Dozens gathered Monday at a memorial mass to honor a 25-year New Jersey oncology nurse who died over the weekend after a fleeing phone thief near Times Square allegedly knocked her to the ground, landing her on life support.
Maria Ambrocio, 58, suffered serious head trauma when the robbery suspect, identified as 26-year-old Jermaine Foster, ran into her as he allegedly tried to escape with a 29-year-old woman's phone cops say he snatched near Broadway and West 40th Street on Friday. Ambrocio was taken off life support the next night.
The charges against Foster were upgraded to second-degree murder after her death. His attorney didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ambrocio lived and worked in Bayonne, where she served as an oncology nurse for more than two decades, her employer confirmed.
In a statement Sunday, the CEO of CarePoint Health called her a longtime devoted and cherished member of the hospital's family.
"Maria devoted her life to helping others, caring for patients, and serving the community. She was caring, compassionate and outgoing. She loved to take pictures and spend time with friends and family. At work, she was generous and always promoted teamwork and positivity," said Dr. Achintya Moulick. "Maria always appreciated those she worked with and was grateful for the comradery and teamwork."
Another nurse who worked with Ambrocio recalled the nurse's ceaseless dedication to patients despite whatever other challenges she may have faced at a given time.
"Spend less time complaining and more time working, we need to take care of the patients," the colleague said, referring to Ambrocio's approach at work. "That is truly who Maria was. 'Patient care first' was her motto."
Even before she passed, the mayor of Ambrocio's Bayonne hometown on Saturday asked for prayers for the nurse who he said was "viciously attacked in an unprovoked assault by a deranged man in Times Square."
Mayor Jimmy Davis requested the people of his community keep her and her family in their thoughts "through these difficult days."
The Philippine Consulate scheduled a 1:30 p.m. memorial mass for Ambrocio at the St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street. All members of the Filipino community were encouraged to attend.