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Every day, health officials, politicians and journalists pour over updated numbers meant to shed light on the COVID-19 pandemic in Utah. But each statistic represents a person — including each number in the death count. In the past nine months, hundreds of Utahns have lost their lives due to the disease. As 2020 comes to a close, KUER is remembering the lives of a few of them.

More Than A Number: Remembering Dolores Horta

An illustration of Dolores Horta.
Renee Bright
Dolores Horta died at the age of 75 from COVID-19.

Dolores Horta grew up in the Philippines, lived around the world and the country and died of COVID-19 in October at the age of 75. She dedicated much of her adult life to teaching others about the Bible and raising her children.

She met her husband while he was stationed in the Philippines with the U.S. military. They lived in Germany, Spain and California before moving to Layton, Utah in the late 1990s, and had three children together.

Their son, Robert Horta, said Dolores began her life’s work of teaching others about the Bible after her younger son drowned in a pool while they were on vacation.

“Ever since that she basically learned everything about the Bible,” he said. “She had it memorized.”

He said his mom would talk to anyone about her religion.

“We had the Hells Angels that lived down the street and she ... talked to them about the Bible,” he said. “They were more on the mean side to begin with. But, you know, she didn't care.”

Her husband, Carlos Horta, said his favorite memories of Dolores were the adventures they had together.

“Just being with her and the children,” he said, “Going to parks and recreation places because I had a Volkswagen van.”

The couple contracted COVID-19 in October and they were hospitalized around the same time. Carlos got better, but Dolores didn’t.

The family said goodbye to her through a hospital window while on a phone call with Carlos, who was allowed to be in the room, covered head to toe in personal protective equipment. Dolores was too weak to speak, but he got to say goodbye to his wife of 54 years in person.

“I teared up and said, ‘I can't talk anymore,” he recalled. “So I told her how much I loved her and I missed her so much. She's such a wonderful woman and loved by everybody. She was too young to go.”

Dolores, who had open heart surgery about a year earlier, died on Oct. 30. Carlos said, sometimes, when he’s sitting at home by himself, he still feels like she’s around.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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