'RIP Lonnie' Trends After Husband of Grandma Who Mistakenly Invited Teen to Thanksgiving Dies of Coronavirus

Tributes have been paid to the late husband of an Arizona grandmother who gained viral fame after she inadvertently invited a stranger to Thanksgiving dinner. Lonnie Dench, husband to Wanda Dench, died on Sunday, April 5, days after contracting the coronavirus.

Following news of his death, tens of thousands of people paid their respects on social media, resulting in "RIP Lonnie" becoming one of the top trends on Twitter.

The news was shared on social media by the Thanksgiving stranger turned family friend, Jamal Hinton, who had previously revealed that the Denches had both contracted COVID-19.

Hinton and Wanda Dench are known for striking up an unlikely friendship after she accidentally texted the then 19-year-old in 2016, thinking it was her grandson, to ask if he will be coming around for the holiday meal.

Despite the mix-up, Hinton accepted the invitation and went to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family, and kept up the tradition in 2017, and 2018 and 2019.

On April 2, Hinton shared via Twitter photographs of himself with Lonnie and Wanda Dench while revealing that Lonnie is fighting both COVID-19 and pneumonia.

Today, Hinton shared the news of Lonnie Dench's passing: "As some of you may have already found out tonight Lonnie did not make it... he passed away Sunday morning.

"But Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that. Also for those asking Wanda is not sick."

Wanda paid tribute to her husband in a statement to AZ Family: "He had the truest heart of love, like no other. He did so many acts of kindness that no one ever heard about. He was my hero. And I'm a better person because of him."

Social media users took to the platform to offer their condolences, causing "RIP Lonnie" to trend.

"RIP Lonnie. This is so heartbreaking. I've been following their Thanksgiving story and look forward to the photos every year," tweeted photographer Kaj-Erik Eriksen.

"Wow. Heartbreaking. These people have the kindest and most gentle souls and I always look forward to seeing their reunion every thanksgiving. RIP Lonnie," wrote Twitter user @kwonhannah.

"This is sad. You never know why people come into your life. Be open. Learn to love from one another. Their experience is a great example to live by. #riplonnie," added @LoveNadily.

There are more than 432,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with 14,808 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 24,125 people have managed to recover from the disease.

The map below, provided by Statista, shows confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world as of April 8.

A map showing confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases around the globe as of April 8. Statista

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
'RIP Lonnie' Trends After Husband of Grandma Who Mistakenly Invited Teen to Thanksgiving Dies of Coronavirus | U.S.