Photo by Noe Magaña.
Photo by Noe Magaña.

About 100 people gathered in front of the San Benito County Administration Building to honor residents who lost their lives to COVID-19. Several people brought pictures, flowers and other artifacts to the event that included speeches from elected officials and family members of those who died. 

Before and after the event, the public explored the dozens of white flags, some with names embroidered on them, installed on the small lawn of the building located at 481 Fourth Street. The flags will remain in place for a month. 

San Benito County Supervisors Bea Gonzales and Bob Tiffany addressed the public to start the event. Gonzales said Morgan Hill’s ceremony on July 3 left an impression on her.

“I knew that San Benito County had to do something to honor our lost loved ones,” she said. 

Gonzales also read the names of 24 residents who died of COVID-19.

Tiffany said the 67 deaths in San Benito County has affected everyone in the community. (As of Sept. 24, there were 70 deaths reported by the county.)

“These were individuals from all different walks of life, part of our small, close-knit community, and each made us who we are,” Tiffany said. “So for today and beyond let’s keep all 67 in our thoughts and memories and to tribute to each of them what they meant to all of us.”

Four community members spoke about their loved ones and how COVID-19 has affected their lives. 

Gail Hernandez said she lost her father, uncle and close friends to the virus despite all taking precautions. She said had her father, John Bocanegra, been vaccinated, he’d be alive. She said vaccines were not available when he died. 

Hernandez addressed the challenges of dealing with COVID-19 in the U.S.

“This has nothing to do with religious beliefs,” Hernandez said. “It’s instead about the mistrust and distrust that’s evident in American society.”

Christina Soto, program manager at Community Homeless Solutions, which manages the shelter and transition units, spoke honoring a community member who used the shelter and died in the intensive care unit after 14 days in the hospital.

“Because he was homeless doesn’t mean that he does not have a family,” Soto said. “The 30 people and my wonderful team that works out there are his family.”

Following the speeches, a moment of silence was held. 

San Benito County Supervisors Kollin Kosmicki and Peter Hernandez also attended, along with Sheriff Eric Taylor, Hollister Fire Department acting Chief Charlie Bedolla and Joe Paul Gonzalez, San Benito County clerk-auditor-recorder. 

List of names honored in the tribute:

  • Victor Torrez
  • Bertha Valencia
  • Olga Hernadez
  • Delfino Melendez
  • Joel Saldana
  • Yvonne McCarthy
  • Joe Martinez
  • Rosalie Polanco
  • Albert Torres
  • John Bocanegra
  • Tina Castelo
  • Elias Bedolla
  • Epimenio Morales
  • John Sander
  • David Ramirez
  • Maria Ramirez
  • Alberto Cardona
  • Raudel A.
  • Noe Montoya
  • Marylou Vizcarra
  • Domingo Gonzalez
  • Francisco Cortes
  • Purisima Conley
  • Robert Vaughn


We need your help. Support local, independent news. BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team is committed to this community and providing essential, accurate information to our fellow residents. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s news.

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink' content manager, co-editor. He began with BenitoLink as in intern and later served as a freelance reporter and staff reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography....