Sunset Park grieves the loss of three locals in the same family that died due to COVID-19

April 20, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Sunset Park greives the loss of three locals in the same family that died due to COVID-19
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Sunset Park is grieving the deaths of three beloved local residents within the same family due to COVID-19 within 10 days of each other.

On Wednesday, April 15, 61-year-old local Gladys Toledo died due to coronavirus. The same day, her brother John Toledo Jr., 59, also died to the same virus. And just 10 days earlier, on Sunday, April 5, COVID-19 took the live of their father John Toledo Sr., 83.

Photo courtesy of Renee Giordano
Dan Natal with Gladys Toledo

The grandson of John Sr., son of John Jr. and nephew of Gladys, Richard Toledo told his paper about his beloved family.

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“John Toledo Sr. , John Toledo Jr., and Gladys Toledo were three people that were dedicated to their families and their community,” he said. “John Sr. was a father of three who worked all his life and dedicated the latter part of his life to serving the community by organizing a community watch program and several other campaigns to better the neighborhood.”

He added that, “John Toledo Jr. and Gladys stood by their father’s side with their sister Mary and aided him in his efforts. John leaves behind his wife Julia and his daughter Mary. In addition to aiding his father in community affairs, John Jr. worked in loss prevention the latter part of his life before retirement. He took pride in raising his daughters Marlana and Katelynn, and his son.”

Courtesy of Tony Giordano

Richard also talked about his aunt.

“Gladys was a great family woman who raised her daughter and had a career at a market research company,” he said. “She was enjoying retirement and awaiting the arrival of her first granddaughter. Gladys leaves behind her daughter Erica.”

Former Sunset Park Business Improvement District (BID) Executive Director and friend of Gladys and the Toledo family Renee Giordano talked about their loving friendship.

“Gladys was very proud of her family, her community and her heritage,” she said. “I remember the pride she had when she was able to join her fellow Puerto Ricans to celebrate the first Sunset Park Puerto Rican Day Parade on 5th Avenue in Sunset Park. Gladys will always be remembered for her beautiful smile.”

Courtesy of Mary Ann Toledo
Gladys Toledo

She added that, “Gladys recounted to us that when she was a child, her abuela told her that if she ever was lost, she should look up and walk towards the steeple of St. Michael’s Church in order to find her way home. I will never look at that steeple again without thinking of Gladys. She was a blessing to anyone who knew her. Our hearts go out to their family as we all try to keep them close in our memories.”

She also talked about John Sr.

“John instilled in his family the same sense of caring and love,” she said. “The Toledo family has been the foundation of Sunset Park, who not only lived here, but made a difference in the lives of others.”

Longtime Sunset Park resident and creator of popular Facebook page Sunset Parker Tony Giordano talked about his memories of John Sr. and the impact he had on the community.

“John Toledo lived for his family and community,” Tony said. “When I first met him, Sunset Park and the rest of the City was buried in crime. Drug gangs were fighting for the key corners of Sunset and were killing each other in a war. Innocent folks were caught in the middle and it wasn’t safe to walk our streets. But John volunteered to set up a volunteer citizens patrol in cooperation with the NYPD. He and a group of volunteers, including his son John Jr., walked the streets each night to be the eyes and ears of the police and chase the ‘bad’ guys away.”

John Sr. also served on the 72nd Police Community Council as the Sergeant at Arm for many years.

“He was a leader in Sunset Park Restoration and took part in a range of civic activities – from street cleanings to traffic safety and from block organizing to sidewalk tree planting,” Tony added. If someone needed help, John was there and often his son was with him. John helped Assemblymember Felix Ortiz win his first election to the Assembly by introducing him to all the main ‘players’ in Sunset Park.”

Courtesy of Toledo family
John Toledo Sr.

He also worked hard at bringing a minor league team to Brooklyn before the Cyclones made their way to Coney Island.

“What I remember most was John and I working on a plan to bring minor league baseball to Brooklyn,” Tony said. “We crunched the numbers, checked locations and prepared a convincing argument. Just before we went public, the Mayor at the time, Giuliani, announced he was bringing the Mets farm team to Coney Island and the Yankees to Staten Island. John was convinced that we had laid the groundwork for it with our phone calls to minor league team owners in our collection of data.”

He stated, “John was a loving and caring man who could not say no to a request for help and never had a bad word about anyone.”

Tony also talked about Gladys and how popular she was on the Sunset Parker page.

“Gladys followed in her dad’s footsteps,” he said. “She headed up a weekly feature on the 10,000 member Sunset Parker Facebook Page. She posted riddles and jokes for the group and kept us engaged and laughing. The night that her dad died, she was grieving greatly, but stopped grieving for a moment to post her riddle for the week.”

Courtesy of Toledo family
John Toledo Jr.

Friends also responded to the losses.

“Life will never go back to normal as we knew it,” wrote Auria-Honey Santiago-Natal on the day Gladys died. “ Today I lost my dear friend Gladys M. Toledo. Gladys was a part of our family for over 40 years, that in itself is a blessing. A kinder, sweeter, more loving person you will never meet. I met her in my early teens. She introduced me to my husband. We had our daughters together and we shared so many good times. Gladys had the biggest heart and she was loved by all who knew her. I will miss her so much my heart aches. I know that she will always be with us in spirit and her loving spirit will surround us all with her love and care forever. God bless you Gladys my friend, my sis.”

Two Gofundme accounts have been set up for the family. One is for Gladys’s funeral and the other is to help with her mom and nieces.

According to Renee, “They still live in the same apartment as Gladys and her dad and brother lived. So far, they are all ok.”

Mary Ann Toledo-Cuevas organized a fundraiser for Marlana.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, my nieces lost their father, my mother in law lost her husband and two children in a tragedy that has shaken the family,” she wrote. “With most of the family now gone, Marlena at just 22 years of age becomes the head of household and her only support. We need a little help creating an emergency fund for Marlana. Any help will be greatly appreciated. The funds accumulated will go toward securing a few months rent for Marlana, Katie and my mother in law. I want to thank everyone in advance. Our hearts are broken and we are numbed by this great loss.”

So far, over $8,000 has been raised.

Kayla Sosa is organizing a fundraiser on behalf of Erica Pabon.

“Unfortunately, due to these tragic times, Erica has lost 3 family members in the span of 10 days due to Covid-19,” wrote Sosa. :First she lost her grandfather, Papo who helped raise her. A week later, she lost her beautiful mother Gladys and her uncle Johnny on the very same day.”

As of now, over $11,000 has been raised.

She also added that Erica and her boyfriend Jamal are expecting their first child in July.

“In addition to the above, Erica’s young cousin Marlana (22 years old) is left to take care of her ailing grandmother with Alzheimers and her little sister Katie,” she said. “They are also dealing with any funeral costs associated with their losses. We know that everyone’s lives have changed in one way or another because of this pandemic. Our sister Erica and her mother Gladys have always been there for anyone in need. It is our responsibility now to have our sister’s back the way she has had ours. Her family is our family too.”

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