Jamaican News, January 11, 2018
New York (Mckoy’s News) – Funeral Service for Jamaicans Killed in N.Y. Fire: the New York Times reported on the viewing service for the Five Jamaicans killed in the Bronx fire on December 28, 2017. Five open caskets lined up at a funeral home in Upper Manhattan, as family and friends wailed in mourning for the loss of one family that perished from New York’s most tragic fire in over 25-years.
A grandmother and mother, Ambrozine Stewart’s treasures were gone from this earth.
The NYT reporter described the atmosphere in the funeral home as permeated by loud cries and deep moans, as relatives wondered how something so unfathomable could be real.
“God, what my children does do that you just wipe out the page, nothing left, not even a line?” Ms. Stewart pleaded. “Jesus, where do I go from here?”
According to NYT, in the tiniest casket, on the left, was her granddaughter Kylie Francis, 2. Beside the girl was the sister from whom she was inseparable, Kelesha, 7. In the middle, the girls’ mother, Karen Stewart-Francis, 37, was the only one dressed in black, her favorite color to wear. To the right lay her husband, Holt Francis, 27, and between them, their niece, Shawntay Young, 19.
The viewing before the funeral for the five Jamaicans was held Monday, January 8, at the R. G. Ortiz Funeral Home in Washington Height, New York.
The New York Times reports that Ms. Stewart, 69, knelt before each coffin, faintly whispering her goodbyes. Leaning over Kylie, she moved aside the thin white veil covering her granddaughter’s face and put her hands on top of the girl’s.
“Hey, baby girl,” she said as she moved closer. “I’m so, so sorry, baby girl. It seems like the Lord didn’t want you with me, baby girl. He wanted you with him, baby girl.”
The Francis family and Ms. Young were part of the larger Stewart family in the US, of more than a dozen who migrated from Jamaica after the family’s matriarch, Ambrozine Stewart who first departed Jamaica in the early 1980s. NYT reports that the family, who lived in five units in the same Bronx apartment building, looked after each other for years as babysitters, hairdressers, cooks and whatever else they needed…just as their family had done back in Jamaica.
Ambrozine Stewart’s children died after being overcome by smoke in their bathroom where they sought refuge from the sweeping fire.
Mr. Francis died one week later after he was taken off life support.
Funeral Service for Jamaicans Killed in N.Y. Fire: The family’s world was shattered just a few days after Christmas when a fire started on the first floor of the century-old brick apartment building at 2363 Prospect Avenue in Belmont. A three-year-old playing with the stove an apartment on the first floor started the fire that propelled up through the building occupied by a diversity of immigrants, killing 13 persons.
The family will return to Jamaica for burial, it was Mrs. Stewart-Francis’s wish to be buried beside her father, Joseph, who she migrated to the US in 1998 with.
Karen Stewart Francis who was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica was the baby of Ambrozine Francis’s 13 children and was very close with her 19-year-old niece who lived in one of the basement apartments in the building with her parents.
According to the reporter, the pair were known as the family divas, stylish and never ones to miss a nail appointment.
Mrs. Paul, Karen’s sister told the reporter that her niece, Ms. Young was “like a model,” Karen Stewart-Francis, she said, behaved as if she were just as young as their niece.
“She’s such a vibrant person,” Mrs. Paul said.
Mrs. Paul relayed to the NYT that Karen’s last employment was as a housekeeper for a hotel in Manhattan, near the United Nations. She met Mr. Francis while on vacation in Jamaica in 2012, according to her sister. Sparks flew and he later proposed to her.
“She came to us and said, ‘Guess what, I’m gonna get married,” Ms. Paul said. “She was so excited.”
According to NYT, Kylie was born Sept. 26, 2015, and early the following year Mr. Francis and Kelesha, his daughter from a previous relationship, joined them in the Bronx after receiving a spousal visa.
The couple married in May of 2016, Mrs. Paul relayed.
The newspaper reports, according to his twin brother, Mr. Francis found work hard to come by in Jamaica, and he believed he would have better prospects in the United States — and at least he would be with his young family. His departure was bittersweet for his family, which included eight other brothers and eight sisters, his twin brother said.
“We understood that he was going away for a better life, but we also didn’t want him to leave us,” Iholt Francis recalled. “It was a mixed feeling.”
His twin relayed that, a few weeks before he died, Mr. Francis started a job sorting recyclable at Action Environmental Services, a waste-management company in the Bronx. But it was a means to an end.
Holt was saving money to go to vocational school to become an electrician.“He’s a hands-on person, so anything that involves using hands, building stuff, that’s what he was good at,” Iholt Francis said.
The reporter stated that during the funeral, he paid tribute to his brother and said that the loss left him struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Mourners in the crowd pleaded, “There is hope, brother,” and “Mercy.”
Iholt Francis, who came into the word with Holt Francis traveled from Jamaica to give the hospital permission to take his twin brother Holt off of life support.
Funeral Service for Jamaicans Killed in N.Y. Fire: On Thursday, he went to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx to give doctors permission to let his brother, who had been declared brain dead, die. But before they took him off life support, Mr. Francis told the reporter that he took a few moments alone with his twin.
“I sat there,” Iholt Francis said. “I held his hand. I told him I loved him. Kissed him. And in that moment I just wished that it would be enough, that it would be the miracle that he needed to come back to this world. But I don’t think that he could have survived knowing his family had left this world.”
Main Photo: New York Times: Shevan Stewart mourning beside the bodies of her nieces, Kylie Francis, left, and Kelesha Francis, 7.
Andres Kudacki for The New York Times