VIEW ALL PROJECTS

Audio Journalism

Documentary

Multimedia

Narrative Writing

Photo Journalism

Video Journalism

Scott Blanks

Scott Blanks Benjamin Lee

Benjamin Lee met Scott Blanks when they worked as baristas at a Starbucks in La Quinta. They quickly became best friends.

“He was one of the few people who was always kind to people, even when they weren’t kind to him,” Mr. Lee said. “He just showed me how to be good to people.”

One Christmas, Mr. Lee asked their co-workers at Starbucks to each donate a few dollars to buy Mr. Blanks an iPod touch. “As soon as I said, ‘It’s something for Scott for Christmas,’ everyone was immediately hand-over-fist,” he recalled.

Mr. Blanks died of Covid-19 on March 27. He had been given a diagnosis of an upper respiratory virus two weeks earlier and was told to take over-the-counter medication. But his condition rapidly deteriorated — he had asthma as a child — and he was hospitalized with a diagnosis of viral pneumonia. He was 34.

Karen Blanks, his sister-in-law, recalled how he insisted on sending money every Thanksgiving to help cover the cost of hosting more than 20 family members. “He wanted everyone to be happy and would always say, ‘Life’s too short,’” she said.

Mr. Blanks eventually left his Starbucks job and recently found work as a dental assistant. Mr. Lee had encouraged his friend to go to dental school, guessing he’d be able to put patients at ease. “He would love to be around people and chat them up,” he said.

New York Times logo

Production Staff & Crew

Yinuo Shi ( 2021 )

Reporter


Read all NYT-UC Berkeley COVID stories here.