December 3, 2020

Mark Anthony Urquiza Obituary Accuses Arizona Officials of Failing

When Kristin Urquiza’s father died last month in Arizona, she wrote an obituary that offered not one but two causes of death: the coronavirus, and ineptitude on the part of government officials.

Mark Anthony Urquiza, “like so many others, should not have died,” Ms. Urquiza wrote in an impassioned obituary published in The Arizona Republic.

“His death,” she wrote, “is due to the carelessness of the politicians who continue to jeopardize the health of brown bodies through a clear lack of leadership, refusal to acknowledge the severity of this crisis, and inability and unwillingness to give clear and decisive direction on how to minimize risk.”

In many respects, the article Ms. Urquiza wrote about her father, who died June 30 at age 65, was an ordinary obituary. It noted that he was a high school 400-meter dash state champion and a cross-country runner. It listed survivors. And it offered a sense of his personality: “Mark was known for his infectious energy, strong will, and yes, stubbornness.”

But in a state that was slower than some to issue a stay-at-home order, and quicker to reopen, Ms. Urquiza did not contain herself to the strictly personal, though the obituary did not name either Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona or President Trump.

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Updated 2020-07-13T18:22:08.894Z

The obituary has drawn attention from around the state and the country. The “Today” show, The Washington Post, NPR and others have written about it. The funeral, limited to 50 people, was the subject of a front-page story in The Arizona Republic on Saturday.

“I’m not comfortable grieving silently because I believe that my dad’s death was preventable,” Ms. Urquiza, 39, said in an interview. “And had the Ducey administration, the Trump administration, been listening to experts, doctors, epidemiologists, Dr. Fauci, we would be in a completely different situation. I needed to speak out.”

Asked for comment, Mr. Ducey’s office said: “Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of Mark Anthony Urquiza. We know nothing can fully alleviate the pain associated with his loss, and every loss from this virus is tragic.”

Ms. Urquiza said she doesn’t need the governor’s heart. “I want you to act,” she said.

She buried her father on Wednesday, and on the same day started an ofrenda — an altar with pictures of those lost to the virus — outside the Arizona State Capitol building. On Facebook, her page “Marked By Covid” put out a call for people to bring their own mementos to the alter.

The goal? Making it “too big to ignore.”

Ms. Urquiza said she had invited Governor Ducey to the funeral because she was baffled by his virus policies. “He must not know the impact that it’s making on real people and the families that are being torn apart,” she said.

As infections spread throughout Arizona in late June and early July, Mr. Ducey ordered bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, gyms and water parks closed. But he stopped short of canceling events like the Round Valley Rodeo, a century-old tradition, and he has resisted rules that would require people to wear face coverings in public places. There have been more than 120,000 cases of the coronavirus in Arizona, and at least 2,239 have died there.

Ms. Urquiza has spent a lot of time thinking about the disparities the pandemic has thrown a spotlight onto.

Mr. Urquiza, a first-generation Mexican-American who was raised in Tolleson, Ariz., worked in manufacturing. When he died, he made his home in the Phoenix neighborhood with the most virus cases per capita.

“These are the people who were unable to stay home during the shutdown,” she said, the “skeleton crew.”

“If we want to do right by them,” Ms. Urquiza said, officials need to figure out how to support the people who cannot stay home.

“’Netflix and chill’ is a privilege,” she said.

The obituary for Mr. Urquiza notes that in addition to Kristin and her partner, Christine Keeves, he is survived by his life partner, Brenda, as well as five brothers and sisters.

“We honor Mark’s life by continuing this fight for others, even in these darkest moments,” Ms. Urquiza wrote.

When she wrote the obituary, she said, didn’t think view it as anything “radical.”

She thought she was “just telling the truth.”