Coronavirus Deaths: Remembering NY, NJ and CT residents lost to COVID-19

New York News
NEW YORK (WABC) — Thousands of people have died of coronavirus in the Tri-State area over the past few weeks.

Those we have lost come from every walk of life – first responders, educators, celebrities, politicians, doctors, and nurses.

We will never forget any of those taken from us.

Here are some of the people from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut who have lost their lives:

April 2020

Francesco Scorpo, Paterson police officer
Officer Francesco Scorpo, 34, joined the Paterson police force on July 20, 2015, serving in both the Patrol and Traffic Divisions. He leaves behind a wife of six years, Kristina, and two sons, 4-year-old Francisco Jr. and 6-month-old Santino.

William Sullivan, Yonkers detective
A 25-year member of the force, Yonkers Detective William Sullivan was known as a devoted family man who leaves behind his wife Eileen, a daughter Jacqueline and his son Will, who’s also in the police department.

Ali Guillermo, Patchogue
Ali Guillermo came to the United States from the Philippines in 2004 to provide a better life for his family. The father of three children began working as a nurse at Long Island Community Hospital in East Patchogue. A few weeks ago the 44-year-old fell ill with a high fever and dry cough. He was admitted to the same ICU where he had worked to save patients. He was put on a ventilator and died April 7.

Det. Jack Polimeni, SSA Joseph Donofrio and Officer Eric Murray, all NYPD
Det. Jack Polimeni, who was with the force since 1997, because the second NYPD detective to die of coronavirus. Joseph Donofrio was a school safety agent assigned to the 113th Pct. in Queens. Officer Eric Murray was a member of the NYPD for nearly 17 years, first as a traffic enforcement agent.

Sam McGhee, former Mayor of Hillside, NJ
Sam McGhee, 79, was the first African-American elected to serve as Mayor of Hillside in 1988.

Mary Ellen Porter, Staten Island
Mary Ellen Porter, 65, was a nurse at Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island. “She was a dedicated nursing professional in our hospital for many years and she made a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of her colleagues and patients during her time with RUMC,” the hospital said.

Richard Austin, NYPD
Traffic Enforcement Agent Richard Austin served New Yorkers for nearly 35 years. He was 66 and lived on Staten Island.

Nick Milianta, Iona College
Nick Milianta was a member of Iona College’s security force. His son, Peter, graduated from Iona in 2016 and is pursuing his medical degree at Penn State.

Richard E. Barber Sr., Former deputy executive director of the NAACP
Richard E. Barber Sr. was a senior deacon at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in New Jersey. He was also a former deputy executive director of the NAACP, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said, and participated in the student protests in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960.

Tony Greer, New York City
Good Morning America studio camera operator Tony Greer died of complications due to COVID-19. He worked out of the Times Square studio for 6 years.

Raymond Copeland, Queens
Raymond Copeland of Queens was the NYC Sanitation worker to lose his life to the virus.

Dr. Leo Dela Cruz, New Jersey
CarePoint Health physician Dr. Leo Dela Cruz died at Holy Name Hospital on April 8, 2020, spokesman Eric Bloom said.

Deidre Edwards, NYPD
City Custodial Assistant Deidre Edwards of our Facility Maintenance Section served with the NYPD family for nearly 15 years.

Joe Hansen, NJ Transit conductor
Joe Hansen, 62, died from complications related to COVID19. He worked for NJ Transit for more than 20 years.

His son, Brian, is an NJ Transit mechanic, said Gov. Phil Murphy.

Carolyn Martins-Reitz and Thomas Martins
Thomas Martins of Kearny, New Jersey, who suffered from Downs Syndrome, died on the eve of his 30th birthday, just a week after his mother Carolyn, 55, also passed away from COVID-19. She worked in the art department of the Archdiocese of Newark, along with her daughter, according to a GoFundMe page set-up by family members.

