San Antonio, we lost one of our H-E-B heroes.
Richard Ortega Sr. died on Feb. 18 after fighting for his life in the hospital for nearly two months. He tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 8 and battled the complications from the virus until his final days, his family told MySA.com. He was 55.
His son, Richard Ortega Jr., said his father worked in the produce department at the H-E-B on 410 and Bandera for 38 years. Ortega Jr. said his dad loved his time at H-E-B, explaining he stayed so long because the people at his store treated him like family.
“He had a love and a passion for the store,” Ortega Jr. said. “He was a mentor to a lot of people. H-E-B was his second family and second home.”
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The father of four showed so much love for H-E-B that three of his children decided to join the company, and the same store as well. Ortega Jr., 35, and his brother Rico, 23, started last month while their sister DeAnn, 18, became a partner a year-and-a-half ago. Ortega Sr. also leaves behind his oldest daughter Dorothy-Ann, 31, and his wife of 35 years, Dora-Ann.
“Everyone at the store was pretty much crushed when they found out the news,” Ortega Jr. said. “Once he passed, we got tons of messages and texts from people who worked there, saying how great of a worker and person he was. He was pretty special.”
H-E-B released a statement to MySA.com about the loss of one of their partners.
“Our entire H-E-B family is saddened, and our heartfelt sympathies go out to our partner’s family and friends,” the company said. “The pandemic has taken its toll on Texas, and H-E-B will stand by our fellow Texans in any situation our H-E-B family and communities might face.”
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Ortega Jr. said he and his family would like to thank everyone at the H-E-B store on 410 and Bandera for checking on them during this time. He noted his father’s boss and director were in constant communication with them and would personally deliver groceries to them if needed.
His son added that he hopes everyone remembers his dad as the fun, loving, and outgoing person that he was. The elder Ortega was known to enjoy being a DJ on the side, coaching youth sports and spending time with his three grandchildren. He also wants others to remember to mask up.
“This can happen to anybody,” he said. “We can’t be so blinded or closed-minded. It doesn’t matter what your race is or how old or young you are. It could happen, and sometimes it happens unexpectedly. You have to mask up and wash your hands and follow all the CDC guidelines. You are never prepared for when this happens, so when it does, it’s a shock.”
Ortega Jr. said his father was healthy and had no underlying health conditions that he or his family knew of. He mentioned his mother, two sisters and brother are currently recovering from COVID-19. He said all are OK as symptoms aren’t severe.
Priscilla Aguirre is a general assignment reporter for MySA.com | firstname.lastname@example.org | @CillaAguirre