CORONA, Calif. (KABC) -- For the family of Joe Soto, the pain of his death is one thing, but for COVID-19 to rob them of hugging and kissing him one last time is an unspeakable grief.
Maria Tinder says she asked the nurse just to squeeze her dad's hand for them and tell him they love him and she did.
She says it was so painful for every caregiver at the hospital who helped him and who served as their hands and their voices for him when he needed it.
Joe Soto, better known as "Pops" to his family, and to everyone who loved him was not only a cherished family man, but also a revered and respected educator in the Corona Unified School District for just over half a century.
Former student Jessica Antunes says she kept in contact with Soto after she graduated high school in 2007. She says he had a huge impact in her life.
Soto retired the same year Antunes graduated high school. Antunes graduating would not have happened if Soto hadn't inspired her to finish.
"He genuinely saved all of our lives," she said.
She adds if he had not shown them such love, she doesn't know where they would be.
Sonny Soto says he has great memories of his father, including all the lessons he taught him.
A heartbroken Sonny reflected on his father's unconditional love for his family and for countless troubled students who he taught to reach beyond their broken lives, to find that star within themselves to succeed.
Sonny says his dad was just loved by everyone. He says his dad poured good into everyone he came across.
Antunes adds he must have saved hundreds of lives during his days teaching continuation high school. She says he gave all of his students tough love, like a father.
COVID-19 ended Soto's life, but it cannot touch his rich legacy. That is indestructible.
Longtime Corona educator who lost battle with COVID-19 remembered as loving father, inspiring mentor