As Yakima County remains in Phase 3 under Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 Healthy Washington plan, spring is in bloom with the hopeful feeling that life is returning with a current sense of normalcy.

Like the confident flow of farm fresh water from intersecting lower valley canals, the stream of health information and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has accelerated across the county – vaccine eligibility expanded to all residents over the age of 16 on April 15.

Although the sunshine radiance of spring typically marks the beginning for cultivated and bountiful growth, some local families continue to grapple with life’s uncertainties caused by the pandemic.

Carlos Chavez, Jr. and father to Karla, his two-year-old daughter, unexpectedly passed away on April 8 from complications due to COVID-19. A Sunnyside High School Class of 2009 alumnus, he was twenty-nine years old.

“He was a great dad to his little girl, and he loved her very much. He was always taking caring of her,” Ezequiel ‘Zeke’ Chavez Nunez, who is Carlos’ brother, said during an interview on Monday, April 19.

The twenty-five-year-old described Carlos as a person who brought people together and enjoyed communicating with them from the heart, which would inspire an energized smile and soulful laughter.

“To me, well my brother, he was always like cool with everybody. So, even when he first met you, he could talk to you about anything. Right away he connects with people,” he expressed.

Chavez Nunez advocates the proactive side for getting vaccinated in the wake of his brother’s death. People should be concerned about protecting not only themselves but others, he said. They may not know their medical history and could possibly have a health condition that puts them in a high-risk category.

“Everyone is different, and it doesn’t matter if you’re healthy or not, the virus affects people in different ways,” he stated.

A GoFundMe account has been setup to help the family with funeral expenses and anything Karla may need now that her dad has passed away at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-memory-of-carlos-chavez-jr.

On the website, Chavez Nunez wrote that if people are unable to donate, prayers to Karla, his mother, brothers, and the rest of the family are appreciated. As of Tuesday, $5,165 had been received.

“It’s still tough, but we’re hanging in there and trying to do the best possible to get through this hard time.”

Friends, like barbers Ricardo Navarro of Sunnyside and Mario Alvarez of Grandview, joined in the generous and supportive efforts and contributed their talents and money to help out the family.

Navarro, a former SHS classmate, hosted a haircut fundraiser and booked appointments using ‘Square App’ at Hair Pins, 107 Zillah Ave., on Monday, April 12.

“Carlos always appreciated a good haircut. Being here and giving good haircuts to people, it makes me feel good,” Navarro acknowledged. “Every time he would get his haircut, he was always happy. He was just always happy.”

Alvarez from Finishing Touch, 129 W. 2nd St., was sitting in the salon chair as Navarro used a straight edge razor on his beard. He recalled how Chavez was one of the first clients who gave him an opportunity to show off his barber skills.

“Every time he sat down in my chair with his big character, we just communicated together real cool. Laugh and always smiling,” he fondly reminisced out loud.

The two professionals had never met before but shared a mutual big friend connection – Chavez.

“He was always just a ball of sunshine,” Navarro voiced with a joyful laugh while Alvarez chuckled in harmony.”

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email PShelby@SunnysideSun.com

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