For two weeks after his death, their dog Waldo waited outside the closed bedroom door, waiting for the father to let him in.
Lewis Dunlap was 51 years old, and he was 6-feet-3 and 280 pounds. He was a big and strong man! He ran a garage in Elyria, Ohio, that had been in his family for 74 years, fixing trucks, which meant that he had a busy time during the pandemic.
Dunlap and Julie Wallace had known each other since high school, but their love story didn't bloom until much later. It was probably the fact that Wallace wasn't intimidated by him. “He'd burst out with a huge glorious laugh,” she says. “He was a big softie despite his size and scowl.”
In 2002, they bought a house. The next year, Mallory was born. Seven years later, they welcomed their daughter, Camille. Fatherhood was his calling, Wallace said, per USA Today. “From the moment Lew found out I was pregnant, he was all in. After Mallory was born, he was an insane dad the minute we got home.”
Ever since the pandemic, Dunlap, a germaphobe, did everything in his power to keep his close ones safe. He was always worried about what would happen if they caught COVID. “My senior year of high school was the worst year of my life,” Mallory says. “We were all being so careful not to get COVID. My education, my dad’s work, his dream of taking over the family business one day – it was all on the line.”
At work, face masks were mandatory for everyone, along with temperature tests. Plexiglass was installed to limit contact with customers. If someone felt sick, they were to stay away and get tested. For 10 months, the precautions worked. But, one person didn't follow the rules, and soon Dunlap fell sick. On November 24, 2020, he locked himself up in their bedroom, worried that he might spread the virus to his family. Their dog, a boxer named Waldo, was his only constant companion.
Though he was feeling better, he went to the hospital to get tested, on November 28, after giving into Wallace's nagging. There, he was given a coronavirus test and told to take Mucinex. Around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, his phone dinged with a text alert. It was official: He had tested positive.
Suddenly, Dunlap seemed weaker, and so, Wallace urged him to go back to urgent care again, on November 29. She helped him dress and bent down to tie his shoes when she suddenly felt him leaning against her back. “Lew,” she said, “you can’t breathe on me.”
But, he fell on her back, and that's when Wallace realized that he was unconscious. “He was just gone,” she says. She immediately screamed at Mallory to call 911. “I saw my father turn blue before my eyes,” Mallory says. “I’m crying and yelling into the phone, ‘He’s dying! He’s dying!’ The dispatcher kept saying, ‘Help is on the way.’”
Wallace immediately got Dunlap on his back, with help from Mallory. “We finally got him on his back,” Mallory says. “The dispatcher gave us instructions as I did chest compressions and Mom did mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.” When they heard sirens in a distance, Wallace took over for Mallory so she could let the first responders in. From there, it was all a blur to Mallory. She remembers a doctor at the hospital saying, “We couldn’t do anything.”
What's worse is that Wallace couldn't even comfort her daughters, or herself, because she'd given Dunlap mouth-to-mouth, and had to quarantine herself. However, it seems like a miracle that she did not test positive for the wretched virus. But, for two weeks after her dad died, Mallory remembers Waldo waiting outside the closed bedroom door, waiting for Dunlap to let him in.
"My dad was a man who protects others. He did everything he could to stay safe and keep everyone around him safe, too. And then one person infected my dad. And now he’s gone.”
Cover Image Source (Representative): Getty Images | AntonioGuillem