Gerry Rangel – Gone but not forgotten online
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Gerry Rangel

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Every Christmas Eve for the past decade, Gerry Rangel dressed in a black coat and sunglasses to act as Santa Claus’ bodyguard at a family party that brought together dozens of his relatives in his hometown of Long Beach, California. The 39-year-old, who used to work as a bouncer, would escort St. Nick around the party, shooing away the little ones to give him some space. “It was the most hilarious thing,” his cousin Erika Alvarez told BuzzFeed News. But for 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the family decided not to see each other for the holidays, hoping that by staying home they would be able to safely get together sometime in 2021. Then in December, as California’s case numbers and hospitalizations began to spike, Gerry, his brother Oscar Rangel, and their parents got COVID-19. On Christmas night, Gerry, who had diabetes, was feeling dizzy and short of breath, so he called 911. Paramedics checked him out, told him to get some rest, and said to call urgent care if his symptoms worsened, his family said. The next day, he died at home. “We’re just at a loss now,” Oscar said. “A part of us is just gone, and that's never going to come back.” Shortly before his death, he finished his first semester of a master’s program in therapy and counseling at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. He hoped to one day be a school counselor and even talked about starting a youth center, said Cross, Gerry’s friend since high school. “We never thought we would have got it. We all got it, and unfortunately we had a brother that passed away,” Oscar said. “It's just so easy to get it. It just happened so quick. All these people are saying it's fake or it's not real or it's not going to happen to me, but it’s happening. This is real.”