COVID STORIES: Daughter remembers ECISD teacher who died on Thanksgiving

Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 9:37 PM CST
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - Dancing was one of Amalia Gonzales’ passions. But her purpose was teaching.

“You know, I asked her, “mom, why are you teaching during a pandemic?’,” her daughter Rebecca Lopez said. “And she said, ‘Because I love being around the kids.’”

Gonzales taught in the ECISD for over 40 years, the last of which were spent at Milam elementary.

“It gave her life. It gave her purpose. That was her purpose in life.”

A two-time breast cancer survivor, Gonzales died on Thanksgiving at 74-years old, just one week after being exposed to COVID-19 at a sorority meeting.

The Monday after the meeting, Rebecca Lopez spoke to her mother on the phone. A reporter in Dallas who has covered the pandemic, she immediately sensed something was wrong.

“I was, like, mom, you don’t sound good,” Lopez said. “I need you to go get COVID tested.”

By Tuesday, Gonzales’s symptoms had worsened into trouble breathing and cough. She tried to find somewhere to get tested but could only find testing by appointment. So, she scheduled an appointment for the Friday after Thanksgiving and was prescribed medicine by a doctor via Zoom.

She never made her appointment.

Rebecca got the call early Thursday morning that her mother’s health had rapidly deteriorated.

“I knew it right then,” Lopez said. “I knew...I knew in my heart that there was something…I just knew.”

Losing her mother, a grandmother and family matriarch, was devastating.

“What’s harder for me to process is we have the vaccine around the corner, and I was just, like, ‘Oh, mom, why couldn’t you for just a few more months.’”

But Lopez is also comforted by her faith and belief that her mother is in a better place.

“While it was devastating, and we have cried, and we have mourned—and we still mourn, and we still cry—we’ve come to some peace because we know that she is ok,” Lopez said.

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