LR Quintas

Yaneli and Joel Quintas at their church, Iglesias El Shaddai, in Champaign.

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URBANA — The youngest person to die of COVID-19 in Champaign County was a man with a big heart, a husband, dad and a leader in his church, say those who knew him.

Joel Quintas, a deacon at Iglesias El Shaddai, a Christian Pentecostal church in Champaign, died Saturday at age 38 after struggling for more than a month with COVID-19.

“He was just the nicest guy in the world,” said one of his friends, Brandon Moore. “Every picture of him, he’s got a big smile on his face.”

Mr. Quintas, the brother of the church’s pastor, the Rev. Alfonso Quintas, leaves behind a wife, Yaneli, and two sons in Urbana.

He was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. in 1998 for a better life, said his nephew, Gabriel Quintas.

“The main thing is he was a Christian man. He was a father. He was my uncle. And he was always someone who was so loving, someone who always cared for everybody else,” he said.

His uncle would share food and money with others when he had little and never wanted to have his giving recognized, Gabriel Quintas said.

“He knew God had his back,” he said.

His uncle also enjoyed cooking and was employed by Pekara Bakery & Bistro, Gabriel Quintas said.

COVID-19 first struck his own family, and then Joel Quintas and his two sons got the disease, Gabriel Quintas said.

Joel Quintas had a fever, tested positive for the disease, then struggled to breathe. He had been hospitalized at Carle since May 11, and was in a coma for several weeks, Gabriel Quintas said.

Mr. Quintas had no known underlying health conditions, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District said Wednesday.

Another friend of Mr. Quintas’, Nikisha Nelson of Urbana, said Mr. Quintas and his family had just bought a house in Urbana last year.

“It was like a dream of his to provide a house for his family,” she said.

Mr. Quintas had a huge heart and was always available to help anyone, even to the point of putting up families in need at his home, Nelson said.

He was always sharing his faith and led the church’s Sunday school program, she said.

“He really lived a life for God,” Nelson said.

The church hopes to hold a memorial service Saturday but is looking for a space large enough, Gabriel Quintas said.

Moore started a GoFundMe page to help Joel Quintas’ family at bit.ly/2ZgUuxR.

Money raised will help cover the cost of his burial, medical bills and other expenses.