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A father’s coronavirus death left three Tampa siblings without a parent

Alfonso Cardenas, a well-known recreational soccer coach, died from COVID-19 at 55 years old.

After his wife passed away from cancer six years ago, Alfonso Cardenas never wanted his kids to feel like they were alone.

Cardenas gave his children, 20-year-old twin daughters Alejandra and Jhoana and 14-year-old son Ivan, whatever they asked for, Jhoana Cardenas said. They never had to worry about a bill. They never had to feel like they didn’t have someone to turn to. Their dad even gave in and got them a cat, Luna, after years of saying he didn’t want pets in the house.

“We could always talk to him,” Jhoana Cardenas said. “He was kind of like our shoulder to lean on.”

On Aug. 2, after a month of battling coronavirus, Alfonso Cardenas died. He was 55 years old.

Before his death, Cardenas was intubated and sedated at Tampa General Hospital, so his children couldn’t talk to him, Jhoana said. They were able to go to his bedside on the day he died, because his doctor said he wasn’t contagious anymore.

“It was hard because he was the only person that we had left as a parent,” she said. “And we spoke to him everyday. We still had that instinct to call his phone, but we couldn’t talk to him.”

Alfonso Cardenas, who died from coronavirus, poses with his children, Alejandra, Ivan and Jhoana [ Courtesy of Jhoana Cardenas ]

Cardenas was a beloved coach for the Chargers Soccer Club, where he coached his daughters since they were 6 years old in recreational soccer and his son in competitive soccer.

“He was somebody who would do anything for anybody who needs help,” said Maggie Pesaresi, the administrator for the recreational soccer program.

After his wife, Clara Gomez, died years ago, Cardenas became single-mindedly focused on his children’s well-being, Pesaresi said. He would even attend “girls only” parties with the other mothers and daughters, for his girls.

Pesaresi set up a GoFundMe to help Cardenas’ children through this difficult period. More than $11,000 has been raised so far.

It’s been a stressful time for Jhoana and her sister, Alejandra, she said. The two 20-year-olds have had to figure out how to pay the bills and manage the house on their own. Though they’re not the legal guardian of their brother, Ivan, they’ve been living in the same house and keeping an extra eye on each other.

Jhoana said the outpouring of support surprised her and her siblings.

She said her dad should be remembered as someone who always made people laugh and brought joy wherever he went.

“He was always the loudest one on the field,” she said. “He was very positive about everything.”

Alfonso Cardenas poses with his children, Alejandra, Jhoana and Ivan [ Courtesy of Jhoana Cardenas ]

BIOGRAPHY

Born: Aug. 15, 1964

Died: Aug. 2, 2020

Survivors: His children, Jhoana Cardenas, 20, Alejandra Cardenas, 20, and Ivan Cardenas, 14.

Service: A life celebration will take place on Aug. 22 at 2 p.m. through Blount & Curry Funeral Home at Garden of Memories in Tampa.

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