‘He always followed her’: Polk husband dies a few days after wife’s death; both tested positive for COVID-19

A Polk County husband and wife who were battling COVID-19 for weeks passed away just a few days apart.

Norma Reyes, 52, died last Friday. Her husband, Elio, was also battling COVID-19, but on Thursday night – hours after speaking to FOX 13 about her mother’s death – their daughter announced on social media that Elio also passed away.

"My dad now follows my mom up to heaven, just like how he always followed her," according to a Facebook post on 18-year-old Bryana Reyes’ page. "There [sic] love was so strong they left not even a week apart."

Norma taught at Purcell Elementary in Mulberry. Back in 2012, she was named the "School-Related State Employee of the Year."

polk husband and wife

She taught Hispanic children who didn’t know how to speak English, her 21-year-old son E.J. Reyes told FOX 13.

Even while she was hospitalized, she didn’t stop teacher. Her children told FOX 13 that Normal continued sharing her final lessons from a bed in Lakeland Regional Hospital. 

For weeks, through much of July and August, she posted on Facebook about her fight against COVID-19. Some days she was down and some days she was up. 

"Going back to her old self, messing around and goofing around with the nurses," Bryana told FOX 13 on Thursday. "But the next day she felt tired. She wanted to sleep the whole time." 

Then, her husband, Elio, was hospitalized in July. At one point, they shared the same hospital room together, fighting.

"COVID is really taking a toll on this family," said E.J.

READ: With COVID-19 misinformation on social media, Polk sheriff stresses importance of listening to doctors

He said his parents didn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine. When it became available, E.J. said they still had questions about the shot and wanted to know more about the effects and whether it could work at all.

"But it was just too late," he added.

MORE: Florida woman hospitalized with COVID-19 comes home to find husband dead of COVID-19

The couple also had underlying health conditions. Norma was diagnosed with emphysema and Elio had heart issues. Both had struggled with diabetes. 

"I love you dad you were my best friend someone I could always talk to without even thinking about it," Bryana’s Facebook post read in part. "Fly high dad and go dancing with mom, I love you both so much and will miss y’all more then [sic] y’all could ever know."

"I have such loving and beautiful angels looking over me now.. forever and always…may y’all rest in paradise and dance forever."

LINK: Friends have set up a GoFundMe to help with expenses. For more information visit https://gofund.me/a13d96ab.