The Phoenix couple who owned a tax firm died next to COVID days

PHOENIX (AP) – A montage of photos from graduations, weddings, quinceaneras, and holidays filled the wall next to Josephine Gonzales’ desk at her tax office, AJ Gonzales Enterprises, Inc. in Phoenix.

The collage started with a portrait of her family and grew as clients brought photos to appointments and caught up with the accountant before discussing finances.

Josephine, or Josie, as she was called, knew every customer and loved ones by name, said her son.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it adapted. She installed plexiglass partitions, added an air purifier, and required face covers in the office. Despite this, Josie and her husband Albert Gonzalez, who worked with her, contracted the virus in the office in mid-January, the family suspects.

She died on February 4 at HonorHealth’s John C. Lincoln Medical Center, unaware that her husband had died six days earlier.

You are among the more than 15,000 Arizona nationals who died of COVID-19 a year after the pandemic.

The couple left two children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The couple met in a dance hall in downtown Phoenix. Josie’s almond-black eyes met the young upholsterer from Tolleson. A few weeks later, Albert drove to a movie theater in Phoenix, where Josie was working at the ticket office. He bought a movie ticket and gathered the courage to ask her out on a date. They married a year later, bought a house in Phoenix, and a few years later adopted two children.

Josephine Gonzales and Albert Gonzalez pose at their wedding on November 20, 1960.

They celebrated 60 years of marriage in November.

Josie was the social butterfly of the relationship while Albert was a man of few words. Though those who knew him well had a witty sense of humor when he spoke.

“If you weren’t careful, you would be missing out on some of the funniest anecdotes or comments of your life,” said his son Albert Gonzalez, who walks past Al when he and his wife laughed. “My father had that power.”

Josie loved that about him.

She made the travel plans. He was the navigator.

She would get caught at work. He would be waiting for her at home in the evening.

Neither ever tired.

In the eighties, Josie and Albert still had a lot of energy, according to their daughter-in-law Jennifer Gonzalez.

“That shouldn’t be happening,” she said.

According to Al, the tax business was going better than ever and they had plans for the future.

The couple left a guidebook with plans and savings for a trip to Australia and New Zealand, a key item Josie wanted to make sure Albert was struck off his bucket list.

Albert grew up as a farm worker in Tolleson and retired as a social worker for Arizona’s child protection services in the late 1990s. He was a deacon of the Catholic Church, one of his proudest accomplishments, and performed services such as baptisms and weddings.

The couple, who had more than 400 clients, had scheduled hundreds of appointments this tax season to help clients navigate the unique financial circumstances of the pandemic.

Her son and daughter-in-law must decide the next steps in the tax business that was Josie’s legacy.

Josie Gonzales is based in her office at AJ Gonzales Enterprises, the tax firm she founded in 2007. She died of COVID-19 on February 4, 2021.

Pursuing her interest in finance, Josie got several jobs teaching her the pros and cons of income taxes until she decided to start her own tax firm in 2007. Albert supported her as Vice President and Director.

AJ Gonzales was small and was run only by close relatives of the couple.

Customers appreciated this atmosphere.

“I come from a Mexican family and I loved going to their office because I felt part of their family and Josie was like my Mexican grandmother,” said Darrell Perez, a Josie customer.

Josie, a native Spanish speaker, has had many Hispanic clients confiding in her.

“They knew they had my mother’s attention, however long it was to complete their return, and mother wouldn’t be bothered,” Al said.

He said she was adorable but professional which made each client’s experience personal.

Josie and Albert were so close to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

They had an appointment to get the first dose on the day their daughter took the couple to the hospital on January 20, the day before Josie’s 80th birthday.

Josie’s breathing worsened and she was put on a ventilator and taken to intensive care a few days later. On January 25, Albert was released into the care of his son by the hospital. Both he and Josie had insulin-dependent diabetes.

Al noticed that his father was taking short, quick breaths in his care and he was not eating enough. He took him back to the Lincoln Emergency Room, where he was admitted with low oxygen. The next day, a nurse called the family to say goodbye.

Al planned to tell his mother about Albert’s death, but her condition was worsening.

“Your body was just too weak. She was just too tired from fighting, “said Al.

He wished he had at least been able to hold her hands and say goodbye in person, but said he understood and respected the hospital’s security measures.

“The protocol keeps people alive,” he said.

He and his son also signed COVID-19 after taking care of Albert. Both have since recovered.

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