By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Two fathers and grandfathers connected to one Minnesota family died from COVID-19 just days apart.

It is the sad reality for a family near Mora. They shared with WCCO the loss they suffered when the state was hitting its peak of the pandemic in November.

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“It puts a whole new perspective on life. You know, the things that I thought were just the worst things ever are nothing, you know, after this,” Chris Joos said.

Chris and Perry grew up high school sweethearts in Ogilvie, Minnesota. Their dads got to talking years ago at their wedding.

“I remember it like it was yesterday because his dad said to my dad, ‘One day Tom we’re gonna be best friends,’ and I’ll never forget my dad, he’s like, ‘Yeah, no, that’s never gonna happen,’” Chris said.

Wally Joos and Tom Koep (credit: Chris Joos)

As fate would have it, it did. Through divorce and losses, Chris’s dad Tom Koep eventually married Wally Joos’s sister, bringing the family even closer together. The two couples remained tight, and when COVID-19 arrived last spring, they decided to keep each other in their bubble.

However, at the end of October, as cases again started to climb, all four ended up sick and in the hospital. Tom was a diabetic and intubated at North Memorial Health hospital. His ICU nurses wishing him a happy 75th birthday the only way they knew how.

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“Eventually when the phone rang at 1:21 in the morning that morning I knew exactly what I was going to be told unfortunately,” Chris said.

Her dad died on Nov. 19. Wally followed 12 days later at the University of Minnesota Medical Center at the age of 77.

“They both just lived for family. That was their whole life,” Joos said.

She is still trying to understand how the diagnosis can mean so many different things. Most of all, why it meant the foundations of their families are gone.

“The things that we thought were important just last year are just not important,” she said.

MORE NEWS: MN Providers Advised To 'Pause' Distribution Of Johnson And Johnson Vaccine Until Review Of Rare Blood Clot Cases

To honor Wally and Tom, the families started a nonprofit to raise money for a family in need in Kanebec County each Christmas. Click here to learn more.

Liz Collin