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Alamo Navajo woman dies of COVID-19 weeks after son

Marie Pino

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Just weeks ago, Marie Pino was mourning the death of her son, Marcus, a high school basketball coach who was one of the early victims of COVID-19 on the Alamo Navajo reservation.

Now her family is mourning her loss. The longtime teacher died of the virus Wednesday.

“I buried my brother, now I’m going to have to bury my mother,” a tearful Natalie Pino told the Journal.

Marie Pino is the second person to die of COVID-19 on the reservation within the past week. Joseluis Gomez, a longtime emergency technician in the community, died last Sunday.

There have been four deaths related to the virus in the community of about 2,000 people in northwest Socorro County that is a remote part of the Navajo Nation.

Marie Pino, 67, had been interviewed by the Journal following her son Marcus Pino’s death on April 16. He was a coach at Alamo Navajo Community School.

She started feeling sick a couple of weeks after her son died, her daughter said. Marie Pino was taken to the emergency room at Socorro General Hospital – a Presbyterian Healthcare system facility – last week when she had trouble breathing. She was transported to Albuquerque.

“We don’t know what happened,” Natalie Pino said. “We kept testing negative. … We don’t know where exactly she got it.”

She doesn’t believe her mother had any other pre-existing medical conditions.

Marie Pino, who grew up in Sheep Springs, had lived in Alamo more than 40 years. She taught elementary grades for most of those years at the same school where her son coached.

“I knew both her and her son very well – I hired her son,” said Socorro County Manager Michael Hawkes, who had served as the CEO of the Alamo Navajo School Board. “She was a fantastic person. She was kind and loving. She raised fantastic children. She gave so much to her community.”

Marie Pino moved to the reservation after she met and married her husband, Ira Pino Sr., at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. She later earned an education degree at the University of New Mexico, her daughter said.

Marcus Pino, top left, poses for a team photo Feb. 14, the night he won the 100th career game as Alamo Navajo head boys basketball coach. (Courtesy Barbara Gordon, Alamo Navajo Athletic Director)

She described her mother as a down-to-earth person, who was devoted to her Christian faith.

“My mom was loving life,” Natalie Pino said. “She raised us all to have a sense of humor. That’s what I will miss the most, her sense of humor … She always knew what to say. When something happened, she would say, ‘I told you so.’ ”

Natalie Pino believes people on the Alamo Navajo reservation “are just now realizing the seriousness of the virus.”

“People still don’t comply with the regulations put into place (by the Navajo Nation),” she said.

Hawkes said he keeps in constant touch with people on the reservation in his role as county manager. The county, the City of Socorro and other organizations are working to make sure the people there have water and other supplies.

“They are going through some tough times right now,” he said.

In addition to Natalie, Marie Pino’s survivors include her husband; sons Ira Pino Jr. and Anderson Pino; and daughters Cheryl and Ivonne Pino. Natalie Pino said funeral services have not been set yet.

A gofundme account has been set up by Alamo EMTs on Joseluis Gomez’s behalf to pay for his funeral expenses and transportation back to Arizona, where he is from originally.

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