that they both earned college credits later in life and that they made every sacrifice to ensure that she and her siblings got a college education.

GUTIERREZ: You said we will do everything we can to get you to college. We want you to have all the options that we didn’t.

KELLY: Melissa is a teacher now. She says her mother probably would have been one too if she had the chance.

GUTIERREZ: You did five jobs to get me to college and you never complained. And when I got that diploma, I gave it to them. And I said that’s yours too. And it’s still in their living room because that was a joint effort.

CHANG: One day in November last year, Melissa received a call from her father telling her that he had just tested positive for COVID. This was before vaccines became widespread and both William and Diana had underlying diseases.

KELLY: They both had to be hospitalized after all. No one could visit them in person and they had to be kept in separate rooms.

GUTIERREZ: We did a lot of FaceTime. My father never left the hospital. At some point he made me FaceTimed. He told me he was going to get a ventilator and that was the last time I talked to him.

CHANG: William died at Dell Seton Medical Center on December 4, 2020. He was 72 years old.

KELLY: When Diana heard of her husband’s death, she wanted to join him. But Melissa couldn’t bear to lose both of her parents at the same time, so Diana persevered.

GUTIERREZ: Everything, everything for your family, but especially for your children. She would do anything.

CHANG: Finally, after three months and countless procedures, the doctors told the family that Diana had irreversible lung and heart damage.

GUTIERREZ: You know, she just got back and said just take me home. I just wanna go home I’m tired of being in the hospital. They said when she goes home it will be the hospice. And so I made sure that she understood. And she said: OK. I was allowed to touch her on the way into the house, but I could never hug my father.

KELLY: Diana died a few days after she returned home on February 6, 2021. She was 73 years old.

CHANG: William and Diana are survived by Melissa and her brother William Jr. In honor of their parents, they set up a scholarship on their behalf in the same district where their parents went to school many years ago.

GUTIERREZ: We called it the Guillermo and Diana Gutierrez Abriendo Puertas Scholarships. Abriendo puertas means open doors. But I kind of saw this as a way to bring Guillermo, the Guillermo name, back to the district, a name that was taken away from him.

(SOUNDBITE FROM BONOBO’S “BLACK SANDS”)

KELLY: If you’d like us to remember a loved one you’ve lost to COVID-19, find us on Twitter at @MediaFrolicATC. There’s a pinned tweet at the top.

(SOUNDBITE FROM BONOBO’S “BLACK SANDS”)

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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