Gerardo Jeronimo, 58, Jackson Heights
When he fell ill with COVID-19 in March, Gerardo Jeronimo thought it was just another bump in the road.
“ ‘I’m going to beat this — everything is going to be okay,’ ” Arlette Jeronimo, one of his four daughters, recalls him saying. “Even at the end, he was an optimist.”
His wife, Yolanda, also fell ill, but Jeronimo got worse as Yolanda’s condition improved. On April 1, after waking up from a nap — and not long after Yolanda returned from her job as a custodian, Jeronimo said, “I can’t breathe.” He died before the paramedics arrived.
Jeronimo worked as a server at Taby’s restaurant in Oyster Bay for more than 25 years, where he was known as “Jerry” and memorized regular customers’ orders. But arthritis in his knees sidelined him from service, prompting him to take a job with the UTOG private car service in 2017 as a driver, where he also forged bonds with repeat clients. He was always working, says Arlette, and planned on moving back to Mexico for retirement.
Jeronimo left his hometown of Puebla, Mexico, for New York in 1985 for better opportunities. He went to school to learn English and worked six days per week to send money to family members back home.
“He felt like he was the one who had to be responsible for his family,” Arlette says.
He also sought better opportunities for his children — all of whom grew up in his longtime Jackson Heights, Queens, home and later attended college. As kids, they’d get reprimanded whenever they tried to fake being sick in order to skip a day of school.
“ ‘No excuses,’ ” Arlette remembers him saying, adding that his lessons allowed them all to grow into responsible women. “ ‘I’m taking you to school.’ ”
He was also charitable to the homeless. If he saw someone begging for money on the street, she says, Jeronimo would give all the cash in his pocket, or buy food for the needy.
“He always taught us, ‘Don’t be rude to them — you don’t know what kind of life they had before,’ ” says Arlette.
Jeronimo took the most pride in his family. He’d often surprise his wife with flowers and loved having dinner with his daughters, whose accomplishments he shared with his friends.
“He always tried his best to give everything for us,” says Arlette.
Kenneth Danker, 82, Forest Hills
In 2017, Joe Robinson had a bad fall in his Queens home — sustaining injuries that left him traveling in and out of the hospital.
His close friend Kenneth Danker, who passed away on April 25, “was always there,” Robinson says.
“He was always there to see me and take care of anything for my wife,” adds Robinson.
That selfless attitude, Robinson says, had everything to do with his upbringing.
“In our type of Jewish families, we took care of one another. That’s the way we operated. We were taught as kids to make sure you helped those less fortunate than yourself,” says Robinson. “That was Kenny: He was an unbelievable guy.”
Danker, along with Robinson, was a member of the Knights of Pythias fraternal organization.
When Robinson’s injuries kept him from driving, Danker gave him rides to group meetings and dinners. And together, through the organization, the two spent their days assembling care packages for military troops and veterans — sending everything from hygiene products to Hebrew National salami.
Every day, Danker arrived with a donut for Robinson. He’d complete whatever task was at hand with a smile on his face and always made Robinson laugh.
“He’d help me load my car, take [the packages] to the post office and help me drag 25 to 30 boxes [inside],” adds Robinson.
Danker leaves behind his wife, Myrna, as well as three daughters and two grandchildren.
Conrad Ifill, 81, Nassau County
Andre Ifill remembers his father, who passed away on April 17.
A Type 2 diabetic, my father survived a stroke in 1996. Then, before turning 80, he learned to live with colon cancer, which doctors said was too small to risk taking drastic procedures to address. Dad wouldn’t allow colitis to stop him from attending his youngest daughter’s wedding, nor would he surrender to lymphoma.
He was a warrior and a champion in his own right, and I’m saddened that he couldn’t triumph one more time.
Dad, who hailed from San Fernando, Trinidad, became a leader in Brooklyn’s Caribbean community. He was the owner of Conrad’s Famous Bakery, which first opened in 1981 in Crown Heights and, in 2015, expanded to a second location in Flatbush. His customers always looked forward to his Trinidadian nine-rum fruitcake during the holidays and his hot cross buns around Easter. He loved baking for the joy his food brought others. But he also loved giving anyone from a Caribbean background a little slice of home.
Dad’s gift of capturing the hearts of so many is why his loss is felt so deeply.
He left a computer-processing job on Wall Street to open his bakery. I recall him telling me he saw a trend of things not going well at work, but he didn’t go into detail. He wanted a change of scenery and needed to do something that would make him happy, as opposed to being in an environment that was too intense.
