Beloved Oakland community leader dies of coronavirus

Family and friends mourn the loss of an Oakland community leader to COVID-19.

Terry Blanchard was an entrepreneur who was known for his work mentoring at-risk youth.

Blanchard's daughter Sydnie said she wanted to honor his memory by sharing his story.

She doesn't want other families to suffer what her family experienced due to COVID-19.

Sydnie said the sudden loss of her father is a shock to his family and the community he served.

She hopes his death will serve as a reminder about the need for everyone to do their part to keep the coronavirus from spreading.

"He was a big guy, definitely a gentle giant," said Sydnie.

Blanchard was known for his big heart.

His daughter said love for his family extended to the many at-risk children he mentored.

He served on the board of East Oakland Youth Development Center for ten years, the last two as president.

"He had an amazing sense of humor. He made everybody laugh," said Sydnie.

But in early March, Blanchard and his wife Debra, both 56, contracted COVID-19, possibly their daughter says, from a friend who had fallen on hard times and was staying with them.

"It was really hard on my family. We couldn't check on them. We could only call," said Sydnie.

Her mother recovered. Her father didn't have a fever at first, but eventually developed one.

He was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator for 2 weeks. He died Easter Sunday.

"He wasn't supposed to die. He never expected to die. This is not anything we ever imagined," said Sydnie. 

Family and friends are now taking solace in remembering his impact on the East Oakland Youth Development Center.

Executive director Regina Jackson said Blanchard invested time and money to empower young people.

"He was an incredible human being. For a sucker punch like the coronavirus to take him out, we're just all stunned," said Jackson. "We're going to miss him."

Blanchard leaves behind a wife, two daughters, a large extended family and a community who treasures him.

"We're not able to give my dad the burial he deserves. Unfortunately, we're not about to honor him in the traditional way with a funeral," said Sydnie. 

She said her family has received an outpouring of support through emails, social media and phone calls.

The family hopes to hold a public memorial for Terry Blanchard sometime in the not too distant future.