Prea Nankieshore, Queens
Prea Nankieshore , 34, was the mother of twin boys who worked the overnight shift at a Queens hospital. Nankieshore worked in the emergency department at Long Island Jewish Hospital Forest Hills helping to register patients.

“We lost a dedicated mother with a heart of gold,” fiance Marcus Khan said. “We lost a sister. We lost a friend. I lost the love of my life.”

Steve Ravitz, New Jersey
Steve Ravitz, who ran several ShopRite grocery stores in South Jersey, died from the coronavirus after spending 13 days in the hospital, his son Jason posted on Facebook.

“One definitive lesson that everyone should take from the loss of Dad is that this virus is not the flu,” Jason wrote. “It is far worse and if it grabs hold, it can ravage your body.”

He was 73.

Janice Rodman, Brooklyn
Janice Rodman worked at a Manhattan bank during the week, but on the weekend she worked the front desk at the Bedford-Stuyvesant YMCA where she knew everyone’s name.

“Janice’s roots in the Bed-Stuy community made her a master connector of new to old employees,” the YMCA wrote on their Facebook page. “Miss Janice is truly irreplaceable and we will miss her teasing, jokes and scolding alike.”

She was 52.

Joseph Bazzarelli, Teterboro, NJ
Joseph Bazzarelli’s family reported he died from COVID-19 on Monday on the Facebook page of the family’s restaurant Bazzarelli.

Bazzarelli Restuarant is located just down the street from Teterboro Airport and often provides takeout orders for the rich and famous who fly into that airport on their private jets. The restaurant was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, but the family rebuilt the place and reopened two months later.

Ava Walker, NYPD
Police Communications Technician Ava Walker, 66, spent 20 years with the NYPD. “Our hearts are heavy as we vow to #neverforget Ava & all of our brave NYPD family members lost to the coronavirus,” the NYPD tweeted

John Abruzzo, Huntington Hospital
John Abruzzo, a nurse at a Long Island hospital has died of the coronavirus, officials confirmed. He began working at Huntington Hospital in 2002.

“We at Huntington Hospital are devastated by the loss of our colleague John Abruzzo, RN, from COVID-19,” the hospital said in a statement. “He was among the brave caregivers dedicated to their patients during this challenging time.”

Father Gioacchino Basile, Priest in the Brooklyn Diocese

Father Gioacchino Basile, 60, who was to mark his 25th anniversary of his ordination later this year. Basile was a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, and had been ministering as pastor of Saint Gabriel Church in the East Elmhurst section of Queens.

Ramon Roman, NYPD
Auxiliary Police Officer Ramon Roman, who was assigned to the 72nd Precinct, died on Sunday, April 5, 2020.

Roman became a member of the NYPD on March 29, 2010.

Councilman Michael Yun, Jersey City, NJ
Jersey City Councilman Michael Yun, 65, a long-time civic and business leader, died from coronavirus on April 6.

He was first elected to the city council in 2013. He was a recipient of more than 30 community service awards and citations and served the residents of Ward D.

He is survived by his wife, Jennifer (Seong Hee Ahn), children and grandchildren.

Sandra Santos-Vizcaino,, Brooklyn elementary school teacher
Sandra Santos-Vizcaino, 54, who taught third grade at an elementary school in Brooklyn, is the first New York City school teacher reported to have died of COVID-19.

“This is a devastating tragedy,” schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said Thursday. “Sandra was a beloved teacher at P.S. 9.”

Francis “Frank” Boccabella, III, first TSA employee to die from COVID-19
Francis “Frank” Boccabella III, 39, joined the TSA in 2004, working as an explosive detection canine handler at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

He then worked as a compliance inspector and then an explosive detection canine handler at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport.

James Brown, principal of the Grover Cleveland Middle School
James Brown, 48, lived in Colonia with his wife Sherry and their three children, died of complications from the coronavirus, the family said.

In a statement, the Caldwell-West Caldwell Public School District said Brown “introduced a House System to foster team-building and school spirit, and he created an Advisory/Enrichment Program that allows students to develop networks of support and to explore their interests.”

