El Pasoan to honor victims of COVID-19, proposes resolution

El Paso News

Photo courtesy Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — An El Pasoan is joining others around the country in honoring the legacy of a loved one lost to COVID-19.

On Monday, Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper, who lost her mother to COVID-19, is hosting a socially distanced public memorial to help contextualize the magnitude of lives lost to the pandemic.

The memorial vigil is in partnership with The Floral Heart Project, an ongoing effort by artist Kristina Libby to encourage healing, compassion and empathy for those affected by COVID-19 in partnership with 1-800-Flowers.

A floral art installation is at the home of Urenda-Culpepper’s mother, Genevieve Martinez, in East El Paso. Martinez passed from COVID-19 in July 2020.

“My mom’s house was a place of gathering,” said Urenda-Culpepper. “Everyone was welcomed and found shelter in her home. It was a safe place to be happy or sad, grieving or celebrating.”

Urenda-Culpepper said she wants March 1 to be a day to celebrate her mom’s life, as well as the lives of other COVID-19 victims. 

“Her home was warm and full of joy. I can’t think of a better place to celebrate not only her life, but the lives of all El Pasoans,” said Urenda-Culpepper. 

Martinez was a school nurse in El Paso and had a long career that included working in the emergency department, ICU, endoscopy and pain management.

Urenda-Culpepper said Martinez was taking proper precautions and believes an interaction with an unmasked person while helping an elderly person with groceries is where her mother contracted COVID-19.

Urenda-Culpepper is presenting resolutions to local, state and federal officials to proclaim March 1 as “COVID-19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day” as part of the Marked By COVID (MBC) movement. 

MBC is a grassroots movement established by Kristin Urquiza after losing her father to COVID-19 in Arizona in June 2019. The MBC community seeks to transform members’ grief into action by spreading awareness and education on COVID-19.

Urenda-Culpepper began volunteering after her mother’s death last summer. 

Monday’s memorial will feature a six-foot floral garland artistically arranged in the shape of a heart. Attendees are welcome to share their stories. Masks and social distancing are mandatory.

The memorial vigil will take place from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday at 10038 Cork, El Paso, Texas 78825..

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.