He became a role model and an inspiration — earning multiple awards from the community for his business — and never allowed setbacks to keep him from achieving his goals. At 81, he was pursuing an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University. He would have graduated this month.
He was a lifelong dedicated hard worker. Lately we’d told him to cut back on work, and he’d scaled back a bit — but he’d still go to the bakery’s office to get work done.
Dad was committed to making others happy, and not just the customers’ children, whose eyes shone when they got the sweets they wanted. He loved watching his family — his wife, three children and one grandkid — try his latest recipes. He was always enthusiastic to partner with soup kitchens around Thanksgiving to help provide for the less fortunate.
Serving his community always brought him great joy.
Rosa Cammarosano, 89, Bay Ridge
Born in southwestern Italy, Rosa Cammarosano became an eldest child after losing two older brothers, took care of her own mother after she lost sight in one eye, and saw meningitis claim the life of her own first born, Matalena, at 11 months old.
“She was no shrinking violet,” says her daughter Maria. Cammarosano died on April 14.
Cammarosano, who left for New York in 1964 and later had four more children, was also an endearing figure. One charming moment came last Easter when her granddaughter, one of her six grandkids, took a photo of the two of them on Snapchat, using a filter that put bunny ears on Cammarosano’s head. Though it resulted in a cute shot of them smiling, Cammarosano started feeling anxious. She didn’t remember putting on a costume.
“She looked at the photo and worried that she was getting dementia!” recalls Maria. “We [had] fun with that.”
She cracked jokes, too. In 1995 — the night before Maria ran the New York City Marathon on a course that sent her past Cammarosano’s Bay Ridge home — Cammarosano called Maria to let her know she couldn’t come outside to see her fly by.
“Don’t worry about it, Ma,” Maria told her. But her mother replied, “What if you win?”
Cammarosano began working as a seamstress as a teenager in Italy to support her family, and she kept sewing until her final days. She re-lined all of Maria’s work suits, and even altered the scrubs worn by her assisted-living caregivers if their pants were too long or a rip appeared in their shirts. That, and her loving habit of bringing a freshly made eggplant parmesan to anyone she visited, were her ways of caring for others.
“It was about giving from the heart,” says Maria. “She was always sharing things . . . things that you needed to keep moving in life.”
That doesn’t mean Cammarosano held back her true feelings. On the contrary, she was brutally honest. Two years ago, on Mother’s Day, Cammarosano went to Maria’s home in New Jersey to cook her signature eggplant parm. When the clock hit 5:30 p.m. and it was becoming more clear that dinner still wasn’t ready, Cammarosano let Maria have it: “ ‘Why didn’t you get up at 3 o’clock in the morning [to start the prep]?’ ” Maria recalls her saying.
“She was into tough love, and I think that’s why she had a great family,” which also includes five great-grandchildren, Maria says. “In retrospect, now I appreciate it, because it gave me a lot of fortitude.”
Eric Chasanoff, 69, East Islip, LI
Arthur Goldstein, a teacher at Francis Lewis HS in Fresh Meadows, Queens, remembers his friend and former colleague, who died on May 5.
Blogging was a new thing some 15 years ago, and dozens of New York City teachers started blogs back then. Only a few of us remain, and one was Eric Chasanoff, who produced the popular Chaz’s School Daze.
Eric taught earth science in my school, Francis Lewis HS, for a year. I was just starting out as union chapter leader of the largest school in Queens, a borderline impossible job. There was a lot I didn’t know, but Eric had a lot of experience and remembered everything. He was always willing to help, and I was grateful to have his support.
We teachers can be very nervous, but Eric was fearless. A former principal tried to fire him once with false accusations — and failed. Having gone through that, Eric had absolutely no time to waste on fear. He launched his blog and over the years, he openly challenged mayors and chancellors, and stood up for his fellow teachers.
After winning his job back, Eric joined the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR), a pool of educators without permanent positions who serve as floating substitutes. They teach Chinese today, English tomorrow and math next week.
Instead of being discouraged, Eric reveled in it. He wrote about each and every school where he worked, and rated them on a scale of A to F. Others assigned to the substitute pool would check to see what schools were like and what to watch out for.
But he didn’t stop there. When fellow teachers had problems, he answered their questions. He advised where to look for permanent positions, and where not to. He knew where to park, where to eat — and he knew the NYC subway system like the back of his hand.
I once invited him to a forum at City College, where he spoke for 45 minutes on life in the ATR, then answered questions from anxious teachers. They left with some of his spark.
Eric also became an expert on retirement. Sometimes, when people had issues, I’d call him and he always had a ready answer. Sadly, he only got to tap his retirement expertise for himself since February 2019, when he retired after 22 years as an educator in city schools.
