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‘He’s More Than Just A Number’: A Daughter Remembers Her Father Who Died From COVID-19

Angelina Proia and her dad, Richard Proia, who died from COVID-19 in April. (Courtesy)
Angelina Proia and her dad, Richard Proia, who died from COVID-19 in April. (Courtesy)

As of this week, more than 200,000 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19.

Richard Proia, an accountant from Rochester, New York, is one of those hundreds of thousands who lost their lives to the coronavirus. The 66-year-old, who died in April, left behind a grieving family who are still finding their footing after losing their beloved dad, daughter Angelina Proia says.

On April 1, Richard Proia was sick with a urinary tract infection. At the time, doctors didn’t suspect it was the coronavirus, Angelina Proia says. On April 3, he began to feel lethargic and went to the hospital.

But at the hospital, she says he exhibited no fever and normal breathing levels, so medical professionals sent him back home without administering a coronavirus test.

Just a few days later, he was found delirious in his apartment with a 103-degree fever, she says. He was placed on a ventilator for 10 days — and never came off. He died on April 16.

Because of quarantining restrictions, the initial grieving process was amplified, Angelina Proia says. The funeral was limited to only 10 people, and since he was cremated, a wake for friends and family to pay their respects wasn’t in the cards.

She started a Facebook group called COVID-19 Loss Support For Family & Friends because she says there weren’t any resources readily available to help her and others who had lost a loved one to the virus. There was clearly a need for collective grieving and resources— with more than 2,400 members now in the group.

“Because the grieving process is so unique, we can really understand those nuanced things that happen when someone dies of COVID-19, like the isolated grief process,” she says. “We also understand how it feels to have people who say that it’s not real. It makes grieving harder.”

As the Proia family continues to mourn their loss, Angelina Proia reflects on some of the fondest memories she has of her father, such as their regular visits to the Coney Island amusement park. Even in his older years, she says he enjoyed the Sling Shot, a ride that launches thrill seekers more than 150 feet into the air.

Even if she wanted to be mad at him, she couldn’t. His happy demeanor was infectious, she says. He was a caretaker with a kind and gentle spirit.

She wants the world to know that her cherished father is more than just a number.

“He’s not one more tally on the 200,000,” she says through tears. “He’s my dad — and he is missed deeply.”


Ciku Theuri produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku RaySerena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.