Southwest Solutions is grieving the death of our colleague Monica Echeverri Casarez. Monica passed away on Easter Sunday from COVID-19.
Monica was a multi-talented individual deeply committed to the values of service and improving the community. She applied her skills and passion in the areas of health and wellness, small business development, education, community organizing, public relations, and more.
As a certified surgical technologist, Monica went back to work at the Detroit Medical Center in March, as the COVID-19 crisis intensified and her expertise was needed. She wrote to her friends on Facebook that the hospital provides “some of the richest experiences, friendships with top quality people, and tons of true belly laughs, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a bit nervous to be there now.” Less than a week later, Monica reported that she was feeling ill and needed to stay home. She was then diagnosed with COVID-19, and as her condition worsened, she was admitted as a patient. She was on a ventilator for a week before her passing.
“After hearing of her return to work in the hospital at the end of March my last words to her were thank you for your service — and oh my God what an enormous sacrifice,” said her friend Sally Schluter Tardella. “Her life was dedicated to service and Detroit.”
Monica began her career at Southwest Solutions in 1995 in our early childhood program and as public relations manager. After a decade of this work, she became certified as a surgical technologist, served as a medical interpreter for Covenant Community Care, and was an adjunct instructor for a local college. She returned to work at Southwest Solutions in 2012 and headed our wellness program for adults with mental illness. After this role, she worked for the DMC lab and continued to teach college classes in lab work. In 2017 our ProsperUS Detroit program hired Monica to provide training to aspiring small business entrepreneurs in southwest Detroit. Monica was one of the founders of Southwest Detroit Restaurant Week.
At Southwest Solutions, Monica met the love of her life, Jorge Casarez, who was clinical manager of our adult outpatient programs. Monica and Jorge married in 2012.
Maureen Sheehan was part of the wedding party. “Monica’s death is hard to grasp and believe,” said Maureen. “We know the news is painful for scores of friends and those she worked with on so many projects and causes. She was a fierce and passionate woman who touched innumerable lives with her great spirit, heart and mind.
“Jorge is also sick with a less severe case of COVID,” Maureen continued. “He took great care of Monica for the week before she was admitted to the hospital. We hope for a memorial with her beloved community later this year when we can come together.”
“All of us who knew Monica will forever treasure the memories of her passion for life, her selfless caring for others, her radiant smile and robust and infectious laughter and her love for everyone she knew starting with Jorge,” said John Van Camp, former head of Southwest Solutions and a close friend and mentor of Monica’s. “Her spirit will always remain with us.”
Detroit News reporter Neal Rubin wrote a wonderful story about the life of Monica Echeverri Casarez and tragedy of her passing from COVID-19: