LANSING, mich. — Family members remember Ramiro Mata as an outgoing and loving man who cherished every moment with his kids and nephew and was dedicated to his job as a corrections officer at the Bellamy Correctional Facility in Ionia.
Mata died on Jan. 9 after contracting COVID-19, family members said. He was only 45 .
“We don’t want any other family to experience this,” said Rosalinda Calley, Mata’s sister. “We’re grieving and we’re grieving separately because of COVID-19.”
“He was a devoted dad,” she said. “He has 4 children, 3 boys and 1 girl. He absolutely adored his children. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for them.”
Krys Mata, Ramiro Mata's nephew, said his uncle "was like my father in a way up into I was like 10."
COVID-19 has swept its way through Michigan prisons, Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 23,000 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, more than half the state's prison population, and 123 have died from the disease.
The virus has also infected more than 3,300 prison employees. Four have died.
But Mata still show up to work with a smile, his family said.
“He did a hard job, he was a prison guard and he did it for 20 years,” Calley said. “Most people wouldn’t last that long in that job.”
Mata’s son Ramiro Mata Jr. said he thinks of his father as “a very strong person.
"He never has an off day. He was either working or taking care of his kids.”
Now as his family deals with the grief, they have one message for others.
“Do what you can, do your part,” Krys Mata said. “Wash your hands, wear your mask. Just everything you can do, do it.”