This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.
Gladys Cortes, who had always been there for others, was all by herself when she died on April 9 in a Long Island hospital at 48.
“To me, that was the most heartbreaking part of it,” her sister Miriam Cortes said.
Yet she remains in the minds of her family and friends, of her co-workers and customers.
Some remember her as a struggling single mother of a 13-year-old daughter, Adryanna, or the caretaker for her 85-year-old mother, Narcisa. Others remember her for readying prepared food behind the counter in her job at a supermarket in Islip, N.Y., or ministering to relatives, close colleagues and even mere acquaintances when they were bedbound with illness.
“She was always there,” Miriam Cortes said. “Anyone needed help, she was always there.”
Gladys Cortes was born on March 12, 1972, in Mayagüez, P.R., to Ceferino and Narcisa Cortes. She came to New York with her parents as a toddler. The family moved to Long Island, and she graduated from North Babylon High School with a Regents diploma and attended the State University of New York at Farmingdale, dreaming of becoming an artist.
She was discouraged by less than rave reviews of her work in college and by slim job prospects. To help support her family, she took a factory job while making displays for stores and other clients; at least they had an artistic element to them, her sister said. The supermarket hired her about a year ago.
Ms. Cortes, who lived in Brentwood, N.Y., began feeling ill on March 28. She was admitted to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, also on Long Island, on April 2 and died a week later of complications of Covid-19.
In addition to her sister, she is survived by her mother and daughter and five other siblings. Her partner left when their daughter was born.
Gladys Cortes had been born prematurely, barely one pound, 10 ounces. “A miracle baby,” Miriam Cortes said.
“And, I think knowing that,” her sister said, “she felt that every time somebody needed a friend to listen to, or a family member needed someone to co-sign a loan on their house, or someone else was sick in the hospital, she was there.”