South Bay Family Honors Grandfather Who Died Of COVID-19

South Bay grandfather Antonio Arellano, 80, passed away from the coronavirus on July 31. To honor Arellano's legacy, his son decided to get a memorial tattoo of his father's portrait on his arm

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Sitting inside the Standard Tattoo Parlor Shop in Chula Vista was Marco Arellano. He spoke with NBC 7 as he got a portrait tattoo of his late father who passed away from the coronavirus.

Described as an outgoing, friendly and giving man, Antonio Arellano, 80, was beloved by many. He was affectionately known as "Papa Tony."

"He just loved life, loved to wear his cowboy hat," said his son Marco Arellano, known as "Rabbit."

"He was the type of person, he would go to your house and he didn't know how to ring the doorbell once," said Marco with a smile. "He would ring it about 20, 30, times it was like ding ding ding ding and then would say, I'm home, I'm here! And we'd say, dad why? And he said that's just me!'"

Antonio Arellano immigrated to San Diego from Michoacán, Mexico after serving in the Mexican army.

"He had a very very beautiful life," said Marco Arellano, one of Tony's three children.

2020 has been tough for the Arellano's. Antonio Arellano 80th birthday party in March was cancelled due to the pandemic. Then in June, Marco Arellano, a proud mechanic for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, was forced to slow down.

"I had a stroke, I had a mild stroke," he shared. "So, my right side went out, my legs, arms, everything."

As Marco was recovering his father was by his side.

"He was our hero, he inspired us because he came from a very poor family so when he came to the states he said, 'You know what, I'm going to make it big here'," Marco Arellano said.

The immigrant father was determined for his family to succeed in America. He was a hard worker who spent decades as a truck driver.

"I know he felt in his heart he was proud of his three kids," Marco Arellano said.

Following his retirement, Antonio Arellano continued to give back to the South Bay community and traveled the world. His last journey was his fight against COVID-19.

"My brother, sister, grand kids, we were always calling him and asking, 'How are you doing Grandpa?' And he would say this: 'I'm doing great, in bed relaxing. Nothing is wrong with me, I just have body aches, that's it, just body aches. Nothing more, nothing less," Marco Arellano said.

On the 11th day of Tony's coronavirus diagnosis he was struggling to breathe. He was rushed to the hospital.

"The doctor told us within four hours his whole kidneys, heart and his lungs were full of the virus and there was nothing they could really do about it," he remembered.

Marco said his father had diabetes and high blood pressure, but would never complain as he was also a man full of life, joy and energy.

"So we had to make that horrible decision that if it's his time, it's his time, so at 10:22 on a Friday he went home," he said.

The beloved patriarch of the Arellano family passed on July 31.

Melissa Adan
Marco Arellano getting a tattoo of his father who passed away to COVID-19.

"We told him, 'Hey dad, safe travels, say hi to our mom and you know, see you when we see you again,'" he shared.

For now portraits of Marco Arellano's parents are inked on his arm for a daily reminder of his heroes.

"So when I'm driving or feel sad and I think of him I can say, 'There you are dad, and mom," he said as he looked down at his freshly painted tattoo.

No one else in the Arellano family contracted the virus. They've all tested negative multiple times. Since, Marco said he's blessed his family was recently able to give the father a proper burial.

The Standard Tattoo Parlor Shop owner is offering memorial portrait tattoo's for those who have lost a loved one to the coronavirus.

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