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Remembering Coronavirus Victim Loretta Dionisio

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Loretta Dionisio. She is one of the people we are remembering today as the U.S. passes more than 100,000 virus deaths. Dionisio died in March at the age of 68. She was a cancer survivor. She was a graphic designer and very proud of her Filipino roots. Her niece, Paula Quijano (ph), said her aunt Letty (ph) was a second mother.

PAULA QUIJANO: So right after aunty Letty passed - maybe, like, a night or two afterwards - I was just thinking of her. And I wanted to hear her voice because I didn't really get to see her, to talk to her before she passed because she was already in the hospital and intubated by the time we - I got there. So I listened to - I went back to all the voicemails. I don't delete my voicemails.

So I went through all of them. And year - every single year, I guess if I didn't answer the phone - I found, like, 2018, 2017, 2016. And there were times when she would call me and I didn't answer. And then she'd call back and say, hi, almost the end of your birthday. But I just wanted to make sure that you got my greeting. And then she'd put - one year, she put my uncle on. And he didn't realize it was a voicemail. And she's like, no. It's her voicemail. Just greet her. Here, I'll play it for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LORETTA DIONISIO: Hi, Paula. It's almost the end of your birthday. I'm calling to see if I could get hold of you. But you're probably celebrating your birthday. So happy birthday to you. And I love you. And Katrina (ph) will be bringing your gift in October. She'll be there, OK? So love you. Bye. And here's Uncle Roddy (ph). He's going to greet you happy birthday, OK? Birthday ni Paula.

RODDY: Hello.

DIONISIO: Just leave a message. You have to leave a message.

RODDY: Happy birthday, Ms. Paula. Hope you have a good one. Bye.

QUIJANO: So - and they were so in love. That was the one thing that, like, was so heartbreaking about all of this is that they were literally, like, to this day, in love with each other. And you always felt it. And she really was like a second mother to me.

And, you know, when you're in your teenage years and fighting with your mom, she was always the one that I could turn to and maybe, like, you know, shed some light on my mom's behavior or, you know, why we decided to stop talking to each other or said the things that we didn't really mean. Like, I don't ever - I don't think you should ever come visit us. And she'd always kind of talk me off the ledge and talk to my mom to make it better.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUDOVICO EINAUDI'S "FOUR DIMENSIONS")

MARTIN: Paula Quijano remembering her aunt, Loretta Dionisio.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUDOVICO EINAUDI'S "FOUR DIMENSIONS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.