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The husband of a grandmother who went viral four years ago after mistakenly inviting a teen she never met before to Thanksgiving dinner has died from complications caused by the coronavirus, according to reports Wednesday.
In 2016, Jamal Hinton, who was 17 and living in Phoenix at the time, received a text message from an unknown number. It was from Wanda Dench, in Mesa, Ariz., who meant to invite her grandson over, but she had the wrong number.
"Thanksgiving dinner is at my house on November 24th at 3PM,” the text said. When Hinton asked who the text was from, Dench responded, “Your grandma.” After exchanging photos of each other, Hinton replied, “You not my grandma. Can I still get a plate tho?”
The text exchange went viral on social media after Hinton shared how the mix-up brought them together. Wanda and Lonnie Dench have welcomed Hinton into their home for Thanksgiving dinner in 2016, 2017 and 2018. In 2019, Hinton and his girlfriend, Mikaela, returned the favor by inviting the Denches to join their own families.
Lonnie Dench died in the hospital Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19, both Wanda Dench and Hinton confirmed.
“He had the truest heart of love, like no other,” Dench told AZ Family Wednesday, confirming her husband’s death. “He did so many acts of kindness that no one ever heard about. He was my hero. And I’m a better person because of him.”
“As some of you may have already found out tonight Lonnie did not make it,” Hinton also tweeted Wednesday. “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!??❤️”
On April 1, Hinton said on Twitter that both Wanda and Lonnie tested positive for COVID-19. He said just Lonnie was hospitalized for COVID-19 and pneumonia.
“I am so sad to announce that Wanda and Lonnie both have COVID-19 and that Lonnie is currently in the hospital fighting both COVID and Pneumonia please send words of love and encouragement their way ???” the tweet said.
By April 9, he tweeted an update, writing: “Also for those asking Wanda is not sick.”
Hinton has documented his time shared with the couple over the years.
On Nov. 28, he shared four selfies for each Thanksgiving spent together, writing, “As promised! Here’s our 2019 update.” “For everyone who thinks it’s just for the cameras and social media! Blessed to have such wonderful people in our lives,” he said.