A food service worker from the Austin Independent School District has died after contracting coronavirus, district officials announced.
Known by colleagues and friends for her sense of humor and laughter, Patricia “Pati” Hernandez, 51, a cook at Casis Elementary School, tested positive for coronavirus and died at an area hospital last week. The district announced her passing to local media on Monday.
Hernandez had worked in the Austin schools since 2002, and at Casis Elementary School for the last 10 years.
In a letter to parents, Casis Principal Samuel Tinnon said, “Pati was considered a loyal, faithful, and hardworking individual–who found great joy in serving the students of our school and district.”
“Ms. Hernandez will be greatly missed, and our prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to her family and loved ones,” Tinnon wrote, according to a copy of the letter posted on the local ABC television affiliate’s news website.
District officials have said they cannot confirm Hernandez’s cause of death, but the Austin American Statesman reported that local health officials declared Hernandez as the fourth victim in Travis County to die from coronavirus.
Austin school district officials did not return requests for comment.
Hernandez’s friends remembered her spirit and passion for her job in a digital eulogy.
Ruth Ann Garza, food services manager at Casis elementary, recalled starting her workday for about seven years every morning over coffee with Hernandez. The two would talk about family, friends and “things we wanted to do while we prepared food at school.”
“Patricia was my teacher, I learned a lot of things from her, she had a great sense of humor, she would laugh at my jokes if they weren’t that funny but always laughing. Patricia was an amazing cook, everything she made was great, she made a great chicken salad!
“We were co-workers but most of all we were friends.”
Another person who commented on the digital eulogy said Hernandez was “always smiling and laughing and telling jokes.”
“She loved all of her kids equally and was kind enough to let me into her home and accept me without question. She was a beautiful person and I know she will be missed.”
Laura Copeland, a lunchroom monitor at Casis elementary, said in the remarks posted online that Hernandez had a “contagious laugh that I looked forward to every day.”
“I am going to miss seeing her once school starts; always smiling. Miss you, Patricia! You’re looking down on all of us.”