Leneta Rose rented a boat last summer. She went out to sea and spread her son’s cremains over the ocean.

“I miss him terribly,” Rose said of her son, Joseph R. Rose Jr., who died June 14, 2020, from COVID-19 complications. He was 57.

“Joe was the most caring, compassionate person you’ll ever meet in your life,” said Rose, a Fairhaven resident who described her son as an easy-going friendly soul with a hearty laugh.

“Everyone used to say how much they loved Joe’s laugh. Even when he was in the hospital, they could hear him and they’d say, ‘Oh, that’s Joe,’” she said. “Joe never got mad. He never got angry. He never swore.”

However, Rose said her son wasn’t given “a good deck of cards” in life. At 17, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was on “a multitude of medicines” for most of his life, but his mother said he never stopped hearing voices in his head.

“He never had a normal life,” Rose said. “He never had a driver’s license and couldn’t work. He really couldn’t even watch television. Every month I took him to his doctor’s appointments.”

“He was non-violent. He was paranoid and more afraid that people were going to hurt him,” said his sister, Debra Ziroli of Ranger, Georgia. She described her brother as a “sweetheart” of a man.

“He had this boisterous laugh,” Ziroli said. “I always said he was the better one. He was just very kind and always had a smile. He really didn’t say anything bad about anybody.”


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Joseph Rose walked a lot, liked buying scratch tickets and enjoyed going to the casino once in a while because he “was a real lucky son of a gun,” as Ziroli put it. He had a longtime girlfriend, Fernanda Mariano, who was found frozen to death at the Country Club of New Bedford in December 2013.

“That really hit him hard,” Ziroli said.

Six years ago, Joseph suffered a pair of debilitating cerebellar strokes. His mother found him lying on the kitchen floor of his New Bedford apartment four days after she had gotten worried and asked police to check in on him. He spent the last five years of his life at the CareOne nursing home in New Bedford.

When the pandemic shut down visitations, Leneta Rose said she visited her son at the nursing home by speaking to him through a window outside. He got sick while in the home, and told his mother that he had never felt so bad. 

Soon after, he was transported to St. Luke’s Hospital, where he was diagnosed with COVID-19. His body rejected medical treatments and began to shut down. He was placed on life support on June 1, 2020.

Less than two weeks later, someone called Leneta Rose and told her to go to the hospital as soon as she could. Less than 20 minutes later, she was in Joseph’s hospital room, wearing protective equipment. He died nine minutes later.

“I think he had to hear her voice before he went,” Ziroli said.

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