Husband of caregiver, whose pandemic story inspired Gov. DeSantis, dies peacefully, his wife says

Jacksonville couple’s story inspired governor to find solution for long-term care visitation

In this July 13, 2020 photo made available by Rosecastle at Deerwood assisted facility in Jacksonville, Fla,, Mary Daniels and her husband Steve, sit together in his room Monday, July 13, 2020. Mary went 114 days without seeing her husband who has early onset of Alzheimers, after the coronavirus forced the facility to ban all visitors. She took a job as a part-time dishwasher at the facility so that she is able to see her husband. (Rosecastle at Deerwood via AP) (Uncredited, Rosecastle at Deerwood)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Their story captured the hearts of many people during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it inspired Gov. Ron DeSantis to find a solution for long-term care visitation in Florida.

Mary Daniel took a job as a dishwasher at her husband’s memory care facility in Jacksonville so that she could be part of the staff and permitted to spend time with him. This was during a time when long-term care facilities were not accepting visitors because of the pandemic.

ORIGINAL STORY: 72 days and counting: Jacksonville woman desperate to see husband who is fighting Alzheimer’s

On Wednesday night, Daniel announced that her husband Steve — who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, died peacefully. She wrote on her Instagram page:

“It is with a heavy heart that I share that Steve passed away peacefully this morning. It’s been a very long road and I’m so grateful for your support along the way. I am heartbroken but know I fulfilled the promise I made to him nine years ago to hold his hand every step of the way. Caring for him has been the greatest honor of my life and our children, grandchildren and I will move forward together with absolutely no regrets!”

Mary and Steve Daniel (YouTube)

When she joined the staff, the pair had a sweet reunion after 114 days apart.

“He saw me and said, ‘Mary?’ And we hugged and it was just like how I thought it would be,” Daniel said previously. “Just (to) hold him again after 114 days is just an amazing, amazing feeling.”

DeSantis then appointed Daniel as a member of a task force that was designed to safely reopen long-term care facilities.

PREVIOUS STORY: Jacksonville caregiver pushing for change gets help from Congress

Daniel took her fight to secure rights for caregivers all the way to the Florida Legislature, pushing for change on the federal level.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.