PHOENIX, Ariz. (KPHO/KTVK) - An Arizona family who opened their home to a stranger on Thanksgiving is suffering a loss from the coronavirus.
You may remember the story of the grandmother who accidentally texted a teenager inviting him to Thanksgiving in 2016.
After exchanging a few messages, the teen did in fact join the family for dinner, which became a yearly tradition.
The grandmother, Wanda Dench, says her husband has passed away from COVID-19.
For four years, Wanda and Lonnie Dench opened their home and their hearts to Jamal Hinton and his girlfriend Mikaela, plus their families, on Thanksgiving. The happy times were the result of an accidental text message Wanda Dench meant to send to her real grandson in 2016.
Lonnie Dench sent a text message to reporter Briana Whitney on March 10, saying he was delivering water to grocery stores at night and seeing pictures from the past Thanksgivings made him smile during a time of panic for so many.
He had no idea he would come down with the COVID-19 virus just weeks later that would ultimately take his life.
"He had the truest heart of love, like no other. He did so many acts of kindness that no one ever heard about. He was my hero. And I'm a better person because of him,” said Wanda Dench.
Lonnie Dench was the first to greet everyone on Thanksgiving and the last to say goodbye.
He now leaves behind a community thankful to have been just a small part of his Thanksgiving that reminded the world what giving thanks and genuine love really is all about.