Juan and Margarita Hernandez are being remembered by some Malibu families not just as their gardener and housekeeper, but as good friends and part of their own families. The hardworking couple, who served more than a dozen local families, were both killed by COVID-19—Juan on Jan. 18, his wife Margarita just a month earlier on Dec. 17.
The Hernandezes started working in Malibu 35 years ago, according to one of their sons, Juan Carlos, known as JC. Three families who spoke with The Malibu Times had employed the couple for decades.
When the pandemic struck, Margarita stopped working due to underlying health conditions. Most of her employers continued to pay her salary and kept in touch. Juan continued working outside, though only twice a week.
JC and those interviewed said the couple was diligent about following COVID-19 precautions and rarely left the home they shared in West Hills with their son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.
Margarita and Juan were devout Pentecostal Christians. On Nov. 30, their pastor called to ask the couple if they would pick him up from the airport after a trip to Guatemala. According to JC, the pastor had been photographed on his trip without wearing a mask and with no social distancing. Unbeknownst to JC, his parents obeyed their pastor’s request and left for the airport. JC claims he furiously called the pastor while he was still airborne and begged him to use a ride service or the man’s own children for the return trip. He warned the pastor his parents had underlying health conditions. JC went on to explain that, upon returning to the U.S., the pastor signed a required agreement to quarantine for 14 days, but that he did not. When JC confronted his parents, who otherwise had stayed careful regarding COVID protocol, they assured him they were wearing masks and gloves during the hour-long trip to their pastor’s home. Days later, the pastor announced he had COVID-19. Soon, Margarita tested positive, along with everyone in the household except the couple’s daughter-in-law and their five-year-old grandson.
“It was a chain reaction,” JC said.
Margarita and JC, who is a heart patient at only 45 years of age, were hospitalized at the same location, on the same floor and with the same doctor. JC described the heartbreak of hearing a code blue.
“I never would have thought it was my mother,” he said, but unfortunately, it was. His father soon called to confirm the heart wrenching news. Margarita was 65 years old.
With hospitals overwhelmed, Juan, 74, was isolating at home until his condition turned grave. He ended up on a ventilator for 15 excruciating days. Juan passed away exactly one month after his wife.
“My parents were the best people in the world. If they could help somebody, they would,” JC said. “Even if she only had a dollar, my mom would give it to someone in need. That was the type of person she was.
“They left a legacy of how to be a good husband and wife,” he continued. “I want to take over that legacy with my wife. My dad was my best friend.”
Kelly Robinson, who employed the couple for 22 years, described Juan as the most “thoughtful, helpful” person and said, “Margarita’s personality lit up a room.” She added, “The loss of both of them is heartbreaking.”
Julie Friedman-Kagon, another longtime employer and friend of the couple, saved the last voicemail she received from Margarita, one month before her death: “Don’t worry. God will take care of me. Goodbye. I love you.”
“She was so much more than a housekeeper,” Friedman-Kagon said. “She helped me when my twins were infants. She would help me hold them, feed them and play with them. She helped teach them Spanish. She and Juan dropped off flowers for me on Mothers’ Day during COVID. She was inspirational—a source of sunshine. Juan was a hard worker. He spoke limited English, but his smile would light up the room and showed his love for Margarita.”
Nuria Rodriguez employed the couple for 28 years, calling them “the most wonderful people.” She described how during fires they would take initiative and evacuate her pets.
“I can’t believe I’m not going to see them again,” Rodriguez said.
An online fundraiser has been set up to cover the costs of two funerals for the Hernandez family.