Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, the mother of Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, died Monday due to complications from COVID-19 after more than a month of fighting the virus. She was 58.
The Timberwolves made the announcement via the Towns family, which requested privacy. The team intially said Cruz-Towns was 59. Karl Towns Sr., the father of the two-time All-Star player, was also hospitalized with the virus but has since recovered.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Cruz-Towns was a fixture at Timberwolves games from the start of her son's NBA career. He was the first overall pick in the 2015 draft out of Kentucky.
“Jackie was many things to many people — a wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend,” the statement from the Towns family said. “She was an incredible source of strength; a fiery, caring, and extremely loving person who touched everyone she met. Her passion was palpable, and her energy will never be replaced.”
The family expressed gratitude to the “warriors” at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia and JFK Medical Center in Edison, New Jersey, the hospitals where she received care.
After his parents first felt ill at their home in New Jersey, Towns and his sister urged them to seek immediate medical attention and be tested for the virus. Towns posted an emotional video on his Instagram account on March 24, revealing his mother was in a medically induced coma. She'd been hospitalized, after a high fever and bad cough persisted. After some improvement, Towns said last month, her situation “went sideways" quickly.
He also, in that video message, made an impassioned plea to people to stay home to help stop the spread of the virus. The East Coast has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, with a death toll in New York state alone that has topped 10,000.
“This disease needs not to be taken lightly. Please protect your families, your loved ones, your friends, yourself. Practice social distancing. Please don’t be in places with a lot of people," said Towns, who donated $100,000 last month to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for COVID-19 testing.
The Timberwolves expressed their condolences for the woman they considered part of their family.
“As Karl’s number one fan, Jackie provided constant and positive energy for him and was beloved by our entire organization and staff at Target Center," the team said.
Kentucky coach John Calipari, who stayed close to the Towns family after he turned pro, said on Twitter that receiving the news from Towns and his father was one of the hardest phone calls he's ever had to take.
“Ms. Jackie was an angel and we were blessed to have her in our lives,” Calipari tweeted.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Cruz-Towns as age 59, relying on information from the team.
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