A resident of Prince George’s County, Rodriguez was a fast learner and hard worker who didn’t miss a day of work, his family and friends said.
When the Washington region shut down because of the coronavirus, he continued to get up each morning before dawn, putting on his work boots and vest, and head to jobs.
Rodriguez, 45, died July 4 at MedStar Washington Hospital Center of complications from covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
His wife of 23 years, Rosy Rodriguez, described him a jovial man who loved God, lived to care for his family and fixed anything that needed fixing in the home.
“He always said, ‘My family is my top priority,’ ” Rosy Rodriguez recalled.
Rodriguez was born in a humble home in Morazán, a department in the northeast part of El Salvador. Because his family had very limited economic means, Rodriguez juggled multiple jobs as a teenager. By the age of 20, he was managing several food kiosks and a movie theater in Morazán’s capital city, San Francisco Gotera.
He met his wife when she interviewed for a job at one of the kiosks he managed and courted her while she worked there selling fruity ice pops. She was 18. He was 20. Years later, he confessed to her that the day of her job interview, he thought to himself: “That beautiful girl will be my wife.”
They married two years later, and the arrival of their first child drove Rodriguez to make a life-changing decision to leave behind El Salvador for a future in the United States.
“He wanted to give me and our kids a better life,” Rosy Rodriguez recalled. He planned to stay three years, save enough to build a house back home, then return to his family. But two years after he arrived in Washington, he became sick and underwent a kidney transplant. Rosy Rodriguez made the journey to Washington to take care of her husband.
One of his proudest moments, Rosy Rodriguez said, was the day they moved into their Hyattsville home 15 years ago — and realized a dream to become homeowners. Seeing their children — Enrique, 21, and Stephanie, 14 — graduate from college was his other dream, she said. He never stopped telling people about his children’s achievements, the awards they earned in school and each graduation.
Rosy Rodriguez said the unexpected loss of her husband has left her, her children and many who knew him brokenhearted. Rosy Rodriguez and the children also tested positive for the coronavirus; they showed only mild symptoms.
“We are all so heart broken for their family,” Dawn Crothers, founder of Something Vintage Rentals and Rosy Rodriguez’s employer, said on a GoFundMe page she created to help the family with the unexpected funeral costs and other financial needs.
When Rodriguez wasn’t working, spending time with his kids, invested in a home-improvement project or in his garden, he was volunteering with his church, Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal Nueva Vida. He drove the congregation’s buses for church services and events and would volunteer to work on church construction projects, his pastor, Carlos Pérez, said.
“Brother Santos was a very friendly person. A family man who always took care of his wife and children. He was always willing to help. Always happy. Always had a smile on him,” Pérez said. Rodriguez was one of two members of the church who died of covid-19 in July.
“He was passionate about his work,” said longtime friend, co-worker and brother-in-law Rigo Saenz. “And he had learned every aspect of the remodeling business.”
Rodriguez, he said, taught him carpentry skills and how to install doors and windows.
“He was like my older brother, a mentor who took care of me and walked me through life,” said Saenz, 36. “He was a good person and always very attentive.”
At work, when the crew got together for their lunch break, Rodriguez would bring his co-workers water or hand out napkins. He would stay behind to clean up after the crew dispersed, Saenz said.
When a pipe broke in the home, Rosy Rodriguez said, she didn’t worry, because her husband “knew how to fix it.” He would come home from work every afternoon to spend time in the garden. The couple would then sit on the deck, look at their plants and drink coffee.
Days before he was taken to the hospital, he pulled out a can of gray paint and gave the deck a fresh coat. Then he made the patio furniture look like new with a coat of bright red paint — his wife’s favorite color.
“He was happy in our home,” she said. “He used to say, ‘Seeing you happy makes me happy.’ ”