Fidelina Santana fought obstacles, kept the joy of living

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This story is part of Loved and Lost, a statewide media collaboration that works to celebrate the lives of every New Jersey resident who has died from COVID-19. To learn more and submit a loved one’s name for profiling, visit loveandlostnj.com.

Like Frank Sinatra, Fidelina Santana has done it in her own way.

It didn’t matter how difficult the task or what obstacles stood in front of it. When she decided on something, she accomplished it. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Leave her humble beginnings in the Dominican Republic as a young woman and immigrate alone to America? No problem.

Working on packaging and assembly lines for decades so you can buy your own home? Ended.

Relearning to Speak After a Life-Changing Stroke? To verify.

“She was very strong-willed,” said her daughter, Cecelia Santana. “She was a force to be reckoned with, in every sense of the word.”

But despite her stubborn streak, Santana always held onto her joie de vivre and the playful sense of humor that made her dear to her family.

“She would join in for a drink every once in a while or a joke, she loved to dance and sing, she was very, very lively,” said Cecelia. “She was the funny aunt, the funny sister, the funny mom.”

Fidelina Santana

Santana, who died at the age of 78 on April 21, 2020, did not speak English. She once signed up for a class, but got nervous and fled the class, Cecelia said. But she understood the language – sometimes a little too well for her daughter.

“She was funny, because if you tried to say something wrong she would say, ‘I got you!’” Cecelia said with a laugh.

But hers was not an easy life.

She left two sons – Cecelia’s older brothers – with her mother in the Dominican Republic when she moved to America in the 1960s. But her plans for them to join her in New Jersey were dashed when her older son died of a stroke at the age of 8.

The tragedy cast a shadow over Santana’s mother, who blamed herself. The family say she later died of heartache.

Santana has worked for a variety of companies, always online to do the hard work. She would be fired when the job dried up, and she would go somewhere else and do something different.

Sometimes she had two jobs. Cecelia remembered her mother working part-time as a hotel cleaner every now and then just to make ends meet.

She got married once, but it ended because “she was not going to be checked,” Cecelia said. Santana, who eventually had four children, stayed with Cecelia’s father for years. But eventually, it ended too.

She remained single thereafter, devoting herself to her family and to her work.

The latter finally paid off when Santana bought her own home on Haledon Avenue in Paterson in 1996.

“It has always been her dream,” said Cecelia. “She was from another country, she worked hard and she wanted to have something of her own.”

The family sold the house a few years later when Santana lost her job and couldn’t find another – her age, combined with the language barrier, prevented her from finding work, her said. girl.

But she was still proud of having made her American dream come true, if only for a little while.

Despite health issues – she survived a heart attack and several strokes – Santana found joy in the second act of her life dividing her time between her seven grandchildren, her two great grandchildren. and a center for adults in the city which she nicknamed “La Escuelita”, or the little school.

Santana loved the centre’s activities, which included field trips, bingo games, and her favorite pastime, coloring. Cecelia said her mother would make her two boys sharpen her crayons and then get to work.

“She would come home with 10 sheets of paper and sit there for hours,” Cecelia said. “I think it was calming for her – it felt like she was in her own world.”

Steve Janoski covers law enforcement for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news about those who protect your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @stevejanoski



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