A faithful New Jersey mother of 11 and grandmother of 27 died from the new coronavirus Wednesday just hours after the deadly virus killed one of her sons and five days after it took the life of her eldest child, a daughter.
The matriarch Grace Fusco, 73, who usually sat in the same pew for worship at church on Sundays, died Wednesday night. Just hours earlier, her eldest son, Carmine Fusco, of Bath, Pennsylvania, died and her eldest child, Rita Fusco-Jackson, 55, of Freehold, New Jersey, died Friday, family member Roseann Paradiso Fodera told The New York Times and NJ.com.
“It’s completely devastating," Paradiso Fodera told NJ.com. "They will need the faith they’ve always embraced to get them through this overwhelming shock and profound grief.”
Four of Fusco’s other children who contracted coronavirus are also now hospitalized and three of them are in critical condition.
Another of Grace’s daughters, Elizabeth Fusco, and other members of her surviving family remain in quarantine, NJ.com reported. Elizabeth Fusco, a sibling who was not hospitalized, told the publication that 19 members of the large Italian-American family that gathered frequently at the matriarch’s home have been tested for the new coronavirus that has been leaving a trail of death around the globe.
Paradiso Fodera told The New York Times that her quarantined relatives have been quarantined in their homes and have been just praying in solitude without the opportunity to grieve together.
“If they’re not on a respirator, they’re quarantined,” she said. “It is so pitiful. They can’t even mourn the way you would.”
New Jersey health officials told NJ.com and The New York Times that the deaths in the Fusco family are connected to the death of John Brennan, a horse trainer who lived in Little Ferry. Brennan was the first New Jersey resident to die after testing positive for the coronavirus. Before Wednesday afternoon, New Jersey officials had recorded five deaths from the coronavirus and at least 427 coronavirus cases.
The Fusco family has strong ties to the horse-racing industry near Freehold Raceway. Officials say a person who had contact with Brennan, who died in New Jersey on March 10, attended a recent Fusco family gathering described by family as a routine Tuesday dinner. The dinner is the suspected source of the virus.
“A party to most people was a regular dinner to them,” Paradiso Fodera said.
Using the gathering as an example of how deadly things can get in the age of the new coronavirus, New Jersey’s health commissioner, Judith M. Persichilli, said people should take it as a warning.
“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to take personal responsibility and to avoid even small gatherings,” Persichilli said at a press briefing on Sunday.
Family members say Fusco-Jackson, who taught religious education classes at St. Robert Bellarmine Roman Catholic Church in Freehold where many members of her extended family worshiped, said she had been in good health before she was struck by the coronavirus.
A statement on the church’s Facebook page revealed that Fusco-Jackson, who is a mother of three, also sang on their choir.
The church’s pastor, Msgr. Sam Sirianni told The New York Times that in addition to that work, she coordinated parish weddings and volunteered in the church’s gardening club.
“I can’t tell you enough about her,” Sirianni told the publication. “She was always willing to assist and to lead.”
He said the Fusco family was among the founding members of the church and “until this virus came, they were still the family that would gather for Sunday dinner.”