Remembering LA's Coronavirus Victims: Gaspar Gomez, 51, Of Pacoima
More than 3,300 people have died in California during this pandemic.
Today, L.A. reached a sad milestone: More than 2,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County.
LAist will be regularly sharing the stories of some of those we've lost.
We begin today with the story of Gaspar Gomez, of Pacoima. Gaspar was a father, an immigrant and one of the first known day laborers to die of COVID-19 in L.A. County. He was 51 years old.
Gaspar Gomez left Mexico City and headed to Los Angeles when he was just 16 years old. He didn't have much money, but he did have a big personality and an unwavering work ethic.
He also had the love of his young life with him, his 15-year-old paramour and future wife, Maria, who was his ride-or-die all the way to el otro lado.
The journey, Maria would later recall to their children, was difficult, but Gaspar made it through with his trademark smile and infectious laughter.
Once in L.A., he quickly found work on a construction crew. He helped build and remodel several homes and other buildings in the San Fernando Valley.
As his daughter Lucia Gomez, 30, remembers, he was good at the work he did and enjoyed making things with his hands. Finding work wasn't always easy, and his life was seldom so. Still, Gaspar smiled.
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"He was just so happy even if life was throwing rocks at him," Lucia remembered of her father. "He was still smiling, still looking at the positive side."
Gaspar's marriage to Maria did not last, but they had four beautiful children. The kids would spend summers with their dad, an avid lover of dancing and backyard carne asadas.
"If a good song came on, he would stomp his foot with so much happiness," Lucia recalled. "And when the song ended he would tap and sing 'tan tan' every single time."
She remembers her dad taking them to a restaurant in Van Nuys called La Perla.
"It was more of an adult place, of course," Lucia said, "but they had a little dance floor and he loved it because they had dancing."
Not long after the divorce, Gaspar went through a deeply sad period and he didn't see his children for three years. But Lucia said he battled his way out of the darkness, thanks in large part to his second wife, Elba.
"She really changed his life," Lucia said. "She really got him to follow the correct path again and be a better person."
Gaspar and Elba raised two more daughters of their own in Pacoima, where Gaspar continued working, smiling and dancing, even during the pandemic.
Lucia isn't sure how or where her dad contracted the virus.
But on April 14, Gaspar started feeling sick. Twenty-four hours later, he was admitted to the hospital with a high fever and difficulty breathing.
He fought the virus for 20 long days in the hospital until his doctors saw no more hope, and his family finally decided it was time to let him go.
His condition wasn't improving. His doctors told Lucia and Elba that it was just a matter of time: They could let him go now, in peace, or he could hang on a little longer, in pain and with no chance of recovery.
"It was hard for Elba to make that decision. She just couldn't make it," Lucia recalled. "And I had to make a decision of saying it's best that we let him go because it's selfish of us to keep him like that, you know? I didn't want him to be in more pain and die in pain. He doesn't deserve that. That's not how I want to remember him."
Gaspar died on May 3, 2020.
He is survived by his wife Elba; daughters Lucia, Maria, Stacie, Janette and Sara; and by his son, Cristian.
The family has established a gofundme page for funeral expenses.