The Port Jefferson community came together to mourn the loss of one of their own, 11-year-old Aida Ramonez, who died unexpectedly on January 5.
On Saturday, January 15, several dozen people gathered on the lawn of the village’s First Presbyterian Church to pray and remember the dynamic young girl who was taken far too soon.
“Aida was something else,” said her mother, Lolita. “She was extremely outgoing. She stood up for her friends, was anti-bullying, and loved animals and her life.
The Port Jefferson schoolgirl had moved with her family from Mastic Beach just three years before her death, but in the short time she graced the village, she touched the lives of dozens of people – young and old.
At Saturday’s vigil, sixth-grade classmates clung to sunflowers, Aida’s favorite flower. Small white lanterns were lit, decorated with purple ribbons as prayers were said and “Amazing Grace” was sung.
Nicole Jacobs said Aida befriended her daughter at school after the Ramonez family moved to the district. The two girls would go trick-or-treating together on Halloween and visit the water park in the summer.
“She was very well behaved for her age,” Jacobs said. “She was so compassionate. Very affectionate and free-spirited. She was such a good girl, finding the positive in any situation and looking out for the kids who didn’t always fit in.
But aside from being the girl who chose to be everyone’s friend, her real passion was animals, Lolita said.
“We nicknamed her the chicken whisperer,” she laughed fondly.
Lolita continued to recall how one of the family’s chickens got sick. The chicken, who hardly approached anyone else, trusted Aida and allowed her to feed her medicine.
“She was massaging the chicken and saying, ‘Don’t give up on me! ‘” Lolita said. “She wanted to be a veterinarian.
The chicken has survived and thrives to this day.
Aida also loved art – it was one of her favorite subjects in school along with science.
“She was an amazing artist and an excellent student,” Lolita said. “She even made it to the honor roll at the end of their scoring period. She was so proud of it. »
Aida’s former fifth-grade teachers at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School, Laura Kelly and Paige Lohmann, said in a statement that Aida had “so many wonderful qualities and gifts that set her apart.”
“Her love for her family, her care for animals and her loyalty to her friends were most important to her. At such a young age, Aida believed in using her voice to advocate for causes she believed in. She had a clear idea of who she was and how she could make a difference in the world through her thoughtful words and kind actions. We will always remember Aida and her great hopes and dreams for life and the world around her,” the teachers said.
At Saturday’s event, Robert Neidig, assistant superintendent of the Port Jefferson School District, remembered his student.
“Aida, despite being a quiet young girl, had such a focus of maturity about her,” he said. “She once wrote that one of the things that made her happiest was being kind to others. It was this endearing quality that helped brighten up the spaces she inhabited and enabled her to have such a huge impact on our entire community.
Neidig went on to mention that the overwhelming support from the united community on this chilly Saturday was a true testament to what Aida has always preached – kindness.
Mayor Margot Garant said although tragedy strikes, the vigil proves how Port Jefferson comes together in times of need.
“The ceremony was moving and shows that here in Port Jefferson, when we lose a resident, young or old, our community is affected as if it were our own,” she said. “That’s what we mean by ‘Port Jeff Proud’ and ‘Port Jeff Strong’.”
Administrator Kathianne Snaden’s daughter is in Aida’s class and she said it breaks her heart to see the community lose someone so young and vibrant.
“My heart and prayers go out to the Ramonez family,” she said. “If there’s a silver lining, it’s seeing the community as a whole come together to support and uplift Aida’s family, and show that we can help each other in times of need. We are stronger together, and I hope the outpouring of love that day brought some peace to his family. We are there for them.
Alongside the vigil, a meal train was created for the family on the day his death was announced, January 6.
Jacobs, who helped create the link, said that within two hours of posting, the first four weeks were booked with different types of meals to drop off at the Ramonez home. The meal train was then extended for another two weeks and booked in just one hour.
“People have reached out every day asking how they can help,” Jacobs said. “Over 40 gift cards were left on my porch to be given to family.”
Lolita said she and her family were overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness and knew Aida would be “flattered beyond belief”.
“Aida was a free spirit who loved the ocean,” she said. “She was not afraid of death or any of the phases of life.”
One of Aida’s favorite songs was “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.” She loved fishing, animation and gymnastics.
“She was an adrenaline junkie,” Lolita said.
Her mother added that Aida’s remains were cremated and her ashes would be thrown into the ocean in Puerto Rico, one of the places she loved to visit, along with Ecuador.
“She would like her friends and loved ones to remember her with joy, especially when they go to her happy place, the beach,” she said. “She will always be with them in spirit and would like everyone to stay positive and achieve their goals.”
Aida is survived by her mother Lolita, her father Juan and her older brother Grayson, as well as all those near and far who have touched life.
To continue to help the Ramonez family following this bereavement, Nicole Jacobs collects gift cards to be delivered to them regularly. Community members who wish to send their condolences can email [email protected] for more information.