Fiancé of Deputy, 39, Who Died of Coronavirus Shares Anguish Over Loss: 'He Was So Full of Life'
"I think about how he kept me safe here. It's going to be the same thing up there. He's going to keep me safe there, as well," Jonathan Frey says of his late fiancé Shannon Bennett
The fiancé of Shannon Bennett, the Broward County Sheriff’s deputy who recently died from COVID-19, is speaking out about his heartbreak after losing the “amazing and dynamic” man he was ready to spend the rest of his life with.
Back in December, Jonathan Frey was in pure bliss as the love of his life got down on one knee and proposed at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Flash forward four months later, and Frey, 28, is now holding onto that cherished memory — and many others — as he keeps Bennett’s memory alive after the sheriff’s deputy died on Friday at age 39, following a nearly two-week battle with coronavirus.
“It’s been incredibly hard. I imagine this is going to be the hardest thing I ever have to deal with,” Frey tells PEOPLE. “It’s coming in waves, and I’m taking it minute by minute. But, ultimately, I want Shannon’s story to be told… he was just so amazing. He was dynamic, and he was so full of life.”
Frey says the pair first met in 2013 while he was volunteering at an LGBTQ mental health center, but they didn’t start dating until a year and a half ago.
“I knew at that moment that we started dating, he was going to be my person,” he explains of the deputy, who also worked as an LGBTQ advocate and a resource officer at Deerfield Beach Elementary School. “I knew it in my soul and in my heart. He was an amazing guy.”
“He always was supporting people and he was always at volunteer events,” Frey adds. “He was selfless in that way, he loved to be able to help people.”
During their relationship, Frey says they were “very transparent” with each other and never strayed from talking about big topics, such as marriage and their mutual desire to have children.
“One of the things that he cared most about was making sure that each of us was heard and that we knew exactly we were on the same page,” Frey shares. “There was never a moment where we were not on the same page.”
Bennett did, however, shock Frey when he got down on one knee on December 6, 2019.
“I had no idea that he was even thinking about proposing,” he admits. “I was just so happy. It was in front of the castle. The castle was lit up. I saw him for what he wanted and everything that we had talked about flashed before my eyes.”
“Like, this was the man who I wanted to spend my life with and he was saying the same thing to me,” he adds. “Again, we were on the same page… That memory for me is going to be something that lives on forever because was like a perfect moment for me.”
The couple quickly got to wedding planning, with Frey noting how Bennett went out of his way to make the process special because it “was something I had always dreamed about.”
“He knew that I wanted the ceremony and the wedding. He did everything in his power to make this special,” he recalls. “That was who he was. He was very much a person who made you feel special and would give you the shirt off his back.”
“He would look at you and you’d know he was listening,” Frey goes on. “He didn’t take any crap from anybody and he was very quick to put you in your place if you were not right or saying false information. He was such a beautiful person.”
By February 24, their nuptial date was set, with Bennett sharing the exciting news in an engagement photo on Facebook that had their December 11 wedding date written across. But just one month later, the sheriff’s deputy started feeling ill.
Four days later, Frey found himself driving his fiancé to the hospital — a moment that ultimately turned out to be their final time together.
“I never stepped a foot in the hospital. I dropped him out right in front and that’s the last time I saw him,” he says through tears. “My heart will always be heavy knowing that I wasn’t able to hold his hand, or be next to him, or even just be across the room so he could see me and know that I was there.”
Though their conversations were limited, Frey notes how Bennett rarely ever talked about himself in the hospital.
“He said his chest hurt and that he loved me,” he explains. “But even while he was in the hospital, one of his main priorities was just making sure I was okay. He would always text me, and see how I was doing, and how I felt… was I eating, did I get enough sleep.”
Unfortunately, after a slight upward trend in his health, Bennett passed away at the hospital on April 3, just a week after he was admitted.
His death has rocked the Deerfield Beach community, especially because Frey says the well-known deputy was a “very healthy man” who often went to doctor for checkups and blood work.
In the wake of his fiancé’s death, Frey says he’s been finding it “difficult” to grieve alone due to social distancing mandates and think about what could’ve been, but he’s finding comfort in remembering Bennett and the legacy he left behind.
“He just wanted to be remembered as a fun-loving guy and somebody that was always here for people,” he says. “He was going to be an amazing father, and it actually really pains me because Shannon talked about having a family very often and he was never was given the opportunity.”
“I loved Shannon with every fiber of being. Just thinking about his life, his love, that’s what pulls me through,” he continues. “I think about how he kept me safe here. It’s going to be the same thing up there. He’s going to keep me safe there, as well.”
Frey is also urging others to adhere to the safety measures that are in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is scary. I wasn’t able to see my fiancé, my future husband, before he passed away. That pain is going to stay with me forever,” Frey explains. “So, if there’s anything I can say about the virus, it’s that this is serious. This is real.”
“I don’t want anybody else to have to go through what I’m going through,” he adds. “In order to do that, we just have to remain vigilant and remain safe.”
As of Monday afternoon, there have been at least 395,090 cases and 12,786 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the New York Times. In Florida, at least 14,496 cases and 282 deaths have been reported, according to the outlet.
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