Student who lost both parents to COVID-19 graduates
HICKORY, NC — Andy Lopez has been playing baseball since he was 3 years old. He was a catcher for the Lenoir-Rhyne University baseball team.
“I’ve also had several knee surgeries because of it, but I love this position because I’m involved in every game,” Lopez said.
Lopez grew up in Illinois. His dad was a dispatcher for Chicago emergency services for more than 30 years and got Lopez started playing baseball.
During the Thanksgiving holiday in 2020, Lopez’s father, Lupe Lopez, was hospitalized with COVID-19. A few weeks later, his mother too, Maria Lopez.
Within weeks, both died of the virus.
“I went through the hardest thing I could imagine. But speaking with my siblings, my girlfriend, I can face any hardship after facing their death. I miss them and I will always have a hole in my heart, but this ordeal has made me stronger,” Lopez said.
Lopez still had a few semesters left to graduate and was considering quitting school and returning home, leaving behind the game and college he loves.
“But after talking with my family, I didn’t want to give up on the hard work my parents had to do to get me here,” Lopez said.
With NCAA approval, the Bears community helped raise $40,000 for Lopez’s college tuition.
This spring, Lopez earned a degree in sports and exercise science.
He is considering a career in law enforcement or as a paramedic, following his father’s love for emergency services.
“I want to thank the community for all of their support. I couldn’t have done this without them, and I’m going to miss it here,” Lopez said. “I will miss Hickory, the team and the university.”