A local high school sports writer, who covered rural, often overlooked high school athletes passed away from COVID-19.
Andy Luberda, 51, passed away on December 29 after contracting the virus earlier in the month. Luberda spent just less than two weeks in the hospital after falling in his home, stranded for about a day and a half. His wife said COVID-19 made him too weak to walk.
"He had gotten up sometime during the night to go sit in his recliner because he could breathe a little bit better sitting up," said Kelli Luberda, Andy's wife of more than 20 years. "He was very weak, and he ended up falling, and his phone was in the bedroom. [He] couldn't get to the phone and couldn't get himself up. So he laid there for about 36 hours until the police found him."
Luberda was taken to the hospital, just days before planning to reunite with his wife, who had moved to Kentucky for kidney dialysis, with hopes of receiving a kidney transplant. She moved from Arizona in October, the last time the couple saw each other in person.
"I never thought at the age of 51, I’d be burying my husband," said Kelli. "A piece of my world has just been ripped apart."
The day before he passed away, Kelli was able to speak to her husband one last time via FaceTime.
"[I told] him how much I loved him and I miss him. I promised to take good care of our son and that he didn’t have to fight anymore. And he died a few hours later."
Luberda was a dedicated sports writer, covering the Southeast Valley, including Queen Creek and Coolidge. He wrote for the County Line Preps, a website he created and ran, which became a section of ArizonaVarsity.com.
A colleague and friend told ABC15 that Luberda would give the same amount of coverage and respect for all athletics levels. Whether covering a Coolidge High School softball game or Queen Creek High School football game, Luberda put forth the same effort, giving an equal voice to athletes and schools.
"Before he came along, nobody knew who these kids were," said Kelli. "Nobody knew who Queen Creek High School was. He would get these kids' names out there and wonderful these kids were."
"More than anything, Andy cherished community. He wanted desperately to belong and believed that it was incumbent upon him to continuously prove himself to others," wrote ArizonaVarsity.com publisher Ralph Amsden about his colleague after his death.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help Luberda's family with medical and funeral costs.