June 12, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
More than 100 western Queens residents who have died from COVID-19 will be honored during a virtual memorial service later this month.
The event, titled Remembering Locals Lost to COVID-19, will take place via the video-conferencing application Zoom on June 28 at 2 p.m.
The service seeks to honor fallen victims of COVID-19, particularly those whose loved ones were unable to put on proper funeral services between March 22 and May 22 when there was a state-wide ban on large public gatherings.
The coronavirus has killed more than 6,400 Queens residents this year, according to the latest Health Department data, many of whom were laid to rest without having a public ceremony.
Civic leader Patricia Dorfman came up with the concept for the event following the death of Deodoro Monge Gutierrez, the owner of Bliss 46 Bistro in Sunnyside, who passed away from COVID-19 on April 21.
Dorfman said the family of Gutierrez was unable to have a burial service and friends could not pay their respects due to the restrictions.
She said she wanted to create a platform for families and friends to remember the victims.
“People could not even offer a group toast at a local pub due to the shutdown,” she said.
Dorfman has brought together a group of local clergy, business owners, non-profits and other civic leaders to help organize the event.
The event will be hosted by Judy Zangwill, Executive Director of the Sunnyside Community Services, and will be run along similar lines to the 9/11 remembrance ceremonies whereby family members will get a chance to read out the names of deceased relatives.
The service will be open to people of all religious affiliations and clergy members from various denominations will join together and pray for the victims.
Rev. Brian Dowd, the pastor at Queen of Angels Church, and Rev. Neil Margetson, who leads Sunnyside Reformed Church, will say Christian prayers–while an Islamic prayer will be offered by Imam Muhammet Sonmez Bayraktar.
A secular ceremony will be performed by Jerome Nathaniel, and Rabbi Ron Wittenstein from Young of Israel Sunnyside will sing in Hebrew.
The event will feature original music from local singer Cathy Maguire, while musical director David Shenton will provide a recording of His Eye Is On the Sparrow and Ave Maria.
Music groups from various churches in western Queens are also expected to take part.
Organizers are calling on the public to help them compile a list of local people who have died from COVID-19, as the city has yet to release such records.
Organizers are asking residents to submit the names of the deceased along with a photograph. The information needs to be emailed to [email protected] before June 19.
The event can commemorate up to 300 people, organizers said.