One year later, funeral service to be held for San Jose COVID victim

A San Jose family is finally making funeral arrangements for their loved one they lost to COVID-19 nearly a year ago. She was one Santa Clara County’s first deaths.

 Arcelia Martinez, 65, was a FoodMaxx worker who left behind a grandbaby just born. The family waited a year to have a service their mother always wanted and deserved. She died on March 21, 2020. 

"I’m hanging in there," said Gina Martinez who lost her mother to COVID. "Yesterday was really hard. It was my mother’s 11-month death anniversary and I don’t know why but it really hit me hard."

Instead of planning for Gina’s 50th birthday party, the family is planning Arcelia’s memorial service at Lima Family Mortuaries in San Jose. With her mother’s ashes in an urn, the pain is still very raw.

"My heart is deteriorating not having her here, not having her with us," said Martinez.

It’s this time last year, this family like so many others entered one of the darkest and hardest times.

Arcelia was a beloved cashier at FoodMaxx with underlying health conditions. She had shown some symptoms. What doctors initially thought was pneumonia turned out to be COVID. She died at O’Connor Hospital.

"I made it three minutes before my mom passed," said Martinez. "It was really hard to see her through that glass window to see the way the nurses were suited up."

Arcelia Martinez was the eighth person to die in Santa Clara County out of now 1,700 deaths and among the half a million Americans who have died from coronavirus. 

"I can't believe it's been that many people, that’s a lot of people," said Martinez.

One year later, no answers as to how and when Arcelia contracted the virus. Birthdays and holidays are rough. Tamales made this year without their mother.

"If she would have went to the doctor sooner, they would have been able to help her," said Martinez.

Arcelia’s death anniversary comes as grocery store workers in Santa Clara County can get the vaccine next Sunday. It’s a sign of hope as Martinez warns others to mask up and not take any moment for granted.

"Be there for your mom and dad because you never know when they are going to go," said Martinez. "I didn’t know my mom was going to leave me."

Arcelia Martinez’s celebration of life will be held on March 20. She leaves behind a large family, four daughters and six grandchildren. Up to 100 people can attend the service outdoors now that restrictions have been lifted.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or