NORTON, MASS. (WHDH) - The daughter of local furniture icon Bernie Rubin opened up about the death of her father and the blame she feels at the thought she may have given her dad COVID-19.

The catchy commercial jingle brought Bernie and Phyllis Rubin into our homes. Bernie, the founder of the local furniture chain, passed away from COVID in 2020. His family recently marking one year since his death.

“I miss his laugh … I miss him,” said daughter Michelle Pepe.

The loss is especially hard on her because she blames herself for what happened.

“Every day I still wake up and I kiss his picture and I say ‘I’m sorry dad’. I talk to him in the car and I say ‘I’m very sorry,” said Pepe.

It was March of last year and the entire family was in south Florida for Phyls 80th birthday party. Pepe said she decided to stay and care for her parents as the country started to shut down. She said she believes she contracted the virus at a grocery store and then spread it to her parents.

Her 82-year old father — who in life was surrounded by people — died in a hospital bed by himself.

“Knowing what a tragic ending he had alone – and us not being there – it was just a living nightmare,” said Pepe.

She met 7NEWS at the company’s headquarters in Norton — where sports memorabilia line the walls.

Bernie’s office is just how he left it, filled with photos of his wife, three kids, 10 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Pepe said his death had her walking around in a fog for the last year.

“One of my daughters said to me ‘We know we lost our grandfather but we didn’t realize we lost you too because I deal with a lot of anxiety…and guilt,” she said.

Now that the country is reopening and life is resuming for so many, Pepe said she is forever changed.

“I’m proud of my dad and I want to make his legacy live on and I want to make him proud,” she said. “And I don’t want him to be just a number, I want to be recognized as a life lost from this horrific monster: COVID.”

Pepe said support groups for families that have lost people to COVID-19 need to be more readily available and that she would like to see a national day of remembrance.

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