He became a teacher after prior careers as an environmental engineer and a meteorologist for NBC’s “Today” show with weatherman Willard Scott.
Eric leaves a wife, three adult children and three grandchildren.
As a blogger, he was tough and uncompromising, but up close and personal, he was always kind and gentle. His readers, colleagues, friends and followers will miss him tremendously.
Santa Sanzero, 95, Rockaway Township, NJ
Born in Naples, Italy, Santa Sanzero survived the atrocities of World War II. During those years, Sanzero served as a secretary for the Allied forces. But she also worked to protect her own family — including her four younger siblings — from falling American and German bombs.
“She had a 5-year-old brother, and her responsibility was to tuck [him] under her arm and run into the shelter,” says Lucille Eller, one of Sanzero’s two daughters.
During the war, she met an American named Nicholas Sanzero, who also worked in her Naples office. They married in 1944. In 1946, they arrived in America, settling first in Nicholas’ hometown of Scranton, Pa., before moving to New Jersey.
“She loved America more than I can even tell you,” says Eller. “She loved this country. Really, her whole life was about family and country.”
Sanzero, who passed away on May 1, embraced her role as a stay-at-home mom. One of her favorite things was to bring family together under her roof and cook for them dishes such as pasta e fagioli, gnocchi, and gravy and meatballs.
“Her house always smelled like delicious food,” says Grant Van Eck, one of her five grandchildren. “As soon as we pulled up into the driveway, I could smell the kitchen.”
Sanzero also had nine great-grandchildren and loved doting on them all. What helped was her ability to engage others while telling them stories and jokes about her life in Italy and living between two different cultures.
“She could remember a joke better than a person half her age,” says Eller.
Later, whenever Van Eck went to visit her in an assisted-living center, she’d always be in the lobby surrounded by neighbors in stitches.
“It was incredible — this little Italian lady with everyone around her laughing,” he says.
Sanzero also had a razor-sharp memory — never forgetting anyone’s birthday, and memorizing addresses and phone numbers to maintain contact with people she knew in Italy during the war. That included staying in touch with other families who came over to America when she did. (Her husband died in 2006.)
“Those connections with phone calls and cards were lifelong,” says Eller.
Ali Yasin, 66, East Meadow, LI
Around New Year’s Day in 2008, longtime East Village pharmacist Ali Yasin wrote himself a note laying out his future goals.
His family found it mere days after his May 3 death.
“I will never retire,” wrote Yasin. “When your business becomes part of your total makeup, part of your soul, you never leave it. When I turn 65, I’m going to withdraw from day-to-day operations and [I’ll] stop going into the drugstore every day, but I’ll never retire … I will never leave it and abandon my patients and clients.”
In 2001, the Pakistani native opened New York City Pharmacy on First Avenue between 12th and 13th streets. Contrary to his resolution to scale back after turning 65, he never let go of the store.
“When he turned 65, he never gave up,” says Zain Yasin, one of the elder Yasin’s four children.
“He was always loyal to the customers … and didn’t want to abandon them at a time like this,” he adds of the coronavirus crisis.
Yasin — who is also survived by Dinaz, his wife of 40 years, and three grandkids — was a familiar figure in his community. He ran a non-chain drugstore and pharmacy even as CVS and Duane Reade encroached; he knew everyone’s names, their kids’ names and even the names of their grandchildren.
“You have to consider them family,” Zain recalls his father saying, which inspired Zain — a pharmacy tech who specializes on the financial side of the business — to try to remember as many names as he can.
“He would treat every person like there was nobody else in the pharmacy,” says Ellie Martowicz, who knew Yasin for 15 years. Even when the store was busy with customers, he would always make the time to talk to each person. “He would always take both of my hands in his hands and give me a kiss on each cheek.”
Martowicz’s sister, Bobbie — who launched a GoFundMe in his honor — adds that Yasin’s prices for medicine were always the lowest she found, and anyone could call for anything at the last minute. For instance, right before Christmas Eve one year, she hurt her leg and couldn’t walk. Within 24 hours, she had a fully assembled walker delivered to her apartment.
“That was like a miracle to have happen,” she says. “If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have had any Christmas at all.”
Jokes Ellie, who knows that Yasin was Muslim: “He is probably a saint by now.”
Louis Celi, 93, Bay Ridge
“He knew everyone in the neighborhood,” says Joseph Pawson of his grandfather, Louis Celi, who passed away on April 2.
