'Accidental Grandma' Loses Husband To Coronavirus

MESA, AZ — The husband of an Arizona woman who started a holiday tradition in 2016 when she mistakenly texted a stranger and asked him to Thanksgiving dinner has died of complications of the new coronavirus.

Lonnie Dench, who died Sunday, was the husband of Wanda Dench, the Mesa grandmother who accidentally sent the text to Jamal Hinton four years ago and asked if he and his girlfriend would be coming to her house to celebrate the holiday.

She had sent a group message to family members inviting them to Thanksgiving dinner. One of her grandsons had changed his phone number six months earlier without telling her, and the number was assigned to Hinton.

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They texted back and forth, with Hinton writing after seeing a picture of Dench that she was “not my grandma,” but wondering if he could “still get a plate.”

Of course, Dench replied.

Original Story: Accidental Text Starts A Thanksgiving Tradition

Hinton and his girlfriend, Mikaela, have had a seat at the Dench family Thanksgiving table every year since then. So have their families.

“Family is more than blood,” Dench said in 2018. “It’s the people you want to be with.”

Hinton wrote April 1 on Twitter that Lonnie Dench was sick with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and pneumonia. He is among 89 Arizonans who had died of a coronavirus infection as of Thursday.

“As some of you may have already found out tonight, Lonnie did not make it,” Hinton wrote on Twitter. “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!”

Lonnie Dench was as enthusiastic as his wife about the tradition and was the first to say hello and the last to say goodbye, news station KPHO reported. Before anyone put fork to plate, he led them in a prayer of thanksgiving.

“He had the truest heart of love, like no other,” his widow told news station KPHO. “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.”

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