As many of you know, my beloved grandmother Carmen “Iris” passed away on September 4th, 2020. While we miss her every day, we are grateful that her pain has ended and that now she can rest with her beloved husband, my grandfather Victor “Papo”, who passed away 5 years ago. They are survived by 7 children, many grand and great-grandchildren, family and friends.
Those who knew my grandparents know how important community and family was to them. They were extremely active in various communities, including Calvary Apostolic Church, and especially so in their neighborhood of Harding Park, Bronx. They both served on the board of Harding Park Homeowners Association and laid the foundation of a successful beautification project which turned an empty lot of dead trees into a beautiful waterfront park overlooking the Manhattan skyline. They did everything from securing grants from city council members to always having an open door any time a neighbor stopped by their house to chat or ask for help.
I think every community has that house, that one place, where no matter how you know the people who live there they always make you feel right at home. Serving you delicious food (with a side of jokes), and somehow always managing to have at least 4 or more cars in the driveway. That was my grandparents’ house. They hosted many baby showers, BBQ’s, birthday parties, Christmases, and regular Sunday afternoons in that bungalow in the Bronx that everyone referred to as “little Puerto Rico.” Besides family and dancing, there was nothing my grandparents loved more than to see people enjoy spending time together at the house they built. They even remodeled their whole house to ensure there was enough space for their kids, step kids, cousins, and eventually grandkids. As time went on, the house also became a refuge for so many who didn't have anywhere left to turn, family or neighbors would show up at my grandparents house and they would always help them and get people back on their feet.
After Papo passed, the house, along with my grandmother's health, slowly started to deteriorate. First the boiler stopped working, then a raccoon infestation, then the floors started rotting, and countless other issues. As my grandma’s dementia got worse, the little money she collected from Social Security was used to pay for bills and healthcare which left the house vulnerable to increased structural damage. During these years the family helped address the urgent issues as they came up but many could not be fixed in time due to limited funds available. After Carmen’s passing the family came together to brainstorm how to restore and maintain the house going forward. We realized that while everyone is desperate for a resolution and understands how important the house is to keeping the family together, many are not in a position to help financially. We need help from our community in order to make it through. Every Christmas, my grandmother’s birthday, we all used to gather at the house from near and far to celebrate and spend time together. This year, due to the condition of the house (and Covid) it is impossible to do this, even in her honor.
It’s heartbreaking enough to say goodbye forever to your (grand)parents. The process is made even harder witnessing the community and home they built fall apart, because they are no longer here to keep it together. We would like to prevent that, and with your help we will be able to. The family is committed to maintaining the home which is an important central gathering point for us. Your donations will assist in restoring the house and finalizing our grandmother’s resting place so we can pay tribute to her wonderful life. This Christmas season, in honor of my grandparents and what would've been my grandmother's 86th birthday on Christmas day, we’re asking if you can consider donating to help my family continue their legacy.
Thank you for your taking the time to read this and for your support. I hope you can hold your loved ones even closer this year <3
- Megan Douglas Betancourt
- Sharon Hughes
- Jamie Williams
- Gloria Olsavsky
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