“He brought in many speakers from all walks of life to provide students with models of determination, grit, and commitment to helping those in need. Mr. Brown’s unmatched dedication to community service inspired students, faculty, and parents to focus on compassion for our fellow citizens and to make a difference every day,” read the statement. “We mourn the loss of a wonderful colleague who enriched our lives with his kindness, intelligence, and humor, we extend our deepest condolences to his family.”

Frank Gabrin – thought to be the 1st ER physician to die
Dr. Frank Gabrin, a New Jersey emergency room doctor, “was committed to health care” and always wanted to be a doctor, his friend of 20 years, Debra Vasalech Lyons, told ABC News.

“He had survived a lot of things. Not only did he survive two bouts of cancer, he was part of emergency medicine during the AIDS epidemic,” she said.

In Gabrin’s emergency room, the coronavirus pandemic “went from manageable to unmanageable almost overnight,” Lyons said.

“He said, ‘Look, the gloves that I have a size medium, I’m an extra large. Every time I put them on, they break. I’ve had to use this week my mask for four shifts,'” she recalled. “The hand-washing stations, they were so busy. They were running out of soap.”

When Gabrin fell ill with coronavirus symptoms, he self-quarantined at home, she said.

Lyon recalled Gabrin telling her: “I’m very grateful that I have it mild. Within a couple of weeks I’ll be through this and I’ll have the antibodies and be ready to go back to work.”

Gabrin is survived by his husband.

Adam Schlesinger – Lead Singer of Fountains of Wayne
Emmy and Grammy-winning musician and songwriter Adam Schlesinger, known for his work with his band Fountains of Wayne and on the TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” died Wednesday after contracting the coronavirus, his attorney said.

Schlesinger died at a hospital in upstate New York, his longtime lawyer Josh Grier told The Associated Press. It is not clear where or how Schlesinger, a 51-year-old father of two, contracted the virus. He had been sedated and on a ventilator for several days.

Schlesinger was nominated for 10 Emmys for writing comical songs across several television shows, winning three. He was nominated for an Academy Award for writing the title song to the 1997 Tom Hanks-directed movie “That Thing You Do.”

MaryBeth Papetti
MaryBeth Papetti, 65, who is survived by her husband, son and daughter-in-law, “devoted her life to her family and her work in the healthcare field,” according to her obituary.

After becoming a registered nurse, Papetti, who died on March 24, became the director of nursing at several long-term care facilities in New Jersey,

“MaryBeth was known for going above and beyond in her career, not only because of her dedication to her patients, but also for being an inspirational role model to her colleagues,” her obituary said.

“She especially found joy in planning family gatherings, in particular her annual family Christmas Eve party,” and recently helping plan her son and daughter-in-law’s wedding.

Papetti was also an aunt of an ABC News employee.

James Villecco
James Villecco, 55, was an auto mechanic with New York City’s fire department, most recently working in the ambulance repair shop.”Behind the thousands of calls our members respond to every day is a team of dedicated and skilled mechanics who ensure our ambulances are running 24/7,” said Daniel Nigro, Commissioner of the FDNY. “James Villecco was one of those truly unsung heroes in our Department whose outstanding work provided medical care for the people of our city. The entire Department mourns his loss.”Villecco, who died on March 29, lived in State Island and served six years in the Army, the FDNY said.

He is survived by his wife, Joy, and daughter, Jessica.

Bernard Waddell Sr.
Bernard Waddell, Sr. was a correctional police officer in Hudson County, New Jersey, who died after 28 years of service, according to the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association.

“He’s going to be sorely missed,” said Ron Edwards, director of the Hudson County Department of Corrections, according to NJ.com. “He was more than just an officer. He was a gentleman.”

New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy, called him a front-line hero.

Israel Tolentino, Jr., Passaic NJ firefighter
Israel Tolentino Jr. was a firefighter in Passaic, New Jersey, who came on the job in December 2018.

