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Remembering devoted father Arthur Schwartz, who died of COVID

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Over the past nearly two years, we've been remembering some of the almost 850,000 people who've died of COVID-19 in the U.S. And we've asked you to share their stories with us.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Today we are remembering Arthur Schwartz, known to many as Art. He died in December of 2020 from the virus in Ann Arbor, Mich. Schwartz was a longtime employee at General Motors, a college professor, a huge fan of the Detroit Tigers and according to his daughter Laura Schwartz, a seriously good dad.

LAURA SCHWARTZ: I was obsessed with boy bands but only, like, D-list boy bands, I feel like.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAN I GET YOUR NUMBER (A GIRL LIKE YOU)")

NO AUTHORITY: (Singing) Can I get your number, baby? Hit me with the seven digits.

SCHWARTZ: The No. 1 was - and I use the term band loosely. They were called No Authority.

SHAPIRO: Back in the '90s when boy bands were all the rage, Laura says her dad drove her all over the Midwest so she could see her favorite pop stars.

SCHWARTZ: I remember there was one concert at, like - I want to say it was almost, like, in the ballroom of a Holiday Inn or something in Ohio, where we had to say that night. Like, the things that he would do to just let me go to these concerts was incredible. Like, I was so lucky. I realize I was very spoiled.

CHANG: But Arthur didn't just encourage Laura to have fun. He had his own too, whether it was at work...

SCHWARTZ: Whenever I'd go into General Motors for Take Your Daughter to Work Day, his office was the one that everyone wanted to go to because he always had toys in there (laughter).

CHANG: ...Or on the baseball diamond, where for over three decades, he was a member of the Habs, a baseball team that has become a little piece of Ann Arbor history. The team was almost like a second family.

SCHWARTZ: It was just a group people that everyone just sort of knew because so many people had passed through the Habs, whether it was people that owned local businesses, family friends. Whoever it was, there were just so many people that were just - throughout these 30 years just tangentially attached to this team.

SHAPIRO: When Arthur contracted COVID-19 in November of 2020, his symptoms seemed treatable at first. But things got worse. And a few weeks later, Laura got a phone call from her mother, saying Arthur was really sick.

SCHWARTZ: And I booked the first flight I could home. And I got on the plane, and he had passed while I was on the plane.

CHANG: Laura says the lack of closure weighs on her.

SCHWARTZ: We're not living in reality still. I think that's the hard thing. It's like we never got to have a funeral because COVID has been rampant.

SHAPIRO: It has helped that seemingly everybody is eager to remember Arthur. Former students and colleagues have been sending the family letters singing his praises, and Laura continues to celebrate her father - his love for life, family and a good dad joke.

SCHWARTZ: He was the king of dad jokes. The thing he was so proud of because it was his hippest joke he'd ever come up with - my mom, my brother and I love the band the Flaming Lips. And so one night, he came up with the joke, what do you get when you eat a Red Hot Chili Pepper? The Flaming Lips. And he thought that was the funniest thing ever.

CHANG: Arthur Schwartz was 72 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO YOU REALIZE??")

THE FLAMING LIPS: (Singing) Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face?

SHAPIRO: And if you'd like us to memorialize a loved one you've lost to COVID-19, find us on Twitter @NPRATC. There's a pinned tweet at the top of the page.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO YOU REALIZE??")

THE FLAMING LIPS: (Singing) We're floating in space. Do you realize... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.