If Antonio M. Vieira had had his way, he and his wife would have spent their final years in their native Portugal.
“My father loved Portugal. He would have gone back and stayed if he had his choice,” said his daughter, Rosa Vieira of Fall River. “My mother, on the other hand, did not,” she said. “She had a harder life than he did back then, so they looked at Portugal a little bit different.”
As things turned out, Antonio Vieira spent his final hours at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, where he died July 2, 2020, from COVID-19. He was 85.
“It was one of the worst deaths I have ever seen,” Rosa said. “It was just horrible. It all happened so fast, not even 24 hours after he was transported to Charlton.”
Antonio Vieira was born and grew up on the island of Sao Jorge in the Azores. There he married Angelina Medeiros. Together they would be married for almost 70 years and raise seven children.
Rosa Vieira was born in Lisbon, where Antonio and Angelina Vieira moved their family to in the early 1970s. Antonio Vieira had been a whaler in the Azores, but in Lisbon, Rosa remembers the family having a farm. She was 4 years old when her parents emigrated to the United States with her and three of her brothers. The older siblings were already grown up and married, so they stayed in Portugal.
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Arriving in New Bedford in 1978, Antonio Vieira went to work for AFC Cable. He injured his back on the job and spent a couple of years out of work. He later held a variety of odd jobs such as day fishing, landscaping, painting and working in restaurants.
“He helped local Portuguese restaurants and cafes by opening their doors in the morning,” Rosa said. “He would do a lot of cleaning and would help them close the doors at night. He did that for eons. He knew everybody.”
When he wasn’t working, Antonio Vieira could be found fishing or drinking his morning espresso in a local Portuguese cafe. During soccer season, he would go to a social club or a bar to cheer on Sporting Clube de Portugal, his favorite team.
“And God forbid if anybody talked about his team,” Rosa said with a laugh. She remembers her dad as a loving grandfather who was present at the births of all her children and traveled to New Jersey and Portugal for his other grandchildren’s weddings.
“He never drove, so he would take the bus from the South End of New Bedford to the North End to come pick up my son, who was at the time maybe 1, and he’d take him to the coffee shop,” Rosa said.
Antonio Vieira was a serious man who could be stubborn with a “typical Portuguese temper,” as his daughter put it. But he was also easy-going, rarely raised his voice and could be funny when he wanted to be.
“He was very kind. If you needed anything, he was there,” said Rosa, who spoke to her father the morning before he died. A few hours later, he was in the hospital, intubated and in a medically induced coma.
Said Rosa, “He never came out of it.”
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