Health Voices

Kristin Urquiza at his father’s grave with the headline that carried his story, and her advocacy, nationwide. Maryvale resident Mark Anthony Urquiza died June 20 of COVID-19, a death his daughter blames on a lack of leadership by elected officials.

When Arizona native Kristin Urquiza wrote her dad’s obituary after his June 30 death from COVID-19, the Democratic National Convention was probably the furthest thing from her mind.

But that’s where Urquiza found herself last week, telling a national audience that her dad’s “only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life.”

Mark Anthony Urquiza was a West Valley native and 1981 Tolleson Union High School graduate who met his wife, Brenda, there. Their daughter remembered her late father and his struggles with health care under the Trump administration at the convention. 

Urquiza, a former Maryvale resident, said she did not set out to become an advocate after the death of her father, Mark, but she has embraced the role.

“I did not at all expect it to gain as much attention as it did,” she said before her brief virtual address to the DNC. “For me, it was not a controversial obituary. It was just me sharing the truth.”

That obituary, featured in a New York Times story, blamed a failure of leadership by Trump and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey for her father’s death.

“From the moment my dad became ill with coronavirus, I could trace back to the exact policy decisions and media communications that both Gov. Ducey and President Trump had taken,” Urquiza said.

Urquiza said in the weeks since her father’s death, she has learned of tens of thousands of people like her who related to her story. Many have even reached out to her.

Urquiza said she remains filled with grief over her father’s death, but she’s decided to channel that energy into activism. She said she wants people to know that tragedies like her father’s death were preventable.

She has worked with people from Texas to New York, from Iowa to Arizona to “stand in solidarity of this call for a coordinated response to this pandemic” by the nation’s leaders.

“It just demonstrates that I’m not alone and that literally tens of thousands of people across the country are yearning for some sort of direction and leadership to show them how to be able to not only raise their voice but to keep themselves and their communities safe,” she said.