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TODAY's Natalie Morales mourns 'sudden' death of father-in-law Joe Rhodes at age 79

Her father-in-law spent 17 years as his late wife's caregiver as she battled Alzheimer's disease.
/ Source: TODAY

Natalie Morales is mourning the recent loss of her father-in-law, Joe Rhodes.

The TODAY West Coast anchor shared on Instagram Saturday that the father of her husband, who's also named Joe Rhodes, had died, describing his passing as "sudden." To honor the elder Rhodes, Morales posted a family photo including her father-in-law, husband and two sons, Luke and Josh.

"It has been a sad start to the new year with the sudden passing of one of the most amazing people I knew, my father-in-law Joe Rhodes," she wrote. "He was a wonderful father and grandpa. He loved and cared for his wife Kay for more (than) 52 years and as she battled Alzheimer’s. He taught us so much about love, character and devotion. We miss you and will keep you close in our hearts always."

According to his obituary, Joe Rhodes died on Jan. 1 at age 79. Six years earlier, in 2014, Natalie's mother-in-law, Ellen Kay Rhodes, died after living with Alzheimer's disease for 17 years. Kay and Joe had been married for 52 years at the time of her death.

Natalie opened up to ALZ Magazine in 2019 about her family’s battle with Alzheimer’s. Her mother-in-law was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s in her mid-50s, and Natalie's father-in-law was her primary caregiver for many years.

"Alzheimer’s is especially difficult for caregivers," Natalie told the outlet. "My father-in-law started having heart problems and a lot of other health issues because of the stress of taking care of my mother-in-law. ... As a caregiver, you need people. It’s a disease that we cannot face on our own — don’t be afraid to ask for help. You need the assistance and love of everybody around you."

She later added, "When my father-in-law first embarked on his long caregiving journey, he didn’t know what the future would look like."

In addition to his dedication to his family, the late Joe Rhodes was extremely competitive and talented at strategy games, from chess and bridge to his daily crosswords and word scrambles, his obituary said.

"His friends described him as fun-loving, generous, principled and stubborn," it added. "He never lost his strong values, intellect or competitive spirit despite a number of serious health issues later in life. He lived independently until his death. May God bless his soul and welcome him into his eternal care where he will rejoin Kay in eternal love."