Manuel P. Amaral was the “cool uncle” who would take his young nephew, Michael Souza, out for lunch on Saturdays and buy him a toy when they later went shopping.
“He was very loving, very caring. He’d help anyone out,” Souza said of his Uncle Manuel, who died June 11, 2020, from COVID-19 complications at St. Luke’s Hospital. He was 74.
Amaral, who lived most of his life in New Bedford, suffered for years with likely post-traumatic stress disorder that he developed from his service as a U.S. Army soldier in Vietnam, Souza said.
Assigned to a tank unit during the war, Amaral had a nervous breakdown in combat and struggled to cope during the ensuing decades. He didn’t speak much about the war, but told his nephew about how his unit had fired rounds at the enemy for 30 days straight.
“He would just have these flashbacks,” Souza said. “If there was a loud noise, he would literally jump.”
His nephew said Amaral, who was given an honorable medical discharge from the Army, suffered mental effects from taking high doses of thorazine after the war. Still, Amaral worked for years as a box maker for Alden Corrugated in New Bedford until his retirement. He loved animals and cars, especially his 1968 Pontiac LeMans.
“I remember growing up, he was always working on his cars,” said Souza, of New Bedford, who added that Amaral also kept pet rabbits in his backyard and “loved” his dogs.
Amaral, who never married or had children of his own, spent the end of his life at the CareOne nursing home in New Bedford. Last spring, feeling sick, he was transported to St. Luke’s Hospital, where he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He never left the hospital.
“He was failing,” Souza said in describing how his uncle looked the last time he saw him through a video live feed. Before he died, the hospital allowed Amaral’s sister, Nancy Souza, to be in the room with him while wearing full personal protective equipment.
Amaral was cremated, and it took the family about two months to get his cremains, said Souza, whose mother, Nancy Souza, has since died from non-COVID-related causes.
“My uncle’s ashes are here at home,” Souza said, “Next to my mother.”
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