Sure, many members of Celi’s large family live close to his house, but he was a true local. He attended church at Our Lady of Angels every week, and frequented nearby eateries like the Bridgeview Diner and Vesuvio to socialize.
The latter, an Italian restaurant, was a particular favorite.
“As soon as [he walked] in, a guy would pour a glass of wine for him, free of charge,” Joseph says. “The guy comes in twice a week for 20 years — and you get that kind of service.”
And Celi, who served in the army during World War II, proudly wore his veteran’s baseball cap.
“[People] would come over to thank him and shake his hand, and offer to buy his lunch,” says Joseph.
Celi’s daughter, Veronica Pawson, says, “He was so proud of the fact [people] were coming up to him.”
After returning from Europe, Celi achieved several milestones. He met his wife Evelyn on a Brooklyn trolley, raised five children (and later, nine grandchildren plus eight great-grandchildren) and earned his MBA from NYU. He began his career in statistics at the American Can Company; in recent years, he worked for the Board of Elections.
“He didn’t want to give up working,” says Veronica, adding he still showed up for duty until around age 90. “He thought the more people work, the less they would get into trouble.”
Never wanting to think of himself as old, Celi stayed active in other ways. He attended Catholic War Veterans meetings and became a staple at the Bay Ridge Senior Center, where he exercised and played bingo. He also enjoyed watching baseball and football, as well as spending time at his weekend home in New Jersey. But there was always one love that burned brighter in his heart.
“He loved being with the family,” says Veronica. Indeed, Celi attended every birthday party, baptism and graduation. “Family was the most important thing for him.”
Donald Sorel, 62, Pomona, NY
“Everyone joked that we were still teenagers in love,” says Terri Sorel of her husband, Donald, who passed away on April 7.
The two met in a Nyack high school chorus when Terri was in ninth grade and Donald in 10th, staying together when he attended Columbia and she studied at Barnard. Even in his final days, Donald sprinkled endearments and nicknames, like “munchkin,” into the multiple voicemails he left for Terri.
“We never lost that excitement of being together,” says Terri, who had two sons with Donald, plus one of their son’s friends, whom they took under their wing. “We were just so alive with each other.”
His charisma served him well in his career. A musical prodigy, he taught for 38 years at Manhattan’s all-boys Collegiate School, where he founded and developed the school’s music conservatory program. Every day, Sorel commuted two hours each way from Rockland County to the city to teach — and woke up at 4 every morning to give piano lessons before his school day started. He held even more piano lessons after school. His accomplishments also included beginning Collegiate’s orchestra, as well as starting what is now a tradition: Every three years, students perform at Carnegie Hall.
More than 400 messages from current and former students have poured in for Terri since Donald’s death. Beyond his musical influence — one former pupil mentions he’s now a professional musician in Los Angeles, while another says he became a producer — well-wishers recalled his warm, caring personality.
“There were times I would be sitting alone in the cafeteria and Mr. Sorel would come over, sit down and start a conversation that turned into one about whatever was on our minds that day,” one person wrote. Another remembered a time when Sorel told a story about one of his son’s pet iguanas — which miraculously came back to life after the kid accidentally fell asleep on top of it. That student shared, “He taught me so much about joy and how to be a better person.”
Together, Donald and Terri performed at church masses at St. Margaret in Pearl River for 30 years, with Terri singing and Donald playing the organ.
“We got along so well, even working together,” says Terri. “And it’s funny because I became his boss [at church].”
When he cracked his signature smile, everyone instantly felt at ease.
“That smile . . . That was Don,” says Terri. “That was who he was.”
Kelly Mazzarella, 43, Pearl River, NY
Some adolescents scorn their younger siblings, but not Kelly Mazzarella.
“Most teenagers don’t want to be near their little sisters, but she took me everywhere and embraced me,” says Karen Jedlicka. “Every holiday, everything — Kelly was just my person. We were inseparable.”
Jedlicka and Mazzarella, who died on May 8, remained close into adulthood.
“I only had to go through one traffic light to get from my house to hers,” says Jedlicka, 37, of Nanuet.
Mazzarella became a nurse, a fitting profession for someone who, Jedlicka adds, “put everyone else before herself.” Mazzarella secured her little sister a job as a secretary at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, where Mazzarella worked with renal and diabetes patients for 20 years.
“Of course she got me the job, because I needed one. There was Kelly with the answer,” Jedlicka recalls. “It was amazing to watch her with families under so much pressure and sadness — that positive vibe about her was always very comforting.”
Mazzarella married her husband, Ronnie, in 2003, and had daughters Hailey and Kristina in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The four of them would join Jedlicka’s family for a camping trip to the Hudson Valley every summer.