“He was liked immediately. A wonderful, wonderful person. And he fit right in to that tour and made it his home,” his fire chief, Patrick Trentacost, told ABC News. “We are family… we are there for 24 hours. We sleep there. And we laugh together and we cry together.”

Tolentino “was always happy to jump in” to do fire education at local schools, said Trentacost.

The chief said that what made it especially difficult was that they couldn’t give him the full honors they normally would bestow on a fallen member.

“We did our best, but we had to keep our distance. We had to maintain our personnel in the vehicles,” Trentacost said. “We have to set the example for safety. We have to set the example of social distance. And we did it. We gave as much respect and honor as we possibly could.
Certainly we couldn’t go there and hug his wife Maria, who is a tremendous person. We couldn’t hug his kids.”

March 2020

Lorena Borjas, Queens
Lorena Borjas, a 59-yeaar-old transgender Latinx activist from Queens, died from complications due to Covid-19 at Coney Island Hospital,

Dezann Romain, Brooklyn school principal
The COVID-19 pandemic is now personal for the students and staff at Brooklyn’s Democracy Academy, after New York City officials confirmed that principal Dezann Romain died due to complications of the corononavirus.

“This is painful for us,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said in a statement. “I extend my deepest condolences to the Brooklyn Democracy Academy and the family of principal Romain.”

Roniece Watson, NYPD
School Safety Agent Roniece Watson, assigned to the School Safety Division, died on Monday, March 30, 2020, of complications from Coronavirus. School Safety Agent Watson became a member of the NYPD on September 8, 2003.

James Goodrich
Dr. James Goodrich was a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon and director of the division of pediatric neurosurgery at New York City’s Montefiore Medical Center.

Goodrich, who died on March 30, specialized in children with complex neurological conditions and created an approach for separating twins who are fused at the brain and skull, according to the medical center, where he worked for three decades.

He earned acclaim in the medical world in 2016 for separating 13-month-old conjoined twins whose brains were connected.

Throughout his distinguished career, he became known as the world’s leading expert on the lifesaving procedure.

Kim King-Smith
Kim King-Smith, who died on March 31, was an EKG technician working the night shift at the University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, President and CEO of the hospital.

“We lost a great one,” Elnahal tweeted. “Kim King-Smith was a hero.”

Maria Mercader
Maria Mercader, 54, was a cancer survivor and a CBS News journalist for three decades, joining the network in 1987.

“Even more than her talents as a journalist, we will miss her indomitable spirit,” Susan Zirinsky, CBS News president and senior executive producer, said in a statement released by the network.

“Even when she was hospitalized – and she knew something was going on at CBS, she would call with counsel, encouragement, and would say ‘you can do this,'” Zirinksy said. “I called Maria a ‘warrior,’ she was. Maria was a gift we cherished.”

“The Maria we are privileged to call family and friend knew better than most the power of relationships, loyalty, faith, kindness, perseverance and a smile, even when a smile defied the darkness of the moment,” added Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, CBS News’ EVP of strategic professional development. “Her notable professional contributions are part of the CBS Archives, but it is her magnificent human spirit that touched so many of us, that will stay with us forever.”

Floyd Cardoz
Chef Floyd Cardoz, who competed on “Top Chef,” won “Top Chef Masters” and operated successful restaurants in both India and New York, was 59. He was a partner in Bombay Sweet Shop, O Pedro and The Bombay Canteen in India at the time of his death. The Indian-American partnered with famed restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group to open Tabla in 1997. The Manhattan spot was praised by critics. It closed in 2010.

Capt. Douglas Linn Hickock, NJ National Guardsman and physician’s assistant
Army Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, of the New Jersey National Guard, was a drilling guardsman in the medical command and a civilian physician assistant.

His daughter, Shandrea Hickok, says her favorite memories are the adventures her father took her and her brother on.

