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Lakeland man who visited wife for last goodbye dies of coronavirus

Sam Reck made headlines less than a month ago when he donned PPE to say goodbye to his wife.

LAKELAND, Fla. — Sam and JoAnn Reck spent nearly every day of their 30-year marriage together. 

Now, the Lakeland couple has lost both of their battles with COVID-19.

JoAnn lived at Porter McGrath to receive treatment for dementia, while Sam lived next door at Florida Presbyterian Homes in an apartment they used to share. But when the coronavirus pandemic began, visits to senior care homes were restricted.

The couple and their family had to get creative to keep the visits going. That included JoAnn using her walker to visit Sam on the balcony of their apartment, having chats through Amazon's Alexa and video messages.

JoAnn ended up testing positive for coronavirus, and her condition quickly deteriorated. Sam said he needed to find a way to see his wife in person to say a final goodbye.

"I told Sam that I did not want him to go because he was a 90-year-old man and he's basically walking into a den of lions, 'cause that's a COVID room," JoAnn's son from her first marriage, Scott Hooper, said. "At first, he agreed, but then he later said 'Scott, I have to go, I have to go see your mom'." 

RELATED: A final farewell: 90-year-old Lakeland man wears PPE, risks coronavirus to say goodbye to wife with dementia

Sam went to the Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center. His family shared a video of his goodbye to JoAnn. You can hear Sam, clad in PPE, say:

"I'm finally getting to hold your hand after all these months," as he gave JoAnn's hand a squeeze. 

"Hi honey, hi darling, yeah it's Sam. You don't recognize me with all this junk on my face."

And, "I love you, sweetheart. I love you so much."

JoAnn, 86, died a few days later on July 12, 2020. Now three weeks later, family says Sam, 90, has also died of coronavirus, according to The Ledger and JoAnn's son, Scott.

In a Facebook post, Hooper says "After Sam tested positive for COVID, I asked him if he regretted his visit to the hospital. Without pause he replied, ‘Not one second.’ He said no matter what happens, he was very happy he had the opportunity to say goodbye and hold her hand one more time.” 

Family members tell The Ledger both Sam and JoAnn's cremated remains will be buried together in a memorial garden at Florida Presbyterian Homes.

RELATED: 'Let's find a compromise': Nursing home visits could resume soon, but families want a safe option

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