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Salvador Viveros, 60, Beloved Father Who Spread Joy With His Smile

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Salvador Viveros of Los Banos, Calif., was known for the joy he brought to people around him.

ERASMO VIVEROS: My dad always had a smile from ear to ear.

SHAPIRO: That's Erasmo Viveros, his younger son.

E VIVEROS: He believed in accountability, and he always held us accountable. But he always did everything with a smile.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Salvador was 60 years old when he died in March after a seven-week battle against the coronavirus, one of the more than 600,000 people who have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. He was born in Mexico and moved to the U.S. early in his teenage years. Erasmo says his dad didn't talk much about that part of his life.

E VIVEROS: The struggles that he faced, the trials and tribulations along the way - all he would say is, you know, I left for a better life and I found it.

SHAPIRO: Salvador had a long career at Gilroy Foods, where he advanced into the role of lead mill operator. And he was married for more than 40 years to his wife Josephine.

JOSEPHINE VIVEROS: He was very lovable, always laughing, joking with me. We'd laugh all the time because he was always saying jokes.

CHANG: Salvador loved going on roller coasters, impromptu road trips and restaurant outings with his families and the family's weekend barbecues. But when his two grandchildren came into the picture...

SALVADOR VIVEROS JR: I never seen him smile so hard before.

SHAPIRO: That's Salvador's elder son, known as Salvador Jr. Salvador Jr. says his dad started to focus more on the kids, taking them to the beach or on walks to feed the ducks.

CHANG: And that smile we've heard so much about? Well, Josephine says he passed it on to his grandchildren.

J VIVEROS: They look a lot like him. They both carry his beautiful smile. He loved those boys so much. Even though he worked 12 hours a day, he would still come home and play with them. And I'm like, Sal, you need to get rest. Oh, no, no. Let me play with my grandkids.

CHANG: But she says her husband's spirit also spread outside of their family.

J VIVEROS: I had people calling me, people crying at the cemetery, telling me how lovable - he was a lovable person. I had this one lady. She couldn't stop crying, saying that he was so polite, he was so nice, that they were dearly going to miss him. And I said to myself, I know how you guys all feel because I feel the same.

SHAPIRO: Salvador also spent a lot of time helping Erasmo fix up his back yard. And on May 26, when Salvador would have celebrated his 61st birthday, Erasmo put up a table in the backyard with a picture of his dad.

E VIVEROS: One of the things he was saying is like, I would really like to have a little gathering here in the backyard that we've finally finished. And so in honor of him, you know, I put out a little table and a picture of him and a candle and remembered, you know, everything that we did together in that moment and to share a space with him.

CHANG: Salvador Jr. says he will host a nice barbecue in honor of his dad, Salvador Viveros, once the family can gather again.

(SOUNDBITE OF DUSTIN O'HALLORAN'S "LEAH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.