Ask anyone who knew her, and they’ll tell you Rozella McFarlan lived to help others. Her sister, Jacqueline, said she was the one the family turned to when they needed answers.
“We used to call her the information lady, the 4-1-1,” Jacqueline McFarlan said. “Any time we wanted to know about anybody or anything, we would call her. If she didn’t know, she would find out. She was really curious. Everyone would agree on that.”
Rozella McFarlan developed a bad cough on April 10. Her home health aid went to a local pharmacy to get her some cough medicine, which, her sister said, seemed to work. But not for long.
“Later that night I got a text saying she needed antibiotics,” Jacqueline McFarlan, who herself just recovered from Coronavirus, said. “Her son went to the pharmacy and got them.”
By Sunday, her condition had gotten much worse. She was taken to Bronx Lebanon Hospital where she died on Monday, April 14.
“She didn’t stay in the hospital three days,” Jacqueline McFarlan said. “She couldn’t breathe. She had COPD ,and she’d had open heart surgery a couple of years back to remove a mass. In the end, I’m not sure what she died of. They said her oxygen was very low, but they told me she wasn’t intubated.”
Rozella McFarlan was a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, born in Harlem Hospital in 1957, to Jack and Dorothy Lee McFarlan.
“There were nine sibilings,” Jacqueline McFarlan said. “Two boys and seven girls. Now, there’s only five of us left.”
Her sister said she was more than just curious, she was smart.
“Math was her thing,” she said. “She went to IS 201 in grade school, then got a scholarship for a school in Massachusetts.”
She moved to the Morrisania section of The Bronx with her partner, Matthew Anchron, in the ‘90s, where they would raise their son, Ezell.
Anchron died several years ago.
Rozella would spend 30 years working for New York State, helping to provide services for people with cerebral palsy. Even in her free time, she wanted to help, as a volunteer with Samaritan Village, a shelter for young women fighting to free themselves from drug abuse.
“She was so full of life,” her sister said. “She was lovable, and always had her arms out for anybody who needed help. She doesn’t even have to know you in order for her to help you. Her heart was full of love.”
Jacqueline McFarlan said her sister’s life story was “a best seller.” When she wasn’t doting on her two grandchildren, Rozella and her Jacqueline would travel together, seeking out new adventures, and new beaches.
“She was my riding partner,” her sister said. “We’d take trips to Georgia, Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach and Atlanta. We were supposed to go to Florida. We loved the beach. We went for a suntan, to get our feet wet. We just liked relaxing. When you reach a certain age you realize it’s not all about the big brick building.”
Jacqueline McFarlan said it saddens her that, in the end, she wasn’t allowed to be there when Rozella passed away. She says she’ll miss the sister who was always by her side, and who brought so much joy to everything she did.
“I will miss the love she showed me,” she said. “She always showed love. She cared. When I would get off track, she would say, 'Jackie, get over that. Stop wallowing. Your life is worth more than that.' I miss her loving on me and caring for me. She was young. She had a life left.”
It took a month before Rozella McFarlan could be buried, though only 10 people were allowed to attend the funeral, and just one was permitted at her graveside. Still, Jacqueline McFarlan said, she couldn’t settle until she knew her sister was properly laid to rest.
“My sister has been buried, and that’s a burden off my shoulder,” she said. "Now I can relax and continue to praise God and hope he gets us back on the right track."