Gabriel de Jesus Marin Serna wasn't a young man when he packed up his family and moved to New York in 2004, but he believed they would find a better life here than in his native Colombia. He certainly found a happy one.
His grandson, Mauricio Serna, remembers his abuelito's joy.
"He was the life of the party," he said. "He always loved to dance and make everyone laugh.”
The 84-year old Serna had been staying at the New York Center for Rehabilitation in Astoria for the past year, suffering from pancreatic cancer. On April 6, the family got a call that he was showing symptoms of coronavirus and was being transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens. He died two days later.
Mauricio Serna says his grandfather was all about family. He was married to Leonela Marin Sanchez for more than 60 years. They had 10 children, six girls and four boys.
"I was actually his first grandson," he said, "I can't even count how many grandkids he had, and a ton of great grandkids."
He was a university professor in Colombia for 30 years, but after they moved to New York, he spent his days lending his wife a helping hand in her Queens day care until it closed in 2008. Whatever he did, it was always about family.
"He loved taking walks with my grandmother. He was always telling us little jokes," Serna said. "We were truly blessed to have him in our lives."
Mauricio Serna interpreted for his mom as she remembered her dad.
"He was always worried about the family," she said. "He always tried to make everyone happy. He always tried to bring the family together."
Now that family mourns the loss of its patriarch, prepares to bring him home to rest in his native Colombia and remembers the man they loved.
“He was a very helpful, kind, sweet, good person," Serna said. "He always made everyone feel happy."