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'He lived the American Dream': Jacksonville husband, father dies from COVID-19 day after 66th birthday

Romeo Bungubung died after spending eight days in a Jacksonville hospital. He and his family immigrated to the US from the Philippines eight years ago.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — If there is one thing life teaches us, it's there is no promise of tomorrow.

So Romeo Bungubung's family is taking Wednesday to honor him.

"That phone call - it plays back and hearing the other end of that call and remembering that night," said Bungubung's son-in-law Jeremy Gray.

Romeo Bungubung was diagnosed with COVID-19 a day after checking into Memorial Hospital about two weeks ago. His daughter said he was complaining of back pain, possibly from kidney stones.

Doctors didn't find any, but the father and husband spent eight days in the ICU. He died a day after his 66th birthday.

"He passed away on the 16th. It was a Thursday, a week later. His birthday was on the 15th of July," said Gena Bungubung, his daughter. 

Gena Bungubung said her father wanted more for his family, so eight years ago they immigrated to the US from the Philippines. She says he looked forward to becoming a US citizen and would study during his night shift at a Jacksonville Assisted Living facility.

His dream, the American Dream, came true last December.

Credit: Courtesy: Jeremy Gray
Romeo Bungubung, bottom right, died July 16 after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

"When we first met, that was one of the things we always talked about," Gray said. "'We are going to work hard and get our citizenship.'"

Romeo's wife of 35 years couldn't see him in the hospital. She also tested positive for COVID-19.

The family is looking for support in planning a funeral, an unexpected loss creating unexpected expenses. They created a GoFundMe page to help pay for Romeo's funeral costs.

"It just goes to show you in the toughest of times, people can still come together and support one another," Gray said.

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