“He loved to travel and take us to parks, museums, battleships, military bases, movie theaters, beaches, and restaurants,” Shandrea Hickok said in a statement. “He also loved to go hiking, including up in the mountains of Utah where I went to school or on the Appalachian Trail where he lived in Pennsylvania. He enjoyed learning about wilderness survival and attended many medical conferences that had outdoor trainings.”

“I love how caring and devoted my dad was,” she said. “He traveled a lot for work but would drive hours to visit my brother and I. When I graduated college last year in Utah, he flew out to Utah and got a rental truck to drive me back to the East Coast. We had great memories driving through the Rocky Mountains.”

His sister, Mary Hickok Scott, called her brother “fearless” and said he “kept serving others, even at his own risk! He loved medicine & he fought for the best treatments for his patients. My brother loved serving his country.”

Sabrina Jefferson, NYPD
School Safety Agent Sabrina Jefferson, assigned to Patrol Borough Queens South Safety died on Sunday, March 29, 2020 of complications from Coronavirus. School Safety Agent Jefferson became a member of the NYPD on February 9, 1994.

Gwendolyn King, NYPD

Cedric Dixon, NYPD
A veteran NYPD detective was the first uniformed member of the service to die from coronavirus.

Detective Cedric Dixon, 48, served the city for 23 years, according to the Detectives’ Endowment Association.

“We are hurting, we are crying and we continue to fight,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.

“I’ve spoke to many of his friends and coworkers since this morning. He was known as the person who would do anything to help you,” Shea said. “He is going to be so sorely missed.”

Ben Luderer, 30, New Jersey teacher and baseball coach, former star high school player
Ben Luderer was a teacher and varsity baseball coach with the Cliffside Park School District in Bergen County. Luderer was a member of the 2008 Don Bosco Prep baseball team that went 33-0 and went on to play at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. Luderer was sick on Friday and went to the hospital, where he was put on oxygen and sent home with a Z-pack and other medicines. His family said he seemed to get be getting better but then passed away early Monday morning.

Janice Preschel
Janice Preschel, 60, of Teaneck, New Jersey, “was the founder of the Helping Hands Food Pantry that has fed countless families for more than a decade,” tweeted New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

“She was active in her temple – Temple Emeth – and was a past president of the Teaneck Rotary,” he wrote.

Michael Sorkin, reknowned architect
“Michael Sorkin, the renowned architect was a member of the Spitzer School of Architecture, and succumbed to the coronavirus on March 26th. He was possessed of an elegant mind and an expansive imagination, and the architectural community lost, in his passing, a true giant.” – Statement from Vincent Boudreau, President CCNY

William Helmreich, professor and author of best-selling NY guidebook
“Willy -as everyone knew him – was an expansive writer and analyst, covering topics as varied as immigration, life inside yeshivas and the formation of stereotypes. He will, however, almost certainly be most fondly remembered for a joyful series of recent books, chronicling his efforts to walk all the streets of New York, and report on what he saw and heard. Professor Helmreich loved to talk. He was gregarious, optimistic, and unremittingly curious about the lives of those around him.” – Statement from Vince Boudreau, President, CCNY

Sonny Aravena, New Windsor, NY
Sonny Aravena passed away on the birthday of his twin daughters. According to a GoFund Me page for the family, Sonny was a dedicated, loving husband, father, and friend. In addition to the twins, Sonny is survived by his wife and 3 other children.

Larry Edgeworth
Larry Edgeworth was a longtime NBC News employee.

Edgeworth, who died on March 19, most recently worked in an equipment room at NBC News’ New York headquarters. He spent 25 years as an NBC News audio technician, traveling around the world with producers and correspondents, before working in an equipment room at the network’s New York headquarters, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said.

“He was truly one of the nicest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” wrote NBC News meteorologist Dylan Dreyer. “Through the coldest snowstorm, he always had a smile on his face. … I’ll miss this wonderfully kind man very much.”

Edgeworth is survived by his wife and two sons.

Juan Sanabria, New York City
Juan Sanabria, 52, was among the city’s first coronavirus victims. Sanabria was a doorman at a residential building in the Bronx.

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