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Coronavirus Victims: Manhattan Maintenance Worker, Father And Husband Zlatko Veleski

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The coronavirus continues to spread at dizzying rates. And as the virus spreads, more and more people die of COVID-19, including frontline workers. We're going to take the next couple of minutes to remember one of them.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Zlatko Veleski, known as Goldy to friends, was a maintenance worker in the twin towers on 9/11. He was active in his labor union and voiced concerns about the health of co-workers during this pandemic.

KELLY: Veleski was working at the Cushman and Wakefield building in Manhattan when he tested positive for COVID-19 on March 30. He died on April 8. He was 53.

SHAPIRO: His daughter Katerina Veleska remembers her father's dedication to his family. Her parents met in Macedonia, where Veleski grew up.

KATERINA VELESKA: My mom went over there for a vacation, and they met each other, dated for 10 days. And she just knew that was the one. And after they got married, he came to America with her. They were inseparable. Anything that my dad did was with her. Anything that he did was for her.

Three years ago, we threw him a 50th birthday party at our church, and we were just cutting the cake. My two nieces were there, which are his two granddaughters. And they put cake on his face, which - anybody's birthday, he's the first one to put cake on their face. Everybody saw my mom next to him, so they took that as a opportunity to just scream, kiss.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Kiss, kiss, kiss.

VELESKA: He made sure to kiss her with cake on his face so that he could just get some cake on her, too. And we all were like, you know, just mesmerized by how much love they still have after all those years. Everything was about my mom and him. Valentine's Day, Women's Day, Mother's Day, birthday - he surprised her every time. He would come with roses or anything just to, like, make her feel better. So he just had that kind of heart.

He passed away two days before their 32nd anniversary, which she feels like she basically lost her best friend. And she met my dad when she was only 19, and 32 years she spent with him. And now it's just hard day by day. It's a day without him.

KELLY: That is Katerina Veleska remembering her father, Zlatko Veleski, who died of COVID-19 in April. There are other remembrances of frontline workers at npr.org, and listeners can submit their own contributions. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.