A Calgary man known for his big smile and kind way of working with seniors is the first health-care worker to die of COVID-19, according to Alberta Health Services, which announced the death of a second health care worker just a day later.

“She was in her 50s and worked in the Edmonton zone. Our thoughts go out to all of the families,” said Alberta health minster Tyler Shandro.

Joe Marie (Jing) Parrenas Corral, 61, who worked as a health-care aide at Bethany Riverview in Calgary — a long-term care centre specializing in caring for residents with dementia — died on Dec. 28.

“This is obviously a tragic loss,” said Bobby-Joe Borodey, vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

“The family of course didn’t expect this. Our brother that passed was quite healthy according to his family.”

Corral was born on April 17, 1959, in Iloilo City, Philippines, and leaves behind a daughter who lives in Burnaby, B.C. and a son who lives in Edmonton.

“Our family is truly and eternally grateful for the support and love everyone has shown during this difficult time,” his family said in a statement.

“We cannot thank enough those whom have offered their condolences, resources and financial support.”

A spokesperson for the care home provided a statement offering condolences to his family and friends.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a valued Bethany Riverview employee,” it states.

Two residents have died of COVID-19 at the care home and as of Jan. 4, there were 40 active cases involving 20 employees and 20 residents. Another 10 employees and 11 residents have previously recovered. 

The company said it is working to co-ordinate supports for those affected by the loss.

Corral’s friends and loved ones have been sharing memories of him online.

“We will miss you and your big smile,” said Jiezel Tiongson.

“Until your last breath you left a remarkable mark in our hearts,” said Mary Evelyn Tiangha.

“Working with you made the workload lighter. You never forgot to wear your smile,’ said Romer Isidro.

“You are a hero. Thank you for everything,” said Darlene Ramos.

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) said it stands with all health-care workers in mourning Corral’s death.

“While others were told stay at home and socially distance as the pandemic took hold, health-care workers have rushed to the defence of Albertans,” said HSAA president Mike Parker.

“This tragic death highlights why we have been advocating so strongly for the immediate vaccination of all front line health-care workers who put themselves at the greatest risk every day.”

Vaccinations for health-care workers in intensive care, respiratory therapy and long-term care began Dec. 15, 2020.

As of Jan. 3, 22,861 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Alberta.

Corral’s family has launched a GoFundMe page to help with his funeral and other costs.

"He served residents faithfully, in spite of the risk of COVID," said Shandro.