“It was her favorite thing to do every year. There were 10 of us, and we would get cabins next to each other. We would go on hayrides, go fishing, get ice cream,” Jedlicka says. “We’re scheduled to go in August. We are hoping to go, at least in her memory.”
When Hailey’s Girl Scout troop leader had to vacate the role with little notice, Mazzarella volunteered to step in “without even blinking twice.”
“Her biggest problem was saying no,” Jedlicka says. “She never said no to anything.”
In her most recent role as a nurse manager at Montefiore Mount Vernon Hospital, Mazzarella worked in the wound care unit, where some patients were positive for COVID-19. That was in spite of a lupus diagnosis she received in 2019; the inflammatory disease led to swelling and trouble breathing.
“She still got up every single day and went to work, saying, ‘My job needs me. I need to go,’ “ says Jedlicka, adding that by the time Mazzarella decided to scale back due to her own health risks, she had already contracted the coronavirus. Jedlicka’s friend Nicole Maursky has started a GoFundMe to support Ronnie and the girls.
“She put everyone else before herself since she was young,” says Jedlicka. “Physically, emotionally — she just wanted to be there for people.”
Darlene Gaydos, 73, Montclair, NJ
Larry Gaydos, a talk-show host in Phoenix, remembers his mother, who passed away on April 25.
There are few words big enough to describe the small powerhouse that was my mother, Darlene Gaydos.
She was a woman who loved The Beatles, traveling, Hallmark movies and her red Corvette. She spent the first part of her life as a figure skater traveling the world and meeting interesting people from every corner.
However, in college, she met the love of her life, my dad Larry, with whom she recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. For a short time, she was a teacher, but that changed once she had her three children. As her oldest son, I had a front-row seat to her numerous hours of devotion to our family. She was completely selfless and the backbone of our family, consistently modeling humility, kindness and thoughtfulness.
My mother survived a heart attack and breast cancer; she bravely fought multiple myeloma and all its complications. My parents truly lived out their marriage vows — “for better or worse” and “in sickness and in health.”
When my mom got the devastating diagnosis that she contracted the coronavirus, not once did she ever say, “Why me?” She simply prepared for battle.
She was the strongest person I know, and thankfully, she gifted us with that trait as well, knowing we would need it to bear her loss. While we will miss her greatly, we are comforted by the fact that we feel her presence more than ever in heaven.
Miguel Marte, 30, Fairview, NJ
Miguel Marte lived in Yankees territory, but he was a Red Sox fan.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Marte was drafted as a teenager and played first base — as well as catcher and right field — for various Oakland Athletic’s minor league teams between 2008 and 2012. It was when his wife, Jasmin (who was his high school sweetheart), learned they were expecting twins that he decided to quit pro ball in order to be home more.
“Most players get released,” says Veronica Flores, whose husband, Reynaldo Mateo, was Marte’s teammate and best friend. “He was a good player, but he felt the need to leave baseball and start his own family.”
So after stints with Oakland affiliates in Arizona and Vermont, the Martes moved to The Bronx and then to New Jersey. Marte got a warehouse job with a trucking company, but he continued to play ball in a Sunday league.
Though “outgoing” and “a jokester,” Flores says, Marte was level-headed, too.
“Being a baseball player can come with a lot of frustrations, but his attitude was always so chill. He was such a calm person. He wouldn’t get crazy about to the point where he couldn’t enjoy the game,” Flores recalls. “He truly played it because he grew up with it and he loved it. It was part of who he was.”
Flores and Mateo, who live in Laveen, Ariz., visited the Martes in 2018. The foursome posed for photos in Times Square and ate a Dominican feast, with pollo guisado (braised chicken) and habichuelas (stewed beans) in The Bronx.
The two couples kept in touch via text and FaceTime. Jasmin is the godmother to Sofia, Flores and Mateo’s 3-year-old daughter. Martes contracted the coronavirus and passed away on April 28.
“Jasmin never left his side and kept that promise from her wedding day to be there for her husband every step of the way,” says Flores, who set up a GoFundMe for Martes’ 6-year-old twins, Miguel Angel and Isabella. “She loved him and gave up even her own safety, selflessly, to care for him.”
Marte sent Mateo a voice memo about a week before he died.
“He didn’t say he was doing badly,” Flores says. “He said, ‘You guys have to take care of yourselves and take this seriously. Do your best to stay safe.’ He was so selfless that that was the last message he sent to his closest friends.”
The New York Post will continue to pay tribute to the lives lost to the coronavirus. If you would like to commemorate someone, please contact Zachary Kussin at [email protected]