Teddy Bernal, the owner and operator of beloved Frank & Lupe’s restaurants, died of COVID-19 on July 5. He was 45.
“It is in our deepest thoughts that we regret to inform the customers who we consider to be a part of the Bernal family that Teddy Bernal has lost his battle with COVID-19,” the Bernal family wrote in a post on Frank & Lupe’s Facebook page.
Mr. Bernal leaves behind his wife, Diana Prieto, their 9-year-old daughter, Valentina, and his two children Teddy Jr. and Brittany Bernal, 23, who he had with his first wife, Gina Bernal.
“Teddy was the most caring person you could meet,” the family said.
Mr. Bernal fell ill in June, was admitted into the hospital on June 26, and died 10 days later.
The family said they don’t know how he contracted the virus.
Diana also tested positive for COVID-19 and spent time in the hospital but is currently recovering.
The family closed both Frank & Lupe’s restaurants –Old Town and Ahwatukee – for two days earlier this month.
“Teddy Bernal became ill weeks ago, and we have taken the proper precautions as guided by the CDC to ensure that this is a safe and healthy environment for both our employees and customers,” the family said.
Shortly after the announcement of her father’s untimely passing, Brittany started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover unexpected costs.
“My brother, my family and I have had a lot of stress placed on our hearts, and we could use help with covering the finances of this awful event that has been catastrophic to all of us,” Brittany wrote.
Within a few days, the family met their fundraising goal and raised $3,450.
“I miss [you] so much my heart aches,” Brittany wrote. “I wish I could call you and hear your voice again or feel your hugs and see you wave ‘bye’ while you say ‘I love you’ after grabbing lunch. I don’t know if I’ll ever genuinely laugh at a joke again because it’s not coming from you. I love you so much dad. You were taken from us far too soon.”
News of Mr. Bernal’s death has been met with hundreds of customers, friends, and former classmates expressing their condolences.
“Teddy Bernal was truly one of the sweetest, happiest, calm, and loving friends we could have had the blessing of knowing,” said Teddy’s former Socorro High School (SHS) classmate, Amy R. Callan, in the SHS Class of 1993 Facebook group.
Callan, along with many of Teddy’s other high school classmates, pooled together money to send flowers to the Bernal family.
“Teddy’s son was very touched by what we did and expressed his sincere thanks, and commented they were so beautiful and happy like his dad,” Callan said.
Callan added that they will set up a scholarship account for the Bernal family with the remaining money they raised.
Mr. Bernal was a third-generation restaurateur who ran, alongside his brother Eddie, the Arizona locations of Frank & Lupe’s, a decades-old New Mexican-Mexican restaurant.
Teddy’s parents, Frank and Lupe Bernal, started the first location more than 40 years ago in Socorro, New Mexico; and they continue to run it today.
“They’re all my mom’s recipes,” Mr. Bernal told Ahwatukee Foothills News in 2017.
After leaving Socorro and moving to the Valley, Mr. Bernal attended and graduated from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and opened the Frank & Lupe’s Old Town location in 1995.
“It used to be a French restaurant and the owner was selling it,” Teddy told AFN. “So, I called my parents and told them about it.”
Later, in 2017, they opened a second Valley location in Ahwatukee.
“It was his life’s work and passion to run this restaurant that we all consider a second home,” the Bernal family said.