'Unbearable tragedy': Christian family loses fourth member to coronavirus

The late Grace Fusco, 73 (C), is surrounded by her 11 children.
The late Grace Fusco, 73 (C), is surrounded by her 11 children. | Family photo

A close-knit Italian-American Christian family that lost three members to the coronavirus after a family dinner just over a week ago lost a fourth member Thursday.

Vincent Fusco, the fourth fatality, passed Thursday at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, New Jersey, Roseann Paradiso Fodera, a cousin and the lawyer representing the Fusco family told

"This is an unbearable tragedy for the family," Paradiso Fodera told CNN.

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Vincent Fusco’s mother, Grace Fusco, 73, who had 11 children and 27 grandchildren,  died from the new coronavirus Wednesday just hours after it killed another of her sons, Carmine Fusco, of Bath, Pennsylvania. Her eldest child, Rita Fusco-Jackson, 55, also of Freehold, died from the virus on Friday.

New Jersey health officials noted earlier 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.

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.

Vincent Fusco was one of six members of the Fusco family hospitalized for the coronavirus after attending the dinner, reported.

Elizabeth Fusco, the youngest of Grace Fusco’s 11 children described in an interview with CNN the heartbreaking moments that followed after the dinner.

“It is absolutely surreal. I woke up Tuesday morning (March 10) the baby of 11. My mom called me and said ‘Lizzie, I don’t feel good, Rita don’t feel good, Tony don’t feel good. Can you come help us?’ I said absolutely, ma,” Elizabeth explained.

All three of her siblings were in their 50s and it still isn’t clear if any of them had any underlying conditions.

"They were the core of our family since my dad’s been gone,” she said of her brothers. 

Having the deaths happen in such quick succession, she noted, has also been particularly difficult.

“It’s like the second we start to grieve about one the phone rings and there’s another person gone, taken from us forever,” Elizabeth said.

“By the time it settled in our brains about my first sister we got the next call [and] I listened to those doctors and those machines code my mother on the phone when she passed ... I’ll never get over that but I never wanna hear that again. That’s why we are just begging for help. We never wanna get that call anytime soon ever again because of this. We’re lost,” she said.

A GoFundMe campaign is currently seeking to raise $50,000 to assist the Fusco family with medical, funeral and living expenses.

“This is a family that always cared and was there for others and now they need us to be there for them. All money raised will be donated to the family for medical expenses, funeral expenses, and future hardship. The Fusco family needs your thoughts and prayers during these hard times and any amount of donation would be greatly appreciated. We will all get through this together,” the fundraiser said.

Some 19 other family members, including spouses and children, have also been tested, according to Elizabeth Fusco, a sibling who is not hospitalized said Tuesday. They all remain under quarantine.

"The family's biggest concern is that we have four members of one family who have passed, two on life support and one stable," Paradiso Fodera said. The 19 awaiting their test results "are anxious that their relatives have passed and they don't know if they are infected or not."

Testing for the family members was performed Saturday, and no results had come back as of Thursday.

"Why don't the family members who are not hospitalized have the test results? This is a public health crisis," Paradiso Fodera said. "Why should athletes and celebrities without symptoms be given priority over a family that has been decimated by this virus?"

The 19 include "children, parents and grandchildren in this family," she said. They are in quarantine.

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