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Teacher Who Died Of COVID-19 Was Loved By His Students

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Rene Chavez is one of the 200,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19. He taught high school English in El Paso, Texas, for 16 years. His wife, Annette Chavez, says his students loved him.

ANNETTE CHAVEZ: He would see these kids grow, where, like in the beginning, they weren't doing good, they weren't listening, they challenge authority. And it got to the point that kids were actually requesting to be put in his class. I have co-workers who said, oh, yeah, your husband taught me. He was a cool teacher (laughter).

NOEL KING, HOST:

Rene and Annette Chavez both got COVID-19. She recovered, but Rene was on immune-suppressing drugs from a kidney transplant. He died at the end of June.

INSKEEP: They were married almost 20 years, having met in high school when Rene made Annette laugh in class. Right now she says she's missing his sense of humor.

CHAVEZ: If I got mad at him, he would sit there and joke around with me. He's like, see - he goes, I made you laugh; I'm off the hook (laughter). And the other thing is just feeling his presence here - you know, anything from, ah, get that cockroach, you know (laughter) - you know, to, hey, what was that noise, you know?

You know, he wanted to be cremated, so I have him here at the house. And while he was gone, I didn't feel that sense of security. But once his ashes showed up at my house, it feels like he's here, like I'm not empty.

INSKEEP: Annette Chavez recalling her husband Rene Chavez, an El Paso teacher who died of COVID-19 at age 45.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.