Jamal Hinton announced on Twitter that Lonnie Dench, his “accidental” grandfather, passed away from COVID-19
It’s a story that’s touched our hearts every Thanksgiving for the last four years. In 2015, Wanda Dench sent a text inviting her grandson to dinner. She didn’t know she had sent the text to the wrong number. But when Jamal Hinton answered and said he’d love to sit down to a family meal with the Denches, the exchange went viral and a beautiful tradition was born. Every year since, Wanda and her husband, Lonnie, have opened their home on Thanksgiving to Hinton, his girlfriend, and his family, and Jamal documents their festivities online. Now, Jamal has taken to social media to announce that Lonnie has died from COVID-19.
Hinton had been sharing updates about his “accidental” grandparents, both of whom contracted COVID-19, on Twitter.
He soon had good news about Wanda’s fight.
Also for those asking Wanda is not sick— Jamal Hinton (@kingjamal08) April 9, 2020
But then, Hinton shared the devastating news alongside a heartbreaking note: “Thanksgiving 2020 is canceled.”
“As some of you may have already found out tonight Lonnie did not make it…he passed away Sunday morning,” Hinton added. “But Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that!”
Tributes poured in from every corner of the internet, where people were devastated to hear that someone from such a touching, feel-good story had fallen victim to COVID-19.
This is so heartbreaking.
I’ve been following their thanksgiving story and look forward to the photos every year. https://t.co/3FC8cZbc7W
— Kaj-Erik Eriksen™️ (@KajEriksen) April 9, 2020
Wanda released a statement about her husband, stating in part that “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.” She also said that Lonnie was the first to greet everyone on Thanksgiving and the last to see guests out the door when it was time to say goodbye. Now, he’s one of the thousands of people in the U.S. who lost their battle with COVID-19.
Lonnie’s death is a reminder to all of us that this disease doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can become severely ill or die from COVID-19, and we all need to do our part to keep the virus from spreading and save as many lives as possible. That means following social distancing protocols for as long as it’s needed, and only going out in public if it’s for essential reasons, like getting groceries or going to a pharmacy (though avoid doing both those things during this current, critical, week). Working together is the only way we can make it out of this pandemic with as little heartbreak as possible. RIP Lonnie.