Adolph (T.J.) Mendez died Thursday afternoon at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin from complications of the COVID-19 virus, according to his family. He was 44.
Mendez was born in San Antonio and lived in New Braunfels for the last 14 years.
Brenda Johnson, Mendez’s daughter, said her father was tested last week for the coronavirus and received a positive diagnosis on Tuesday.
She said her father had been “perfectly healthy” and had no underlying health conditions.
Johnson described Mendez as “the best kind” of father.
“He was kind,” Johnson said. “He was patient. He cared about others. He loved his family so much. He was very involved in our community and our church.”
Mendez taught kindergarten at Oakwood Church where his students called him “Mr. Sticker Man.”
“Every Sunday they would give out stickers to the kids in their bibles and the little kindergarteners would give him stickers to put on his name badge. He was very loved by all.”
Johnson also spoke about walking down the aisle with her father on her wedding day.
“It was really special to get him to do that for me,” she said. “I looked at him and told him that he wasn’t allowed to look at me or I would start crying. Before they opened the chapel doors, he looked down on me and I looked at him and we both started crying. It was the sweetest thing.”
He also enjoyed jumping on his trampoline with his three boys, she said.
“T.J. was a devoted Christian man,” said Pastor Ray Still of Oakwood Church. “He loved his wife and children, his Lord and the Lord’s church and served it faithfully. He will be greatly missed. All the people of Oakwood Church grieve with his wife and children and their loss.”
Still added that everyone in the community should take the coronavirus messages seriously.
“They need to listen to both our elected and health officials that are giving us advice and not to ignore this,” Still said. “It is serious, and God would want us to respect authority and respect those who ask something of us. We need to do that for the common good of the entire community."
Kathleen Krueger, former New Braunfels mayor pro-tem and director of development and public relations at Hope Hospice, said sometimes you meet a person “whose soul shines so brightly that all you can do is smile when you see them.”
"Mr. Mendez and his family are those kinds of people — radiantly healthy, beautiful, kind, joyful, so in love with each other, their church, and their community,” Krueger said. "COVID-19 has extinguished a bright light — has robbed yet another family. They will need all the love and support we can give as they journey through the dark days ahead without this strong, handsome man by their side.”
Mayor Barron Casteel also expressed sympathies to the family.
“Someone close to the family talked to me on Monday and my heart goes out to the family,” Casteel said. "He had his whole life ahead of him. I will grieve for him.”
County Judge Sherman Krause issued a statement Thursday afternoon.
“Our hearts, as well as our thoughts and our prayers, go out to this man’s family and friends,” Krause said. “This tragic news emphasizes the need for all of us to make sure we are taking every effort to maintain social distancing measures and protecting ourselves, our loved ones and the most vulnerable among us from contracting COVID-19.”
Mendez was father to three boys and three girls. He also leaves behind his wife, Angela, and other family members.
Angela Mendez said her husband was a healthy man who didn’t smoke or drink. He worked out, ate healthy and took vitamins every day, she said.
"You hear that the people who die are older or have previous health conditions but he was neither and the virus took him down hard,” she said. "It can happen to anyone, it’s not just a story that happens to people across the world. It’s here and it’s real and it can kill anyone, just like it did my husband."