Don Chuz, left, was known for being a hard worker.

Don Chuz, left, was known for being a hard worker. Credit: Brent Pelton

Don Chuz, an immigrant from Guatemala who lived in Greenport, was a tiling subcontractor known for working hard and keeping focused on sending money to family in his native country.

Chuz could always be expected to show up at a job site on time and ready to do great work, said Jorge Gomez, a Greenport contractor and his friend, who often hired him for jobs.

"He was a good guy I could trust," Gomez said. "I helped him out, he was responsible. He didn’t drink. We created a good relationship."

But on April 17, Gomez drove by Chuz’s place and his friend emerged from the house wearing a mask and not looking well.

"I made a joke with him and said ‘Oh, you decide to have a couple of drinks?’ " Gomez recalled.

Chuz told Gomez that he felt flu-like symptoms but was afraid to get medical attention because he didn’t have insurance and wanted to avoid questions about his immigration status.

"I have no way to pay my bills — I have no insurance. It’s probably just a cold," Chuz said, according to Gomez.

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The following day, Chuz died at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport of COVID-19. He was 55.

Gomez, who also emigrated from Guatemala, said that he and Chuz had been friends since Chuz arrived in the United States about eight years ago. Chuz came from Palencia, Guatemala, which is about six miles from Gomez’s hometown.

Gomez said he was helping Chuz obtain a car title and had stopped by to drop off some paperwork that April day.

"He didn’t look good," Gomez said. "I can still picture that face."

In the morning hours of April 18, one of Chuz’s nephews tried to drive him to Stony Brook Eastern but his uncle collapsed in front of the house. His nephew called 911 and an ambulance took Chuz to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Gomez said Chuz left behind a wife and three children in Guatemala, as well as two nephews in Greenport.

"His focus was to work as much as he could, save his money and help his family — his kids — in Guatemala. It’s all he did."

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