Church mission president dies, battled COVID-19 for 2 months

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The president of the Cochabamba mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bolivia has passed away.

A Church spokesperson said President José Maria Batalla died Tuesday morning of cardiac arrest. The 60-year-old had been battling COVID-19 for almost two months.

According to the Church, Sister Valeria Batalla was with her husband when he died in a rehab hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The couple has been head of mission in Bolivia since July 2020. They are from Nordelta, Argentina.

Batalla was previously an Area Seventy, stake president, and bishop. He leaves behind two daughters and two sons.

In April 2020, the Church announced the death of a senior missionary, Allen Dee Pace. A few days before his death, he had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

In May of this year, two missionaries – Luke Masakazu Carter, 18, from Springville and Eli Jon Fowler, 20, Pueblo West, Colo. – were killed in an accident in Texas. Weeks earlier Fernando Antonio Ramos Garcia, 21, of Juayua, El Salvador, died after drowning in a river.

In January, 19-year-old Jake Smith of Lehi died after a car crash in Arkansas. Three other missionaries were injured. Another 20-year-old missionary, Samuel Joseph Iseh, Jr. of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, died of a sudden health problem.

Charles K. Eckert