Anthony and Rosemary Terio’s home in Jackson Heights, Queens, is where the couple's large family and many friends always gathered for holidays and celebrations for nearly 50 years.
But on Wednesday afternoon, they gathered instead to mourn Anthony and Rosemary - victims of the coronavirus.
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“You know they were together for 65 years,” said daughter Lisa Terio-Heath. “Whenever either one of them got sick, the other one somehow got the strength to take care of the other.”
Anthony Terio, Sr.’s family took him to Mount Sinai Queens on March 17 after he fell at home. His relatives said he was admitted and tested positive for COVID19.
Anthony’s condition worsened. Within days, he was placed on a ventilator. At 86 years old, he was still suffering from a stroke over the summer.
“There’s no way to describe that fear,” daughter Lisa said. “It was helplessness, that’s the best word. Helplessness.”
The family was generally not permitted to visit the ICU, but they said an “end-of-life” exception was made for a grandson, Michael Russo.
“The only thing I can draw a comparison is to a battlefield during wartime,” said Michael.
“We could do nothing but pray,” Lisa recounted.
Praying not just for Anthony, but also for their 82-year-old mother and grandmother, Rosemary. The day after Anthony was admitted, Rosemary began feeling sick.
When her condition worsened, she was taken by ambulance to St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, where she usually received cardiac treatments.
“I was petrified that the same thing was going to happen to her that happened to my father,” Lisa said. “We just watched my mother deteriorate right before our eyes.”
A week later, Anthony died. The family never told his wife, fearing it would hasten her decline.
“I think she knew. She would ask me how my dad was,” said Lisa. “‘He’s beating you now, ma! You’ve got to get better, you’ve got to get your oxygen up now.’ That would kill her if she knew my father had died.”
Five days later, Rosemary passed away. The inseparable couple that always nursed each other in sickness, now reunited.
“It took my patriarch and my matriarch in less than two weeks,” said Lisa.
A spokesperson for Mount Sinai Queens, where Anthony was treated before he died, said in a statement, “We know how challenging these conditions are, and how scared people have become but we are doing everything humanly possible to calm these fears and protect our staff and patients. This is the greatest humanitarian crisis in a century, and we are all in this together.”
When family and friends gathered to say goodbye, Lisa attended by Skype. She is in North Carolina, where she resides, unable to visit and mourn alongside family due to the coronavirus.
Six other members of the family, including grandson Michael, have tested positive for COVID19 but are recovering at their homes. Relatives say they want New Yorkers to take seriously the need for social distancing so they do not spread the virus and more families do not suffer.
“The pleading was really hard, to listen to my mother and not help her and that was really difficult,” said Lisa. “It will be something that I’ll never forget - that she knew. And I couldn’t do anything.”
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