It’s barely been three weeks, but the family of Benito Quesada say they’re ready to share their grief. Normally a very quiet and private family, the Quesadas, wanted to talk about what happened to their father and husband.
The 51-year-old died May 7 in hospital. For three weeks, the longtime Cargill meant plant employee fought for his life after testing positive for COVID-19.
His eldest daughter, 16-year-old Ariana Quesada, said it was hard to watch him suffer.
“He’s always strong and the one that protects us. Seeing him there, vulnerable, I had never seen him like that,” Ariana said.
“Those are the final memories I have of him. That’s definitely not how we want to remember him. That’s not the same person who raised us.”
“Me and my siblings keep saying he was the best dad in the world. He truly was,” Ariana said.
Everything in the home is still as he left it. The family said they can’t bear to disturb the personal belongings of the devoted husband and doting dad.
“We haven’t touched anything. His boots are still in the entry way, his toothbrush, his cologne, everything is still there,” Ariana said.
Mary Quesada, Benito’s wife, said she worries for their future.
“My family is devastated, and this time is very hard. Every day is very hard,” Mary said.
“My five-year-old sister is saying things she shouldn’t have to say, telling my mom: ‘Please don’t die like my dad did.’ It’s so hard for her and my brothers,” Ariana said.
Five-year-old Arexia Quesada said he died because “something happened to his heart.”
“I miss my dad but he was the best dad,” Arexia said.
“I didn’t know that he needed it, but he needed to go.”
Ten-year-old Aldrin Quesada said it’s been tough.
“He enjoyed being with us and I enjoyed being with him,” Aldrin said.
Twelve-year-old Adriel Quesada said their relationship was just starting to blossom.
“Me and my dad, we started to bond this year. It was hard emotionally and mentally because I don’t have anybody else to talk to,” Adriel said.
“My dad worked really hard for us. He was somebody who loved his family.”
They say he accepted a $500 bonus to go work after workers at the meat packing plant had already been infected.
“He risked his life for his job,” Ariana said.
Cargill released a statement on behalf of the company.
“If the family has any concerns regarding payments, we encourage them to discuss those concerns with the known HR representatives they have been in contact with to address these issues.”
The family says no officials from Cargill have reached out to offer condolences.
“We have been in recent contact with his family and have followed up to offer our heartfelt condolences to his wife and family,” the company said in a statement.
“Benito was a colleague and friend, serving as a partner in his role as a union steward. We are grieving with the community as we face loss and illness together.
“The company can confirm that a health services manager was in contact with the family during Benito’s hospitalization and that support was offered at that time. The company can further confirm that multiple efforts by senior members of the High River facility’s staff made immediate and multiple efforts to contact the family as soon as the staff were made aware of Benito’s passing, and it is completely understandable why they would not be taking calls at that time.
“In the past weeks, the company has been successful in making direct contact with the family and has had several conversations regarding any support the company may be able to offer.”
The statement also reads: “We can also confirm that a moment of silence was held on the plant floor and that the flag was flown at half-mast to honour Benito’s memory and the important contribution he made as a friend and employee of the company.”
“I want — every time someone looks up the name Cargill, I want my dad’s name to pop up,” Ariana said. “He was a person. I know for a fact he didn’t want to go this soon.”