Posted by: gmontealegre | November 1, 2013

ELAINE RIVERA, 54, died Saturday

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Elaine Rivera

My friend Elaine Rivera died this week– at her home in the Bronx after a brief illness.

I wish you would have met her because Elaine was funny, intelligent, with a wicked sense of humor and always saying it just like she saw it.

She was compassionate and as one friend used to call her “Mother Theresa” she was always feeling bad for the poor, the disenfranchised, the young Latinas and Latinos who many times did not have a chance to succeed. She was a worrier –but the good thing about that was that she actually spoke up and helped people along the way.

She used her impeccable journalism skills to cover the stories that mattered.

She covered stories during her stint at Time Magazine such as that of Eliza Izquierdo, the little girl who died from abuse;  at El Diario la Prensa, she exposed the disproportionate incidence of young Latina suicide; at WNYC Radio she reported on the political impact of decisions in Albany related to Yankee stadium.  She said that Yankee stadium, as beautiful as it was, left the bodega owners outside its walls worried about their future.  She likened the stadium to a “mall” for the death they cause local businesses in their immediate communities.  Her best years were spent at Newsday where for almost ten years she wrote about everyday stories that affected working men and women and their families, young and old.

MN,LLL,RR, ELAINE

L-R Maria, Lee, Rose & Elaine

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L-R Ana, Edna, Tania, MariTere, Sandra, Elaine & Gloria

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Elaine & Maria

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Elaine

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Elaine

Most recently, at her current teaching position at Lehman College, she guided many of her students to outstanding journalism careers that have landed many in the number one media market in New York.  She was demanding always  the best from her students and always challenging them to get to the story.

Her students at Lehman were stunned by the news of her death.

Denisse Then, a recent graduate said ,”We loved her very much.”  “I feel so bad for her students.”  “She helped many of us.”  “She helped me get my first internship at El Diario la Prensa.”   And she kept going on an on and on.

Elaine may have been sicker than we thought.  But she never complained.  It was only this July when she landed at Mt. Sinai Hospital that the rest of us found out she was sick.

Immediately she was surrounded by people who wanted to help.

Friends like Lee, Evelyn, Ana, Mia, Neyda, Rose, Barbara and Edna took turns keeping her doctors appointments, getting her groceries, making sure she was answering her mail, etc.  At a gathering last week they were saying that Elaine was on her way.

That she would likely return to teaching at Lehman.  And that if she were to get a liver transplant (which she was going to know on Monday, four days after she died) it was going to be even better for her.

Maybe it was an act of God that allowed Elaine enough time to feel good– just enough –to say her “goodbyes.”

Just last week Oct 17 she made the trek from the Bronx to 2nd Ave in Manhattan to attend her LIPS sisters monthly meeting. LIPS (Latinas In Power). She was happy, jolly, talking to everyone and letting people know she had been sick but she wasn’t going to miss the meeting for anything.

At one point during the dinner she the put her arm around me and said, “Nena, (endearment for little sister) I was sick in the hospital and you didn’t come to see me?”

I told her I was, but she needed to rest so she could come back stronger.  I was planning to spend the day with her this week.

Elaine will be buried in Ohio where she was born.  She is survived by her Dad, and three brothers and a sister and nephews and nieces.  At a  brief viewing held in El Barrio of New York on 116th Street at the Ortiz Funeral Home, her dad, Juan, said, “She was always popular and she always took care of us.” He remembered how from the time she could talk she was always advocating for her parents and her siblings.  He said, “She always took care of us.”

I just got an email, “Elaine is on her way to Ohio. The LIPS flowers and the Puerto Rican flag were placed in her casket”.

I can’t believe she’s gone.

Oh Elaine, we are going to miss you!

Who will speak for us?

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Responses

  1. Thank you. That was beautiful. I really wish she or someone else had called me to let me know what was happening with her. I called numerous times from the beginning of the summer until a couple of weeks ago. It was very strange to not hear back from Elaine. Like so many others, I can say: I love you, Elaine, my friend. I miss you and wish you well, wherever you are. So sad.

    • Dear Patricia and Julie,
      So sorry we did not have your information. At first the “velorio” in El Barrio was not going to happen because nobody wanted to impose on the family, then it was decided that a brief goodbye was in order. There will be a memorial for Elaine sometime in November at Lehman College where her students want to remember her. I will be sure to pass your information along and to keep it myself so I can let you know more when the details are available. Elaine will be buried in Ohio on Sunday. I’ll send the details for that in an email.
      Abrazos and my condolences to you too.
      Gloria

      • Hi Gloria,

        So nice to meet you. As usual, Elaine is still connecting her friends. I’m on several lists and have been staying updated and appreciate your offering. Do you know the memorial has been set for Dec. 7 at Lehman? Have you received that info yet?

        — julie

  2. This was a beautiful tribute to a beautiful person. I’m a friend of her from Washington DC and was deeply saddened to here the news. She will be greatly missed by all who loved her and laughed with her.
    Thanks for writing this.


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