'Forever Essential' memorial honors SoCal frontline health care workers who died of COVID

COMMERCE, Calif. (KABC) -- An emotional vigil in Commerce on Monday honored the lives of health care workers who died of COVID-19 after serving on the front lines of the pandemic.

The Forever Essential memorial service was held outside the Service Employees International Union's United Healthcare Workers hall, where portraits and brief biographies paid tributes to those who died.

While the most common image of essential health care employees is those of doctors and nurses, it also includes lab technicians, janitors and food-service workers -- those behind the scenes.

Those who attended the vigil said their loved ones knew the risks and yet still gave their lives to help those in need.

"I'm here to honor my beautiful fiancée, Ramona Everett," said Anthony Martinez, his voice choked with emotion. "She was an essential distribution tech in Modesto, Doctors Medical Center, for 28 years.

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"She did a courageous fight, battling COVID for 30-plus days."

Nathan Lopez said he was honoring his father, who worked in the housekeeping department at Kaiser Permanente in Anaheim.

"He did the inside work, he was on the front lines," Lopez said.

According to the World Health Organization, some 180,000 health care workers have died worldwide since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
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