The number is staggering: More than 10,000 lost to the coronavirus in just seven weeks across the five boroughs, and thousands more in counties next door.
Mothers and fathers, daughters and sons; entertainers and electricians, health care workers and homemakers: Each has touched the lives of countless others.
The cruel nature of the killer leaves bereft friends and family often unable to even share the simple solace of a hug. They should take some comfort, however, in knowing that we’re all mourning alongside them. New Yorkers have been reading the stories of some lost beloved in the pages of The Post, whose reporters remind us every number represents someone special.
Charlotte M. Robinson, 97, a retired nurses’ aide from the Bronx, fell in love with the city after visiting from North Carolina for two weeks in the 1950s — and never left. She saw history and helped make it. She heard Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary address at the March on Washington in 1963. “Fifty years later, my husband, our children, a cousin and I returned with her there. It was very emotional,” her granddaughter Arlinda Douglas recalls. “She also lived to see a black president, which made her proud.”
Robinson, who had two sons, nine grandchildren, and 27 great-grandchildren, “loved being snazzy, and she lived a full life.” Last year she regaled a karaoke crowd with a rendition of TLC’s “No Scrubs.” Says Douglas, “She was down for anything, and I loved that about her.”
“I would not know what it feels like to be the son of a celebrity, but I’d be willing to bet it’s similar to being the son of Tommy Carney,” says NYPD officer Tom Carney, whose father died at 70. “Whenever I was introduced to someone who knew my dad, the look and subsequent handshake (or hug) I would receive would fill me with an immense sense of pride.” Tommy’s “legendary” sense of humor “made him beloved by all during his 35-year career as a court officer in Queens Family Court — a place that can often be depressing and chaotic. One esteemed judge recently told my mother that his efficiency and upbeat attitude made her job there that much easier.”
Madeline Geremia, 79, also raised a family in Queens: four kids with her childhood sweetheart, Joseph, who died in 2003. She “loved her family, her Catholic faith and Frank Sinatra, though not necessarily in that order,” The Post’s tribute reveals. Her daughter Theresa Apostolo will fulfill her final wishes. “She used to tell me, ‘When I go, make sure my white gown and heels are on and my Frank Sinatra records are playing at the funeral parlor!’” she says. “Growing up, I knew every song, every word.”
Geremia was a Manhattan native with a very New York story. Brooklyn’s Arkady Ginzburg, 69, had one too, though he was born in Khoiniki, a shtetl in the city of Gomel, Belarus. New York Post staffer Olga Ginzburg and her brother Eugene, his children, say the family came to America from Soviet Russia in 1989, “fleeing not only things like the fallout from Chernobyl, but also anti-Semitic oppression and a basic lack of opportunity. He was always and forever grateful to this country for taking us in.”
Life wasn’t always easy here: “He was a master electrician by trade, although he always had to work at least two jobs to support his family — sometimes doing backbreaking work.” But his “light of joy” could “never be extinguished.” Visiting his granddaughters on Staten Island most Sundays, “after passing around a few shots of vodka, he would spontaneously break out into Yiddish song. He would start and the rest would follow. Sundays will never be the same.”
Karl Birenbaum, 93, also found a better life in America. “I’m the last of the Mohicans,” he liked to say: The Howard Beach resident and Bulova watchmaker was one of the few remaining survivors of the Holocaust. Steven Kief’s family lived near Birenbaum’s in Radom, Poland. “When [the Nazis] started taking everyone, they hid in the woods,” he reports. “It’s crazy to think about what they endured and how something like this is taking him.” Birenbaum had no children but his nieces and nephews, who live in Canada and Israel, held a videoconference funeral for him via Zoom.
Many families, unable to hold traditional funerals and wakes, resort to tech to honor their loved ones. The family of Tanasia Shakia Alamo will FaceTime her funeral from Staten Island. Generous New Yorkers donated $10,000 in less a day to help with the costs. Alamo, who was born with Down syndrome, was just 25 and known to friends and family as the “minister of hugs,” her mother, Sheila Alamo, tells us.
Also lost far too young was Kimarlee Nguyen, 33. The writer taught English at Brooklyn Latin School. “She would tell me stories of her students, who were so moved by her parents’ experience of being Khmer Rouge survivors and that legacy, and how she wanted to honor her Cambodian roots and family,” friend Cherry Lou Sy remembers. The friends’ “battle song” was Ibeyi’s “Deathless.” Sy says, “Now she’s gone and I just keep thinking about that song, and I have to remember that she lives on, and we are deathless whatever happens.”
That’s beautifully said and true of every New Yorker who has fallen to the coronavirus. “It’s been an honor to work on these tributes, especially when the friends and families of those who have died can’t gather to support each other,” Post writer Zachary Kussin says. “We’ve lost people who were loved and respected, and I want readers to know their stories.”
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