'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.

this broke my heart 🥺 rip lonnie https://t.co/xEmHWEnQFA

— allyⓋ (@allysonvestal) April 9, 2020

i'm so sad. RIP Lonnie and thank you Jamal for sharing such a sweet special relationship with the rest of the world. we needed it then and we need it now https://t.co/AbvfVumuLJ

— 🍒 (@actualbullshit) April 9, 2020

This is heartbreaking... they shared so much love with us for so many years. RIP Lonnie and praying for the family and friends affected by his loss💔 https://t.co/ZU1sCfEB5O

— Joelle Hitechew (@jojoachew) April 9, 2020

Damn RIP Lonnie Dench. Within the evil world that is the internet, Your story was a beam of light that inspired me over the years. #RIPLonnieDench

— MrHydePark 🇹🇹🇧🇿 (@GinoThree) April 9, 2020

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 https://t.co/Wqwi3cH5x3

— constantlycravingcookies (@LoveNadily) April 9, 2020

I know we joke a lot on twitter but 2020 is definitely taking a toll on everyone. Probably the most wholesome story to come from twitter. RIP Lonnie. Be safe out here y’all smh https://t.co/3XWC8XZUIc

— SOUL (@SoulKingLives) April 9, 2020

#RipLonnie genuine tears fell as I realized what happened, and who Lonnie was. Thanksgiving will never be the same again, man. And Wanda has it, too .. 2020 really the worst year EVER

— {ig : teenrelato} (@teenrelato) April 9, 2020

this one hurt. RIP Lonnie. you had such a kind heart ❤️ wanda has to pull through!!! https://t.co/kV0qs5ctiK

— 𝔎𝔦𝔞𝔯𝔞 ❁ (@kiaralyle_) April 9, 2020

This is so sad. RIP Lonnie. The connection between Jamal and Wanda always highlights the best of humanity. https://t.co/bX13sgIySu

— Erika D. Castanon (@errikadenise55) April 9, 2020

Everyone on Twitter loves you guys. RIP Lonnie https://t.co/72fw6wYbX3

— hetrosexual rigamarole (@labubbakeith) April 9, 2020

Love you.

Thanksgiving will never be canceled.

RIP Lonnie. 💙 https://t.co/LjtkPgg0IP

— Tiffany J. (@frenchrican_t) April 9, 2020

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

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

Hygiene advice

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  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.