The Mountain West News Bureau is talking to friends and relatives of those who lost their lives to COVID-19.
Luis Frias was an international dancer who took his two daughters wherever he performed on tour. His eldest, Luisa, remembers playing on the beach in Australia and watching packed stadiums from the Superdome in New Orleans to Madison Square Garden.
"A troupe of six people to fill an entire stadium. I mean, they would get standing ovations. They were amazing performers," Luisa said.
Luis Frias grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and began training as a traditional folk dancer when he was 12. He left to perform his style of malambo around the world. He eventually settled down in Las Vegas and became a dealer in the casinos.
Luisa said her dad was a kind and passionate man who "loved really hard."
"He would always wear his heart on his sleeve," she said. "So, if he was upset, he would not be able to hide it."
Luisa said that compassion is something he taught to both her and her younger sister.
"He just gave us unconditional love, just unconditional love … I don't think I really realized how amazing that is, and also how difficult that is to do as a parent – because now I'm a parent," she said, laughing.
COVID-19 claimed Luis Frias' life on April 25. He was 65.
His younger daughter, Lauren, remembers how her dad supported her when she started performing herself in high school.
"He'd come to every show, and he'd always have flowers on the first night, and then he'd show up by himself every night after that," Lauren said.
It wasn't just family who got that love, she said. Her friends did, too.
"The friends that I've had specifically that didn't have good relationships with their father, sort of adopted my dad and loved him more," she said. "I think he was sort of a father figure to people that needed it, even if they didn't know they needed it."
Lauren is a dance instructor who moved to New Zealand three years ago. Her father didn't discourage her.
"He said 'do whatever you want,' always," she said.
And then he made sure to express his love and support every time they spoke on the phone.
"He would say, 'I'm proud of you. I love you. You're doing such a good job,' " Lauren said. "He had this sort of cluster of compliments and support that he would say at the end of each phone call, almost like we weren't going to talk again."
Lauren said her dad was rehabbing from complications stemming from his diabetes when he contracted the coronavirus. After a few days, he seemed to be on the mend. Then, she said his lungs crashed again.
Because of the pandemic, they couldn't see their dad in the hospital.
"He didn't want us to worry about him, and he said, 'It's fine, I'm OK, let me go, don't feel guilty, don't feel sad. You have your own life to live,' " Lauren recalled him saying during their last phone call.
Lauren's sister, Luisa, said she's thankful they could have that chance to say goodbye.
"I'm just trying to look at the silver lining in this situation," Luisa said. "But I still, I mean, it's been a month. And I still can't believe he's gone sometimes."
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Do you have questions about COVID-19? How has this crisis affected you? Our reporters would love to hear from you. You can submit your question or share your story here.
View more photos and a video of Luis Frias below, courtesy of Luisa Frias.
Clip from the feature documentary tentatively titled “Los Gauchos Latinos.”
Credit: Directed by Alessandro Gentile. Produced by Luisa Frias. Courtesy of Spherical Productions.