Cardinal Timothy Dolan was so touched by the selfless valor of a Staten Island woman who died saving her 8-year-old grandson from a speeding SUV as the two walked home from church that he attended the funeral to offer solace to her family and friends.
Speaking before hundreds of mourners at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel-St. Benedicta R.C. Church Tuesday, Dolan called the life and death of 52-year-old Clara Almazo “a great example to us all” and made sure to tell little Brian Herrera-Ramirez, whose life was saved, that he loved him.
Almazo and Herrera-Ramirez were walking back home after Holy Thursday Mass at the West Brighton church when an SUV allegedly driven by Brian McGurk came barreling toward them. Almazo pushed the little boy out of the way and was hit. He escaped with a fractured foot. His grandmother was pronounced dead at the hospital.
McGurk fled the scene but surrendered to police several hours after the incident. He’s charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
Dolan said there hasn't been a dry eye in the Archdiocese since the tragedy.
Though the heroic grandmother’s family was surprised Dolan came to pay his respects, the recently designated cardinal said he felt a powerful need to attend the funeral service.
"I said, ‘I have to be here for this woman,’” Dolan told The Staten Island Advance. “I knew how she died ... But since then I heard how she lived -- attending mass every day, a great source of unity and tender love for her family, a neighborhood leader for people in need or trouble ...This is a time the family is in grief. I thought I better be here.”
Almazo had two sons and 11 daughters. She had 23 grandchildren including Brian, who limped on crutches behind her white casket as it was lead out of church.
The victim’s relatives said they were honored and pleased that Dolan had come.
“To take his time to come over here, it was something special for us,” Almazo’s nephew Magdaleno told the Daily News. “It makes the family feel better. We really appreciate that.”
Almazo is expected to be buried in her native Oaxaca, Mexico.
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