Lonnie Dench Dead, Husband Of Grandmother Who Befriended Teen On Thanksgiving Dies Of Coronavirus

Lonnie Dench and family poses with Jamal Hinton.
Jamal Hinton / Instagram

Lonnie Dench is dead. The man whose wife made an unlikely friendship with a teen she accidentally invited to Thanksgiving — sparking a viral story — has reportedly died this week after a battle with coronavirus.

As KPNX reported, the Phoenix, Arizona man passed away over the weekend after being diagnosed with coronavirus and taken to a hospital.

Dench And His Wife Gained Viral Fame From An Errant Text Message

Lonnie’s wife, Wanda Dench, gained national fame back in 2016 when she accidentally texted 17-year-old Jamal Hinton while trying to send an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner to her grandchildren. When Hinton informed her of the errant text, Wanda insisted that the invitation still stood.

“I was totally embarrassed, and I didn’t know what to say at first. So I thought for a minute and I said, ‘Sure you can,’ I said. ‘That’s what grandmas do, they feed everybody,'” Dench told KPNX at the time.

The story gained viral attention after Hinton shared a post on Twitter about their exchange, with many retweeting the accidental exchange that turned into an unlikely Thanksgiving pairing. When Hinton followed through and came to Thanksgiving dinner, the two sparked a friendship that would continue over the next three years as the Dench family continued to host Jamal each Thanksgiving.

Jamal continued to share pictures from their time together, showing his family joining together with the Dench family to enjoy the holiday meal and the unlikely friendship they had created. Lonnie was seen with a wide smile and outstretched arms in the photos with the teen.

Lonnie Dench is one of 84 people to die from coronavirus in Arizona, where the outbreak has been seadily growing and the number of both dead and infected have taken significant jumps over the course of the last week. The majority of cases have been within the greater Phoenix area.

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Lonnie Dench Mourned By The Internet

Late on Wednesday, Hinton took to Twitter to share that Lonnie had lost his battle with coronavirus after developing pneumonia, but noted that Lonnie found comfort in all the love and support he had felt during his time in the hospital.

As AZFamily.com reported, Wanda released a statement after Lonnie’s passing remembering her husband and the love he brought to the world.

“He had the truest heart of love, like no other,” she said. “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.”

Wanda had also been diagnosed with coronavirus but was not sick, Hinton shared on Twitter.

After Hinton shared the sad news about Lonnie, many on the internet came together to mourn his passing. Lonnie’s name shot to the top of Twitter trends in the early morning hours on Thursday, with many sharing messages of support for the family and celebrating the story of their friendship. Others sent condolences to Hinton himself, sharing their sorrow at his losing a friend.