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Husband of grandma who befriended teen through accidental text dies of COVID-19

Lonnie Dench had been in the hospital battling COVID-19 and pneumonia. He passed away Sunday morning.

PHOENIX — A family is mourning the loss of a husband, father and grandfather, and a Phoenix man is mourning the loss of a friend after a couple who gained national attention for their unlikely friendship caught COVID-19.

Their story starts in 2016, when a grandma mistakenly texted a 17-year-old about Thanksgiving.  

Wanda Dench was inviting her family to dinner and accidentally added Jamal Hinton. When he informed her of her mistake, her invitation still stood. 

"That's what grandmas do, feed everybody," her text said. 

Hinton took her up on her offer and posted the text thread on Twitter, and people have been following their story ever since.

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The two strangers became fast friends, and they regularly kept in touch after that first Thanksgiving. But their story went from heartwarming to heartbreaking when Hinton posted that Wanda and her husband, Lonnie, were battling COVID-19. 

Wanda was recovering at home, but Lonnie was in the hospital with the virus and pneumonia on Friday, and Wanda wasn't able to see him, Hinton said in an update posted to YouTube. 

Lonnie passed away from coronavirus-related complications Sunday morning, Hinton said on Twitter Wednesday. 

He said Lonnie was comforted by all the love and support he had been receiving in his final days.

"As some of you may have already found out tonight Lonnie did not make it... he passed away Sunday morning, but Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that!" Hinton wrote. 

In a follow-up tweet on Wednesday, Hinton said Wanda is not sick. 

Hinton also called for Gov. Doug Ducey to "do something" about the coronavirus outbreak in Arizona. 

"Arizona needs to handle this way better than it is! As we see Covid-19 is no joke," Hinton wrote.

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