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'He Had A Life Ahead Of Him': Remembering An Essential Worker Lost To COVID

Chion Wolf photo

The coronavirus has taken the lives of over 5,600 Connecticut residents. Urbano Sifuentes of West Hartford was among them. For 25 years, Sifuentes worked as a janitor at the University of Hartford.

Speaking in Spanish, his daughter Rosemary Torres remembered him as a generous man who worked hard and had a great sense of humor.

“He was a very, very loving, very tender man. It has been difficult because it was very surprising the way he left us. It was so sudden. He was always cheerful and always joking around.”

The Sifuentes family emigrated from Peru in 1993 and settled in Connecticut. Torres said her father was one of the many essential workers amid the pandemic, holding down two jobs to provide additional income for their family, ensuring that offices were cleaned and disinfected.

“There are many people out there who are essential workers,” she said. “Unfortunately, my father belonged to that community, the Latino community. I’m frustrated and angry that my father is not with us. He had a life ahead of him. He was waiting for his third granddaughter to be born.”

His wife, Marta Matienzo Sifuentes, was also an essential worker, cleaning and disinfecting offices. She retired after losing her husband and said she wants people to know his story.

“I would like for working people to be heard, because these people are exposing their lives day after day in order to survive in this world,” she said.

Urbano Sifuentes is one of 130 members of 32BJ Service Employees International Union along the East Coast who have lost their lives during the pandemic.

His family said they hope that companies will do as much as they can to protect employees as the next wave of COVID-19 threatens to sweep away the lives of Black and Latino essential workers.

Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Brenda covers the Latino/a, Latinx community with an emphasis on wealth-based disparities in health, education and criminal justice.

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