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Community rallies support after a Kansas football coach dies of COVID-19

Aaron Flores received a double lung transplant nearly three years ago.
Published: Jan. 24, 2021 at 8:45 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Members of the Kansas football community are mourning the loss of a community college coach.

Aaron Flores was diagnosed with COVID-19 in December. On January 3, days after Flores turned 50, he was put on a ventilator. He later died of COVID-19 on Friday, January 15, 2021.

“Shedding tears when someone dies is normal, but I think more people than normal are shedding tears over this, and I think they’re shedding more than normal. I think that’s just because of the way Aaron lived his life, so positive, so influential, and just doing things the right way even when faced with some of the most long odds imaginable,” said Dan Cataldi, Aaron’s brother-in-law.

Flores left his mark on the game. A former head football coach at Coffeyville Community College and coached at Butler Community College, Flores helped some player start their journey into the professionals.

“Zac Taylor of the Bangles who in his introductory press conference named Aaron as someone who was a mentor and someone that helped him find his path,” Cataldi said.

Cataldi said the place where Flores cared most about investing his time was his family, wife Kristen and daughters Ryann and Haley.

“Probably the most important thing in his life was his family. He was very close with his parents. He’s an only child. Family to him meant a lot,” said Cataldi. “My sister and him were married more than 20 years, and in that time, I never once questioned as a brother whether she made a good decision or not.”

Flores passing comes nearly three years after he received a double lung transplant. For more than a decade, he lived with a serious and rare lung disease.

“When he was diagnosed, it wasn’t a good diagnosis. The fact that he lived as long as he did before the transplant was a bit of a surprise, and as conditions worsened, he got high on the transplant list and was able to get the transplant and was very successful. Back to a completely normal life.” Cataldi said, “Gave him the opportunity to breathe normally, and his daughters never got to experience being able to walk into Target with him and walk around the store because he didn’t have the energy pre-transplant. That last two years after the transplant were certainly two of the best years he’d had in a long, long time.”

Cataldi said one thing his brother-in-law is he kept pushing through.

“When he was coaching, especially when he was sick, that he was having to use a cart and carrying oxygen tanks and using a voice amplifier and it was hard, and they saw him doing it because he wanted to be out there for them and I think that meant a lot to the players,” said Cataldi.

Cataldi said that when Flores was diagnosed with COVID-19, at first, it didn’t look too bad, but a few days later, he was transferred to Omaha.

“He was diagnosed along with my sister, one of their daughters and his dad in mid-December. Immediately they were in contact with his transplant team in Omaha, where he was still under their care, although he was in Coffeyville,” said Cataldi. “Obviously, he was judged high-risk, and they tried some treatments in Coffeyville.”

After Flores’s passing, Cataldi said the family has received an outpouring of support.

“Whether it’s in Wichita or Coffeyville or Kansas City where he grew up,” he said.

For Cataldi, that goes to show the legacy that Flores will leave behind.

“He was one of the greatest people you’ll ever meet,” said Cataldi.

If you would like to help this family, you can donate to their GoFundMe.

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