Luis Rodriguez and his wife, María del Carmen Gómez, pictured with their three daughters. Credit: Génesis Moreno Gomez

Luis Miguel Moreno Rodriguez loved his children, grandchildren, friends, and community, but he especially loved his wife. Spoiling her was one of his favorite hobbies according to Rodriguez’s daughter, Génesis Moreno Gomez.

Before he moved to St. Charles, Rodriguez lived with his wife, María del Carmen Gómez de Moreno, in a two-story house on a busy street in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“In that same neighborhood he met my mom,” Gomez said. “Just a few houses down.”

Rodriguez and Moreno met in elementary school, became high school sweethearts, and married shortly after graduation. 

Sahan Journal COVID-19 Memorial Project

Here at Sahan Journal, we’ve committed to memorializing the lives of Minnesota’s new Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19. Imagine a photo album with all their faces and names. Flipping through the pages, we’d see our family, friends—and, of course, more. 

We’ve begun creating some version of that album and have documented stories about people from the Hmong, Latino, and East African communities. We’re covering people who have disproportionately suffered through this pandemic, by speaking with people who knew and loved them.

“Him and my mom were inseparable,” Gomez said. “He loved her very much, so he really encouraged us to always protect her. He knew one day that he would no longer be here, so I think he left us knowing that she would be okay, because she had us.”

Rodriguez died July 28 at a hospital in Guadalajara from COVID-19. He was 63 years old. 

His family and friends remember him as a hard-worker who cared deeply about his family and his home country. 

Rodriguez grew up with his mother, father, and seven siblings. His father owned a small auto parts business, while his mother stayed home and took care of him and his siblings. After graduating high school, Rodriguez went to college and started working at an airline. He eventually left school to open his own business. 

“Him and my mom just ended up selling clothes in Mexico, they made a living off of that and owned a few stores,” Gomez said.

Their life was prosperous in Mexico, and they made enough money to live comfortably, according to Gomez. However, Mexico faced an economic downturn in the 1990s, which caused Rodriguez and Moreno to lose money.

Rodriguez, his wife, and his children moved to St. Charles in 1995 for more opportunities. He worked at Tuohy Furniture Corporation in Chatfield until 2019.

“It was a whole culture and lifestyle change moving to Minnesota,” Gomez said. “He had to raise his three daughters here, not knowing much English, adjusting to taking us to daycare and trusting people he didn’t really know to care for us.”

They originally lived in Minnesota with visas. But Rodriguez, Moreno, and their three daughters all became American citizens in March. Rodriguez depended on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy to get his daughters through school in the United States. When one of Gomez’s sisters married an American citizen, he helped the family get dual citizenship. 

Gomez said that she felt like her family was able to maintain their Mexican culture, even in Minnesota. 

“We always spoke Spanish at home, so that really helped us retain our language,” Gomez said. “My parents were in their mid-40s when they moved to Minnesota, so they were able to bring their culture, values, and beliefs that they got in Mexico and translate it over to us while raising us in Minnesota.” 

Rodriguez valued frugality and faith and made sure Gomez and her sisters respected their elders. His community saw him as a “silent leader,” according to Gomez.

“He just honestly led by his actions,” Gomez said. “People saw how caring he was and they respected him.” 

By 2019, Rodriguez had worked enough to support his wife and children, and he decided to retire. He bought a new house in Guadalajara and moved there with his wife. The pair were happiest back in Mexico, where they could enjoy romantic dinners and walks on the beach, according to Gomez.

“He was so eager to get back home that he jumped the gun,” Gomez said. “That’s when he got COVID. We couldn’t bring him back to the states.” 

Rodriguez didn’t believe he had contracted COVID-19 at first. He said the healthcare in Mexico was not as good, so he wasn’t sure what to expect from his treatment, according to Gomez. 

“Once he realized what it was, he was afraid,” Gomez said. “Afraid of not knowing.”

Rodriguez had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoked cigarettes.

He was admitted to the hospital, but his family did not give up searching for a way to bring him back to Minnesota, despite not having a passport. They stayed with him in Guadalajara for three weeks—until he passed.

“It was very frustrating for us,” Gomez said. “We live in the state with the best hospital in the nation—the Mayo Clinic. That’s where I work. That’s where my sister works.”

By July 28, Gomez had secured her father a bed in a Mayo Clinic hospital with some difficulty. She had also chartered a medical plane to take the two of them back over the border. They were supposed to leave that morning, but Rodriguez died before he could make it to the plane, according to Gomez.

“We were eventually able to set it up, but it was just too late,” Gomez said. 

Rodriguez is survived by his siblings, Cecilia Lopez, Mercedes Sandoval, Patricia Sandoval, Martha Moreno, Manuel Moreno, Josel Moreno, and Irma Moreno; wife, María del Carmen Gómez de Moreno; daughters, Arely Johnson, Jared Loera, and Génesis Moreno Gomez; grandchildren, Israel Loera, Liam Loera, Amaury Loera, Aryahna Moreno Johnson, and Devin Johnson; as well as his sons-in-law, Reyes Loera, Steve Johnson, and David Scott.

Here’s how you can contribute

We’ve started finding their stories, but we have a long way to go to memorialize Minnesotans from immigrant communities. We’ve expanded this project to include community contributions. If you’ve lost a family member, a friend, or a coworker to the coronavirus, we can honor them with your help.

1. By filling out the form below, your responses will provide us with the information to write an obituary about your loved one.

2. If you share your contact information at the end of the form, a reporter may reach out to learn more about the story you’ve shared. They will also ask for a photo. This step is entirely voluntary: It’s there to help us find out more for the story. 

3. Our reporters will then catalog these stories on Sahan Journal’s website, where readers can remember those who lost their lives to COVID-19, while also learning about what made their lives special.

Emily Pofahl is a senior at the University of Minnesota majoring in journalism and theatre arts.