Catherine Mena, a junior majoring in psychology at Binghamton University, was set to graduate next year with her father, Edgar, sitting proudly in the crowd.
But two weeks ago, her father, Edgar, passed away unexpectedly due to complications related to COVID-19.
He will never see his youngest daughter get her diploma and graduate college, one of his greatest dreams.
Edgar, a father, husband and cab driver, was a Bronx, New York native. In his passing, he leaves behind his wife and four children. Since his death, his family has struggled to cover the costs for his funeral and their future living necessities.
After immigrating to the Bronx from Ecuador, Edgar found himself searching for a means to support himself in America. Although he possessed a high-ranking position in his home country’s comptroller office, Edgar found that his title would not assure him a similar job stateside since he lacked money and a full grasp of the English language. This prompted him to start working as a New York City taxi driver.
Catherine said her father was a family man who, throughout his 25 years working in the United States, was able to provide for both his immediate family and his extended relatives.
“My father was a hardworking cab driver who was the main provider for not only my family, but also my aunt and cousin who came from Ecuador, because [my aunt] is going through chemotherapy and cannot work,” Catherine wrote in an email. “Despite other underlying health conditions, my dad always managed to push through any obstacles that we had to provide my family with everything that he couldn’t have as a child.”
One of Edgar’s daughters, Michelle Mena, 22, said her father loved the beach, where he could swim and be active. His love of photography inspired those around him and prompted one of his daughters to go into the field. One of his lasting dreams was to see his youngest daughter, Catherine, finally walk across the BU stage at graduation to accept her diploma.
“His relationship with my sister was really unique,” Michelle wrote in an email. “She was the closest to him out of all of us. So, when he passed, it hit her the hardest, especially because she was the last one who my dad needed to see graduate college.”
As the family is now forced to accept a reality without Edgar, Catherine’s sorority sisters in the Synergetic Psi colony of Lambda Pi Upsilon sorority, Latinas Poderosas Unidas, Inc., started a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising funds to help cover his funeral and other costs. The fundraiser was started by Michaela Nepomuceno, a sister of the Lambda Pi Upsilon sorority who knows that Catherine, in the wake of her father’s death, will suddenly be forced to become her own provider upon graduation.
“So far the reception has been good and it will ultimately help us get back on our feet while we’re dealing with the absence of my father during this pandemic,” Catherine wrote. “We are thankful for every single contribution in this time of need and if anyone is willing to donate we really appreciate it.”