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Family loses third member to COVID-19 virus complications

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The family of the well-known Alamo Navajo high school basketball coach who died of COVID-19 is mourning the loss of a third relative to complications caused by the virus.

Ira Pino Sr. (Pino Family Photo)

Ira Pino Sr., 65, was already hospitalized in Albuquerque when his wife, Marie, died from the virus May 13. Their son, Marcus Pino Sr., died April 16. And Ira died Sunday.

“To lose a third family member to this is just devastating,” Ira and Marie’s daughter Natalie Pino told the Journal. She said the family was hopeful after tests showed her father was recovering from the illness that sent him to the hospital just a few days after Marie, a longtime teacher at Alamo Navajo Community School, was hospitalized.

“But his lungs never recovered,” Natalie Pino said. She also believed her father died of a broken heart, not wanting to be separated from his wife of 40 years.

He is the fifth person from the reservation to die from a COVID-19 related illness since the outbreak began. The Alamo Navajo Reservation is an isolated part of the Navajo Nation with a population of about 2,000 in northwest Socorro County.

Natalie Pino said her father, who was pastor at Alamo Miracle Church, came down with coronavirus about the same time as her mother and experienced many of the same symptoms. They became ill a couple of weeks after their son died.

Their son Marcus was the high school basketball coach at the school where his mother taught and was also an employee with the reservation’s water department.

Ira Pino Sr. had been hospitalized for about 20 days before he died, his daughter said. He went into the hospital after he started experiencing “shortness of breath.” Natalie Pino said her family did not know where her parents caught the virus. Natalie Pino said no other family members had the virus.

“And hopefully no one else will get sick,” she said.

Natalie Pino described her father as “loving, welcoming.”

“He was a stand up person who got straight to the point. But to us, his family, he was just dad and grandpa,” she said.

Ira Pino Sr. was a life-long resident of Alamo, his daughter said. He met his wife, Marie, when both were in school at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

He had been a wildland firefighter, worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and helped build the Emergency Medical Services program at Alamo, serving as an EMT and EMT coordinator for 18 years.

Socorro County Manager Michael Hawkes — who served as CEO of the Alamo Navajo School Board, Inc., which also oversaw emergency services — described Ira Pino as “hardworking and dedicated to his job.”

Hawkes and Socorro County Commission Chairwoman Martha Salas, who represents Alamo, believe things are improving on the reservation. While the reservation makes up a significant portion of the 51 positive cases in the county, Salas said there has not been a positive case in 11 days.

And Hawkes said Navajo Nation Police had been on the reservation in the past couple of weeks enforcing regulations. Hawkes said he believed more than 30 people were cited for violating curfew.

In addition to Natalie, Ira Pino’s survivors include sons Ira Pino Jr. and Anderson Pino, and daughters Cheryl Ganadonegro and Ivonne Boggs. He had 17 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Natalie Pino said funeral services have not been set yet for her father. Because of the pandemic, she said graveside services were held for her brother, Marcus, and mother, Marie. GoFundMe pages have been set up for both Ira and Marie Pino to cover funeral expenses.

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